In an early holiday gift, Gov. Parris N. Glendening handed out hundreds of millions of dollars yesterday for new buildings at Maryland's colleges and universities.
Glendening announced the higher education portion of the capital budget at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County to an eager audience that included most of the presidents of the state's public schools.
Glendening said a five-year $1.23 billion construction budget will be funded with the state budget surplus projected at $925 million, as well as with income from a tax on tobacco products passed last year and money from the settlement with tobacco companies.
"It is imperative that we provide more resources for higher education even as we demand more accountability from it," said Glendening, who also promised a 12 percent increase in the higher education operating budget. Both will be sent to the General Assembly early in its session that begins next month.
Glendening's budget essentially speeds up the construction process for most of the projects, from a decade or more to completion in the next two or three years. Half of the $1.23 billion total is budgeted for the next two years to ensure many buildings are finished before the economic picture changes.
Targets of funding
$94 million over five years for a dental school building at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.
$55 million in the next two years for an arena at the University of Maryland, College Park to replace Cole Field House.
$42 million over three years for renovations and additions to the fine arts center at Towson University.
$47 million over three years for renovating the chemistry building and constructing an information technology and engineering facility at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
Science takes priority
Science and technology facilities were given top priority by the schools. The budget includes $20 million for a laboratory at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and $46 million for a research facility at the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute.
In addition, UMCP would get $73 million for new chemistry and engineering buildings, Frostburg State University would get $27 million for a science building, and Morgan State University would get $16 million for a science research facility.
Glendening said he did not want to ignore humanities and social sciences, so several projects that were years away from getting on the University System of Maryland budget received funding in his proposal, including $16 million for a public policy institute at UMBC that might have been a decade from construction under previous plans.
"It is great that we are producing all these science and technology graduates," said Freeman A. Hrabowski III, president of UMBC, of the need for the facility. "But we also need to understand what the impact of these technologies are on the rest of society."
Fine arts expansion
Towson President Hoke Smith said the fine arts center expansion was at the top of his list. "We built that building for 180 fine arts majors. We now have over 400," he said.
Glendening included $3 million to renovate Charles Hall at the University of Baltimore, another project not on the USM wish list.
`Three times' the challenge
USM chancellor Donald N. Langenberg noted that the amount budgeted for capital projects for the first half of the next decade will be 2 1/2 times what was spent in the first half of this decade.
"The amount we spend in 2001 will be three times the amount we spent this year," Langenberg said. "But that will also give us three times the management challenge in getting these projects built."
Glendening summed up the mood of the day: "It is a great time to be in higher education."