Glendening lashes critics of his deals on stadiums Governor unveils goals for legislative session

January 05, 1996|By Marina Sarris | Marina Sarris,SUN STAFF

Gov. Parris N. Glendening went on the offensive yesterday in his quest to build two NFL stadiums in Maryland, rebuking critics and pledging to use his muscle to assure legislative approval of the deals.

Stadiums in Baltimore and Prince George's County will eventually pay for themselves by spurring economic development and generating new tax revenues, the governor argued.

And he suggested that those who disagree are blinded by local jealousy.

"I have urged people to move beyond parochialism and think about the entire state," he said.

"My intention is to get the two stadia built. Whatever it takes to do that, we will do, meaning I will use the full resources of our office to get our program through."

But Mr. Glendening also left the door open to possible modifications in the Baltimore deal, which has come under the sharper criticism.

He made his remarks at a news conference called to outline his goals for the General Assembly session that begins Wednesday.

The governor's priorities include a sweeping gun control proposal and a business tax credit program, but he became most animated when discussing the stadium deals.

Mr. Glendening has agreed to build a $200 million, publicly funded stadium for the National Football League's Cleveland Browns if the team moves to Baltimore.

He also wants to spend $73 million on road and other improvements for a new stadium in Prince George's County for the Washington Redskins.

Team owner Jack Kent Cooke has agreed to pay for the stadium himself.

Yesterday, the governor downplayed the state contribution to the Redskins stadium, saying Prince George's would have received about $50 million of the $73 million anyway for road projects.

The stadium will generate enough tax revenue to offset the remaining costs in two years, he said.

Although legislators from different regions have attacked the stadium proposals, Mr. Glendening singled out Montgomery County lawmakers for their opposition.

He said he believed their complaints could be muted if the county receives its share of the state pie -- namely $60 million he hinted the county will get for school and other projects there.

He also took aim at Baltimore journalists who have accused him of "stealing" another city's team, much the way Indianapolis took Baltimore's beloved Colts a decade ago.

After all the "anger" and "whining" over the Colts, he said, "I'm disappointed at best and irritated at worst to see some of those same columnists say, 'Gee, how could we possibly take a team from another city like Cleveland?'

"Well, dear columnist," the governor continued, growing uncharacteristically sarcastic, "I don't know where you think NFL teams come from.

"They're not born under rocks like the Easter bunny."

He also expressed irritation with legislative critics of the Browns deal.

In negotiating with team owner Art Modell, Mr. Glendening said, he merely followed a game plan established by the General Assembly years ago.

The law allowing him to build the stadium has been on the books since 1987 -- plenty of time for critics to modify it, he said.

"Legislators had the opportunity to change the law or repeal it in its entirety," he said.

Still, the governor signaled that public criticism of the Baltimore deal in particular may result in some changes in that agreement.

When asked about possible renegotiations, the governor said he has conferred with Mr. Modell but could not discuss details.

"You can't argue all the alternatives in public and expect to reach agreement," he said.

Told later of the governor's remarks, some Montgomery politicians said opposition to the stadium cannot be dismissed as mere "parochialism" on their part.

Some residents in the county and elsewhere say the deals represent little more than corporate welfare for millionaires, the legislators noted.

The fact that the state is considering cutbacks in social programs for the poor makes the stadiums all the more unpopular, they said.

"My constituents are outraged at the enormous amount of giveaways being shoveled at [Browns owner] Art Modell," said Democratic Del. Kumar P. Barve, chairman of the Montgomery County House delegation.

But the governor suggested that Montgomery's criticism could be -- or should be -- muted if the state agreed to send the county "at least $30 million for school construction, $20 million for a conference center and $10 million for a higher education facility at Shady Grove."

While some legislators disagreed, Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan said the governor could begin to smooth some ruffled feathers by sending the county $40 million a year, for the next few years, to build schools.

Mr. Glendening also outlined other parts of what is expected to be an ambitious legislative agenda for 1996. Among them:

* A job creation incentive tax credit. The state would award $10 million to $15 million a year in tax credits to businesses that created 50 or more "family-supporting" jobs. To be eligible for credits, the new jobs would have to be full time, pay 1 1/2 times the federal minimum wage, and be filled for at least six months.

* Increased aid for education. Despite expected budget cuts in other areas, the governor promised a 5 percent increase next year in education aid to local governments, and he said public colleges and universities will receive a 3 percent increase.

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