Glendening, delegates clash on school funding One accuses governor of 'political blackmail'

January 23, 1998|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

As legislators sought more school construction money for their counties, Gov. Parris N. Glendening grilled some of the Republicans who have criticized his budget -- prompting one delegate to accuse him of "political blackmail."

The clash came at the Board of Public Works in Annapolis, where Glendening and state Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein demanded to know whether the Republicans would support spending $222 million for school projects next year, an increase of nearly 50 percent over this year.

"You can't have it both ways," Glendening repeatedly told lawmakers who have criticized his spending plans. "You can't come in and appeal [for your county] and then vote to reduce the [budget] pot," said Glendening, who heads the three-member board.

But Del. Nancy Jacobs, a Harford County Republican who Wednesday delivered the Republican response to the governor's budget, reacted angrily to Glendening's remarks.

"It's political blackmail at the expense of the children of Maryland," said Jacobs in the corridor after her county's presentation.

Other GOP lawmakers agreed. "It's holding children hostage," said Howard Republican Robert L. Flanagan. And fellow Howard Republican Robert H. Kittleman declared himself "absolutely disgusted" by the governor's tactics.

At issue is how to use the growing state budget surplus, now projected at about $283 million.

Glendening wants to spend about $88.5 million of that to help pay for a total of $222 million on school construction projects from all sources.

NTC The final decision on school projects normally is announced by the board in May, a process that long has had political overtones.

Former Gov. William Donald Schaefer, for example, rewarded Montgomery County in 1992 for supporting his controversial budget that year while denying funding to Baltimore County. Last year, Baltimore County did much better, in part because county officials supported Glendening on funding for new Redskins and Ravens football stadiums and extra school money for Baltimore.

Yesterday, Goldstein supported using surplus cash for school projects, because he says it will save millions in interest on borrowing -- the usual method for paying for the projects.

And he made his feelings clear about lawmakers unwilling to support the governor's budget proposals.

"Are they going to support $222 million?" the comptroller asked at one point. "If not, they ought to go home."

During a break in the meeting, Glendening said he was responding to suggestions that some lawmakers want the surplus used for tax cuts. He refused to name any specific legislator.

"I see people who voted against the entire budget last year showing up here asking for money for school construction and all I have asked them is have they had a change of heart," he said. "And these are reasonable questions."

Sen. Larry E. Haines, a Carroll County Republican, said he resented what he felt were "heavy-handed" tactics meant to "intimidate."

Some Democrats, however, defended Glendening's approach.

"It gets a little old to hear these guys ranting against the budget and showing up for every ribbon cutting," Howard Democratic Del. Elizabeth Bobo said of Kittleman and Flanagan.

Despite the angry words, some Republicans who attended yesterday's meeting said they support spending for school construction.

"We did not offer any cuts in school construction, and we never have," Flanagan said about his party's role in offering "constructive alternatives."

Nineteen of Maryland's 24 subdivisions appealed to the board yesterday for more school construction money. Montgomery County was again the leader, asking for $68.7 million overall.

Baltimore County wants $32 million this year, while Anne Arundel is seeking $10 million. Harford wants $8.7 million, Howard wants $37.9 million, and Carroll is asking for $10 million.

The pleas included Baltimore City's request for $17 million in renovations and technology upgrades and Howard's request for state reimbursement for nearly $25 million in local funds the county has spent for new schools over the past 11 years.

Dorchester, Garrett, Kent, Queen Anne and Somerset counties did not appeal the amounts recommended for them.

Pub Date: 1/23/98

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