Baltimore to offer its wish list for state surplus Money might be sought for drug treatment

January 08, 1998|By Robert Guy Matthews | Robert Guy Matthews,SUN STAFF

Hoping to get a piece of the state's $260 million surplus this year, the mayor and the council president said yesterday that they and other elected city officials will work on a plan to bring some of that extra cash into Baltimore.

Possible requests include asking the state to fund more drug treatment centers and health and crime prevention programs, according to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and City Council President Lawrence A. Bell III.

"We have to make the case that these are issues that have a regional impact," Bell said yesterday. "We aren't talking about bailing out Baltimore City, we are talking about things that will expand beyond our borders."

Schmoke said that elected officials could meet as early as this week to come up with a wish list of items that could be funded with the surplus. To be successful, he said, the city's elected officials would have to pick city projects that would benefit the state, too.

For instance, he said that asking for more money for substance abuse programs probably would gain more support from the governor, because the drug problem spills over from the city into the counties.

He said that more money to combat the city's high syphilis rate is another possible request.

"We have a public health crisis here that we have tried to respond to, so we may ask for a one-time allocation of money," Schmoke said.

Bell said that the city has to act fast.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening and lawmakers are putting together a spending plan for the $260 million. Some of the options include providing tax breaks, saving the surplus, and dividing the money among individual projects presented by the local governments.

How the money is spent will be decided during the 90-day legislative session that begins next week.

"We need to make our pitch be- fore the die is cast," the council president said.

Bell said another possible use for the money would be to pay police to conduct more drug sweeps on city street corners.

If the city does win a piece of the state's budget surplus, it would be a one-time allocation. It is unlikely officials would use the money to fund new programs because they would require more money next year to survive.

In recent years, the city has received state aid for big-ticket items such as the expansion of the Convention Center downtown and construction of the new Ravens stadium at Camden Yards.

The state's unusually high budget surplus is the result of Maryland's robust economy.

Even if completed by the end of the week, the city's wish list comes well after the bulk of requests from other jurisdictions around the state, including Baltimore, Montgomery and Prince George's counties.

Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger has bTC asked the state for $32 million for school construction projects.

Pub Date: 1/08/98

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