...with a budget of plenty

Good times: Neglected areas get attention from governor, but some are overlooked.

January 20, 2000

SPORTING a whopping $1.6 billion more than last year, Gov. Parris N. Glendening's new budget singles out some neglected areas for help in the coming year.

Higher education, which received surprisingly slim support from the former college professor until now, is a big winner.

Unprecedented prosperity gives the governor a chance to put Maryland colleges on a science and technology fast track. Knowledge is power in this information age. That's why we applaud his 12-percent increase in spending for state colleges and a five-year, $1.2 billion campus building plan.

He wisely has earmarked money for more and better teachers, too. Among the enticements: tax credits for teachers, college scholarships, signing bonuses, smaller class sizes, fine arts and dance classes, mentoring and computer academies for teachers.

All these steps -- and more -- are needed to fill 11,000 teacher vacancies expected next year.

Mr. Glendening also is paying attention to juvenile justice, an overlooked area until recent scandals at the state's boot camps.

He has more than tripled the new money he planned to spend on juvenile justice last fall. Among the key elements are higher pay, more staff and a new emphasis on "after-care" programs. Not unexpected is the governor's $115 million increase in programs to preserve open space and rejuvenate older suburban communities. But this thrust largely ignores troubled Baltimore neighborhoods.

Indeed, the governor's budget gives Baltimore far less than its bleak circumstances would seem to warrant. City schools get a pittance in new money -- far less than the state average. And yet Baltimore's schools are the worst-performing -- by far -- in Maryland.

There's no money earmarked to stem the city's horrendous drug-abuse problem or straighten out the city courts and Police Department. Baltimore's feeble rail system won't be expanded.

By the time the General Assembly finishes with Mr. Glendening's budget, some of these oversights will be corrected. New revenue estimates in March should mean more cash to distribute.

Legislators must ensure that money is used for the overlooked areas in the governor's plan.

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