Clinton's budget plan pleases state officials Maryland wins support for projects and escapes deep cuts in spending

February 07, 1997|By Frank Langfitt | Frank Langfitt,SUN NATIONAL STAFF Sun staff writer Tom Bowman contributed to this article.

WASHINGTON — An article in yesterday's editions incorrectly characterized a proposed percentage that federal employees would contribute from their salaries to their retirement plans by 2001 to help balance the budget. The correct percentage is 0.5 percent.

The Sun regrets the error.

WASHINGTON -- Maryland appeared to be off to a good start in the opening round of this year's budget process, winning presidential support for several expensive state projects while apparently avoiding any deep fiscal cuts, according to analysts.

The budget President Clinton unveiled yesterday proposes $30.6 million to help restore the Chesapeake Bay's Poplar Island with mud and silt dredged from shipping channels, and $55 million for a new laboratory for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in the state's Washington suburbs.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

State officials praised the president's proposal to restore financial aid and health insurance to legal immigrants who become dis- abled after their arrival in the United States.

"Overall, the governor was very pleased with the president's budget," said Ray Feldmann, a spokesman for Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat. "We'll be working with the president to make sure there is a safety net for children in this state, including the children of legal immigrants."

The president's $1.7 trillion budget marks the beginning of what is expected to be a lengthy and contentious process as Democrats and Republicans try to develop a spending plan that would eliminate the federal deficit by the year 2002. The Republican-led Congress will no doubt seek changes to the president's proposals.

While Maryland officials seemed satisfied with the president's budget yesterday, there were disappointments.

The state did not receive funding to consolidate Food and Drug Administration research laboratories at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in White Oak.

And Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, a Baltimore Democrat, criticized a proposal to make federal employees contribute an additional .05 percent of their salaries by the year 2001 to their retirement plans to help balance the budget.

"It is unfortunate and disappointing that after being held hostage in recent budget battles, which resulted in federal government shutdowns, that federal employees are once again being asked to sacrifice their pay and benefits," Sarbanes said.

The increase would cost a typical employee about $100 in 1999 (( and a little more than $200 a year by 2001.

However, federal employees -- of which Maryland has 98,000 -- would receive a 2.8 percent pay increase in 1998. The raise is comparable to those in recent years, which have ranged from 2.2 percent in 1994 to 3 percent last year.

Assessments of the budget by Maryland officials were, at best, preliminary. It was not clear what impact Clinton's proposed cut in the rate of growth in Medicaid spending would have on the state. Feldmann said he expects officials to have a better sense of that in the next couple of days.

In some cases, the state got most or all of what it asked for.

"Mission to Planet Earth," a project at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt that uses satellites to study changes in the world's climate, is slated to receive $1.4 billion. Goddard, which employs about 11,000 people, faced closure as recently as a year ago.

In Baltimore, the city housing authority would receive $64 million in block grants for rehabilitating houses, tearing down vacant homes and supporting community organizations. Another $18 million would go largely to developers to help them rehabilitate housing.

Clinton's budget also calls for $26.9 million for improvements in the Maryland Rail Commuter (MARC) system, $1.8 million for beach replenishment in Ocean City and $1.8 million to restore the masonry at Fort McHenry.

The budget provides $30 million to help design a replacement for the Woodrow Wilson Bridge between Maryland and Virginia on the Washington Beltway and another $10 million to repair it. Maryland's congressional delegation had hoped for a major commitment to funding the project, which has a total estimated cost of $1.6 billion, but staff members were heartened by the $40 million.

"The good news is there is a commitment at least by the Clinton administration to provide the initial money for the design of a new structure," said Jesse L. Jacobs, Sarbanes' press secretary.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon's section of the budget includes $4.6 million for a health and dental clinic at Fort Detrick outside Frederick, and $9 million for a facility at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Southern Maryland that will hold an anechoic chamber, designed for the testing of the electronic systems of jets.

In addition, the Southern Maryland air station would also benefit from the $2.5 billion in the budget for the design and purchase of 20 FA-18E/F Super-Hornet fighters.

About 450 engineering and technical jobs at Patuxent River are tied to the fighters, which are being built by McDonnell Douglas Corp. of St. Louis.

Pub Date: 2/07/97

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