Glendening proposes $24 million expansion of Senate building

Long-sought makeover included in $1.05 billion record capital budget

January 27, 1999|By Gady A. Epstein | Gady A. Epstein,SUN STAFF

With a record $1.05 billion to spread around for capital projects, Gov. Parris N. Glendening is proposing a $24 million expansion of the Senate office building -- part of a makeover long sought by some legislators.

More than $700 million of Glendening's capital budget, released yesterday, is earmarked for public school construction, higher education and the environment, traditionally three areas that receive the lion's share of the state's annual investment in projects.

Baltimore would receive about $185 million, the most of any jurisdiction, including $15.5 million for an African-American museum and $3 million for the zoo.

Glendening's budget earmarks $10 million toward the University of Maryland Medical System's $218 million renovation project in downtown Baltimore, and he pledged yesterday to add $30 million overall to the state's $70 million commitment. The budget also proposes spending $23.9 million for a law school building and Thurgood Marshall Library at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

The governor also has put money in the budget to find a new site for a police training center, a project he recently withdrew from Carroll County to the consternation of its officials and Republican legislators.

One of the most significant commitments in the capital budget is the addition to the 60-year-old William S. James Senate office building, the first and largest step in a roughly $47 million overhaul of the House and Senate buildings planned over the next two years.

"It's not an investment in the Senate," Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said of the addition, which will include spacious meeting rooms and offices for committee chairmen and vice chairmen. "It's solely to accommodate the public."

The Senate improvements are considered long overdue by a number of legislators, staffers and others who have contended with crowded meeting rooms and cramped office space.

It appears the addition has a good chance to be approved because the House is also expected to get close to $13 million -- though not in this year's budget -- for its own, smaller addition. And close to $10 million more may be spent next year to renovate the existing Senate building.

Miller and House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., a fellow Democrat, agreed that with state coffers overflowing, now's the time for such projects.

"It's a good time to spend the money," Taylor said.

"The Senate office building is grossly inadequate for the public. I mean, when you look at the bill hearings that take place in those very small hearing rooms and people standing out in the halls and outside trying to get in, it's very outdated."

Glendening's capital budget includes $343 million for environmental projects such as improving water quality and buying open space and farmland; $250 million to build and renovate public schools; $140 million for projects at college and university campuses; $104 million for economic development initiatives; and $68 million for public safety.

The governor's pledge to infuse $30 million more into the University of Maryland Medical System will help the hospital complete its renovation project in West Baltimore. The project's centerpiece is a building on Lombard Street expected to house emergency and radiology services and space for cancer care and women's and children's critical care.

In Annapolis

Highlights in Annapolis today:

Senate convenes at 10 a.m., Senate chamber.

House of Delegates meets 10 a.m., House chamber.

Board of Public Works meets 10 a.m., Governor's reception room, State House.

House Appropriations Committee briefing on higher education funding and governance issues, 10: 30 a.m. Room 130, House office building.

Pub Date: 1/27/99

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