Governor asks more capital spending House committee approves $55 million supplemental budget

March 25, 1998|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF Sun staff members Greg Tasker, Eric Siegel, Larry Carson and Tanya Jones contributed to this article.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening continued to spread the wealth from Maryland's overflowing coffers yesterday as he asked the General Assembly to spend an additional $57.3 million on a grab bag of politically appealing projects.

Baltimore and Baltimore County would be among the biggest beneficiaries of the governor's supplemental capital budget, which the House Appropriations Committee approved last night after trimming $1.6 million from the request.

The spending proposal still must be reviewed by the Senate.

The proposed additional spending comes as the state is enjoying a growing budget surplus, most recently estimated at $352 million, that has led legislators to push for an accelerated state income tax cut.

Frederick W. Puddester, the state budget secretary, said the money for the new projects comes almost entirely from legislative budget cuts and not from the $135 million in unanticipated income tax revenue announced this month.

That money, he said, will be tucked away to pay for the anticipated tax cuts.

Puddester said that at least $27.8 million of the new requests for capital spending are for projects that tie in with the governor's Smart Growth initiative, aimed at limiting suburban sprawl.

In the city, new projects include $1 million for the revitalization of Highlandtown's Eastern Avenue corridor and $500,000 for the acquisition and renotation of a historic building in Fells Point for use as a maritime history center.

The budget also calls for spending an additional $1 million to help Howard County acquire the much-coveted Smith Farm, one of the last undeveloped tracts in Columbia. The state had previously agreed to provide $4 million to help the county acquire the 300-acre tract for a park, but the acquisition costs have escalated from estimates of about $8 million.

Glendening's new spending proposals were met with scorn by some Republican members of the Appropriations Committee.

"It looks like the governor is slopping the pigs," said Del. Robert L. Flanagan, a Howard County Republican. "I think the governor is taking advantage of the surplus to make commitments in future years we'll probably come to regret."

But local officials on the receiving end of the largess were delighted by the proposals.

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, whose jurisdiction would receive funding for six projects totaling almost $6 million, said he was "very appreciative" of the budget decisions.

Included in the spending proposed for Montgomery are $2 million for the revitalization of downtown Gaithersburg and a previously announced $1.7 million for the design of Strathmore Hall as a concert hall that would become a "second home" for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

The $57.3 million request is generous by the standards of supplemental capital budgets in past years. But it is only a small fraction of the original capital budget for fiscal 1999, which the governor proposed at $789 million.

Most of the new proposed spending is concentrated in Montgomery and other vote-rich jurisdictions, but the budget included something for nearly every region.

One of the biggest-ticket items was $5 million to acquire land in and around the proposed Chapman's Landing development in Charles County. Conservation of that tract has been an important goal for Glendening's allies in the state's environmental lobby.

The budget request also includes $5.9 million to help Maryland farmers implement pollution control. That spending comes in response to a Senate amendment to the governor's anti-Pfiesteria initiative calling for more resources to help farmers.

Among other projects the governor proposed funding were:

An additional $1 million for improvements to Baltimore's Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. The state has provided $500,000 for the renewal and is expected to spend a total of $3 million on the $6 million project.

$1.8 million against the day when the vacant Riverdale Apartments in Essex can be demolished. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is paying $1.2 million to tear down the half of the 1,200-unit complex that it owns. The new state money would guarantee that Baltimore County could demolish the rest of the abandoned complex immediately, once title is wrested away from its absentee owner.

$1.6 million to help Baltimore County acquire waterfront property to be used as a park in Chesapeake Village.

$2.2 million to help pay for the transformation of Anne Arundel County's former Brooklyn Park High School into a middle school, senior center, recreation facility and arts center.

In Carroll County, $500,000 to design a new District Court building in Westminster and $30,000 for industrial and business center renovations in Sykesville.

Pub Date: 3/25/98

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