Spending bill has millions for Md. As deadline nears, measure expected to be passed by Senate

October 08, 1998|By David Folkenflik | David Folkenflik,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- More than $30 million in pet projects for Maryland can be found throughout a $93 billion bill about to be passed by Congress to pay for programs for veterans, space, housing and the environment.

The Senate was expected to approve the measure today. The bill won overwhelming approval by the House on Tuesday. President Clinton is expected to sign it.

The Maryland money is designated for communities throughout the state for purposes as varied as job training, Pfiesteria-free water and high-tech university research. It's part of the annual cornucopia of goodies that members of Maryland's congressional delegation tuck into spending bills, counting on a final push to enactment from Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, the Maryland Democrat who serves on the Appropriations Committee.

"The reason that I like serving on this committee is that you can meet the day-to-day needs of constituents," Mikulski said yesterday. "I think we've got a good, solid bill."

The bill on veterans and housing is just one of 13 spending measures that must be passed by tomorrow night to keep the government running. White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles met on Capitol Hill with senior Republican leaders yesterday to iron out differences on several of the bills.

While the Republicans have retreated from many of their more controversial stands, congressional leaders said yesterday that the White House remained adamant about receiving more money for Clinton's school building plan. The administration also sought to convince the GOP to drop riders that would restrict the enforcement of some environmental measures, several senators said.

At a closed-door lunch with some Senate Democrats, Bowles gave an upbeat assessment of the situation, saying Republicans were moving toward many Clinton demands for additional money for schools and other social programs, according to Sen. Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat.

Some progress was made yesterday. Rep. Jim Kolbe, the Arizona Republican who is shepherding a spending bill on the Treasury Department and the Postal Service through the House, said that his legislation would be shorn of several controversial items.

To reach the compromise, both sides lost eagerly sought provisions: Democrats failed to get the cost of birth control included in federal health care plans; Republicans gave up on ousting the chief lawyer of the Federal Election Commission, who had pressed an inquiry into GOP election finance; and a bipartisan Florida delegation was blocked on a drive to give amnesty to Haitian refugees.

'Shoot each other's dogs'

"We'll shoot each other's dogs, and then we will get what we need to keep the government running," said Sen. Gordon Smith, Oregon Republican.

But the compromises are all worked out on the spending bill for veterans and housing, which includes the Maryland money. The projects it will pay for include:

$5 million for Cumberland to separate and relocate its combined sewer and storm water drainage systems.

$4 million for Prince George's County to give job training to people who have received welfare aid and are on waiting lists for public housing.

$12 million extra for NASA to put toward the Next Generation Space Telescope, run by centers at Homewood in North Baltimore and Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt.

$1.35 million for Silver Spring for economic development of its business core.

$1 million for Catholic Charities of Baltimore to devise new models of providing housing and care to the elderly.

$750,000 toward the relocation of residents of polluted Wagner's Point in Baltimore.

Maryland's research universities lined up for the special earmarks as well.

The University of Maryland, College Park would net $2 million toward training students and conducting research in advanced technology.

Morgan State University would gain $1.6 million to overhaul a "multipurpose facility" so it can offer math and science education workshops for at-risk Baltimore schoolchildren.

The Hopkins-affiliated Kennedy Krieger Institute, a clinical and research center for children with disabilities, would gain $1.5 million for a magnetic resonance imaging machine.

There's also a lot of money devoted to clean water issues in Maryland, stemming from fears about Pfiesteria in summer 1997, when tens of thousands of fish died in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Polluted runoff from Eastern Shore poultry farms is believed to have triggered the fish kills.

Clean-water items

Among the clean water items: $2 million for the University of Maryland, Baltimore County to establish a center to study water-quality issues; $750,000 for the Chesapeake Bay small watersheds grants program; $225,000 to study the possible conversion of poultry manure into fuel; and $1 million for Somerset County to improve its wastewater treatment to remove biological nutrients.

Of the $93 billion in the bill, $23 billion was taken up by mandatory spending previously approved. Also in the bill, Congress backed an additional $13.6 billion for NASA; $19 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs; $24 billion for Housing and Urban Development; $3.6 for the National Science Foundation; and $1.3 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Administration.

Not all spending has to be earmarked for Maryland to find its way home. Mikulski noted that the bill set aside $316 million for research this year at the nation's Veterans Administration clinics. The VA-University of Maryland health center in Baltimore carries out by far the most such research in the country.

Pub Date: 10/08/98

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