Winning state budget for education Schools triumph: In tight fiscal year, other agencies get little new money.

April 04, 1996

STATE LAWMAKERS finally wrapped up budget deliberations yesterday, a few days beyond the mandated deadline, giving Gov. Parris Glendening most of what he wanted in this $14.6 billion document.

In light of the governor's decision to hold down spending, the cash for schools and colleges is impressive. Other state agencies had to make do with no increase, but local schools gained another 5 percent and public colleges got 3 percent. School construction funds rose dramatically and a new formula for community colleges should boost aid by $8 million a year.

Governor Glendening proved that education was his No. 1 priority. Schools prospered even as overall state spending was cut below the current year's level. That hasn't happened since the Great Depression.

Slowing the growth of state government had been a key Glendening objective. It meant no pay raises for workers this coming year, flat budgets for departments and layoffs. Only in the area of education was money added.

Some $137 million will be spent on school construction -- the highest total, by far, in two decades. This is good news for fast-growing suburbs where overcrowding is severe. The extra cash for school operations should help local officials cope with this new wave of school kids.

As for colleges, the governor delivered on a pledge to give higher education administrators funding stability with an extra 3 percent. The most joyful sector, though, should be the community colleges, which finally got some relief after nearly a decade of no-growth state support. This should slow the too-rapid rise of tuition charges at two-year colleges.

Thanks to the wonders of specially dedicated taxes and bonding authority, the governor can embark on a large construction program for better roads, two football stadiums and a convention center in Montgomery County.

Still, an overall spending plan that is so frugal should ease the impact of federal downsizing in the years ahead. It also might make it possible to squeeze in an income-tax cut in the next few years, if Maryland's economy ever starts to pull itself out of the doldrums.

Pub Date: 4/04/96

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