Howard delegation seeks share of state surplus Lawmakers' priorities for part of $260 million include school funding

January 04, 1998|By Craig Timberg | Craig Timberg,SUN STAFF

Howard County's delegation to the State House yesterday promised to bring home the bacon when it comes time to slice up Maryland's $260 million surplus.

"One of our No. 1 priorities is to bring back as much money to Howard County schools as we possibly can," said Del. James E. Malone Jr., a Democrat representing Elkridge.

The delegation gathered in Fulton yesterday for the League of Women Voters' annual luncheon to discuss the legislative session, which begins Jan. 14.

More than 100 residents, politicians and league officials attended the event at St. Paul's Lutheran Church to share potluck dishes and views on the state surplus, health insurance and education.

The state surplus, estimated at $260 million, could be one of the session's most contentious issues as legislators debate whether spend it, save it or return it to taxpayers through a new tax cut.

Howard's state legislators unanimously favor spending some part of the surplus on school construction -- a top need in counties such as Howard with booming population and student enrollment.

The delegation of eight delegates and three state senators also hopes to win $4 million in state money to help county officials turn the 300-acre Smith farm in east Columbia into a park.

But the unanimity stops there.

Some support Gov. Parris N. Glendening's drive to insure 60,000 poor children and pregnant women. Others want the state surplus used to bolster the operations of urban schools. Still others favor a new round of tax cuts.

"It's the people's money, but [Democrats] look at it like mad money," Del. Robert H. Kittleman, a West Friendship Republican, said after the luncheon.

Del. Robert L. Flanagan, an Ellicott City Republican, said much of the state surplus should be used for school construction, but he said student behavior needs attention, too.

He said the death of Wilde Lake High School teacher Lawrence Hoyer, who collapsed trying to break up a fight in May, showed the need for new tools to control student behavior. Flanagan suggested giving local school boards the power to require student uniforms.

"More money is good," Flanagan said. "I'm happy to vote for more money. But more money is not going to be enough."

Glendening's health care plan would cover pregnant women and children younger than 18 who have low incomes but are not eligible for full health benefits from the state. The federal government would pay about two-thirds of the program's cost, but the state would pay nearly $30 million in the first year alone.

Del. Frank Turner, an east Columbia Democrat and a Glendening ally, backed the program at yesterday's luncheon.

"I think that's a tragedy when the state of Maryland has so many people without health insurance," he said.

Pub Date: 1/04/98

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