Sauerbrey attacks use of aid fund She accuses governor of helping his backers

Campaign 1998

August 19, 1998|By Craig Timberg | Craig Timberg,SUN STAFF

Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey suggested yesterday that Gov. Parris N. Glendening has used economic development grants to reward supporters, and she pledged new safeguards to prevent such abuses if she becomes governor.

Sauerbrey made her remarks during a broad economic speech in Baltimore in which she also promised to stimulate the state economy with tax breaks for senior citizens, reduced real estate closing costs and a new highway through Montgomery County that has sparked controversy.

Referring to statistics showing Maryland trailing neighboring states in economic growth, she said, "Parris, that's just not good enough."

Sauerbrey reserved unusually blunt language for her comments about the state's "Sunny Day Fund," which began in 1988 and has grown under Glendening. It has provided $102 million in loans and grants to growing businesses since he took office in 1995.

"I'm going to administer that Sunny Day Fund honestly," Sauerbrey said at Dovco Industrial Fabricators in Southwest Baltimore. "There's not going to be a hint that it's being used to pay off my political cronies or the people that contribute to my campaign."

She did not mention specific cases but said recipients of $9 million in aid during Glendening's tenure have donated money to his campaign. If she becomes governor, Sauerbrey said, she would bar those who receive Sunny Day Fund funds from contributing money to her campaign for re-election.

A Glendening campaign spokesman, Len Foxwell, said the governor and legislative leaders have run the Sunny Day Fund fairly and created thousands of jobs. Foxwell also objected to Sauerbrey's suggestion that Maryland's economy is weak.

"Maryland's economic climate has never been healthier," he said. "And Maryland has never been a better state for doing business."

The Sunny Day Fund is designed to attract and retain jobs by giving loans and grants to businesses. To be eligible, they must be making substantial capital investments. Local governments must add matching funds to the state incentive package.

The fund has created controversy, as when Glendening backed a $500,000 award to Radio One, a network of radio stations co-owned by Cathy Hughes, an influential entrepreneur.

A committee of top legislators approved the package, but it drew fire from Republicans who accused Glendening of trying to reward a supporter. Hughes later refused the money to protest the state Senate's expulsion of Larry Young.

"I don't think it's a function of government to pick winners and losers in the business community," said Del. Robert H. Kittleman Howard County, Republican leader in the House of Delegates. "[The award for] Radio One was pure vote-buying."

State Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Prince George's County Democrat, defended Glendening's handling of the Sunny Day Fund.

hTC "The decisions that were made were based solely on merit," Miller said. "There were a couple of questionable decisions, but none of them involved campaign contributions."

Also yesterday, Sauerbrey repeated her support for construction the Inter-County Connector from Interstate 270 in Montgomery County to Interstate 95 in Prince George's County -- a highway that Glendening backed before putting the project on hold in March.

She also promised to trim regulations, recruit new businesses and cut the state's overall tax burden.

Senior citizens would be the primary beneficiaries of a change, announced during the weekend, that would allow anyone over )) age 65 to exempt up to $33,000 of his or her retirement income from state taxes.

A senior can exempt up to $15,000 of retirement income.

Sauerbrey said the change will stop seniors from leaving the state in search of lower taxes.

Pub Date: 8/19/98

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