Key panels fail to agree on school aid Committees in House, Senate at odds over funds for rest of Md.

'Don't see money there'

D.C.-area legislators continue to hold out for a larger share

March 26, 1997|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,SUN STAFF

Key committees in the Maryland Senate and House of Delegates failed to agree yesterday on a major provision of the Baltimore City schools deal -- money for the rest of the state.

Two committees in the House -- Appropriations and Ways and Means -- indefinitely postponed a scheduled vote on the bill because leaders could not muster support for it without including school aid to other jurisdictions that they believe is unaffordable.

A House plan proposed Monday included an additional $26.8 million for education aid next year to the state's 23 counties. But legislators from the suburban Washington counties continue to hold out for $44.1 million.

In the Senate, both the Budget and Taxation Committee and the Economic and Environmental Affairs Committee voted yesterday to approve the bill, which would impose management changes in the city school system and send it an additional $254 million in state aid over five years.

But unlike the House, the senators decided not to include any reference to specific amounts of money for other jurisdictions in their version of the bill.

Many senators believe that the House's latest proposal includes more money than the state can afford.

"I just don't see the money there," said Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, the Baltimore Democrat who chairs the Budget and Taxation Committee.

Despite the differences, legislators from both houses continued to express hope that they can resolve the issue in the remaining 13 days of this year's legislative session.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening and lawmakers said yesterday that a solution to the schools might lie in the resolution of a number of major issues, including pending proposals for a tobacco tax increase and income tax reduction. "The problem is, there are so many things on the table -- the cigarette tax question, which changes the numbers, the structure of the tax cut, the cuts in the budget," Glendening said in an interview. "All of that goes into deciding what package is pulled forward."

House leaders continued to develop strategy yesterday to move the bill out of the two committees and onto the floor.

"We're not ready," said a clearly frustrated House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., an Allegany County Democrat, when asked about the postponed vote. He declined to elaborate.

"We're just letting things evolve to a posture where everyone comes out satisfied that we've done the appropriate thing for the children of the state," said Howard P. Rawlings, the Baltimore Democrat who chairs the Appropriations Committee.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller made his intentions clear.

"I want the Baltimore City schools settlement voted today in both committees," Miller told the Senate in a morning floor session. "It's important that these matters be resolved this week, if we're going to resolve them."

Miller said he believes the legislation "should rise or fall on its own merits" based on the needs of poor school children in Baltimore City -- not on the desires of other lawmakers to leverage more money for their jurisdictions.

Before voting on the bill last night, a majority of the Budget and Taxation Committee rejected an attempt by Sen. Christopher Van Hollen Jr., a Montgomery County Democrat, to include additional money for the counties in the measure.

Hoffman said that under the Senate plan, any additional money for the counties would have to be taken care of through the regular budget process -- in effect, through a House-Senate conference committee that will resolve differences over the budget and consider a supplemental budget plan expected from Glendening.

Lawmakers from both houses predicted Glendening's supplemental budget would go far toward resolving the seeming deadlock over the city schools deal.

"It is clearly time for the governor to send the supplemental budget," Taylor said.

But Glendening has said that he will not send down the additional money until both chambers approve two other parts of his legislative agenda -- bills to control suburban sprawl and to expand health care for uninsured women and children.

Meanwhile, the governor worked behind the scenes yesterday trying to persuade recalcitrant legislators from Prince George's and Montgomery counties to support the city schools deal. But by the end of the day, legislators from the suburban Washington counties seemed to have their heels dug in, holding out for more education aid than was being offered.

The legislation calls for city schools to receive $254 million in new aid over the next five years, $30 million of it this year. At the same time, a new school board -- appointed by the governor and mayor -- would take control of the school system.

Pub Date: 3/26/97

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