Education, environment win big in capital budget

Half of funding marked for schools, construction

January 26, 2000|By Gady A. Epstein | Gady A. Epstein,SUN STAFF

As promised, Gov. Parris N. Glendening released a $1.26 billion capital budget yesterday that is largely devoted to an ambitious binge of building public schools and colleges and environmental projects such as buying open space.

Almost half of the money -- $622 million -- is slated for education, with $364 million for colleges, universities and community colleges and $258 million for construction and renovation of kindergarten through 12th-grade schools.

A record $122 million will go to buying or preserving open space and farm land.

Glendening, though, issued a clear warning that some counties might not see more school con- struction dollars in his supplemental budgets unless they support his union-backed legislation to guarantee better wages for construction workers.

"I just feel strongly that people should be paid a reasonable, decent wage and that we should not be subsidizing low-wage work," Glendening said. "If people are asking for funding for capital projects, then we ought to have a partnership."

The comments were in part directed at Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry, who has opposed the governor's "prevailing wage" proposal but who also has a long list of school construction needs.

The governor also implied he would withhold funding from counties opposing his plan for more stringent regulations on new septic tanks and his Smart Codes proposal to modify building codes to encourage reuse of aging buildings.

The comments were in character for a governor who has consistently leveraged his budget-mak- ing power to win support for his legislative proposals. He predicted yesterday that he and his opponents would "work it out" by the end of the 90-day session, or, as he suggested, he could store surplus revenues in the state's reserves.

Glendening has managed to stow away $400 million from this year's roughly $1 billion operating surplus into the state's "rainy day" fund.

The governor also announced last week that he was using more than $300 million from the state's overflowing general fund as pay-as-you-go dollars to help pay for the $622 million in education capital projects.

His capital budget announced yesterday included an array of local and state projects:

$15.5 million to build two 24-bed juvenile detention centers, in Western Maryland and on the Eastern Shore, and to put finishing touches on the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center under construction.

$21.5 million for the Hippo- drome Performing Arts Center in Baltimore. "I think this will be the anchor for significant redevelopment in that portion of the city," he said.

$60 million for water quality improvement projects statewide. Almost half the money, $27.6 million, will go to improvements for Baltimore City's wastewater system, primarily for Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant.

$3 million to complete funding for the redevelopment of Memorial Stadium in Baltimore.

The release of the capital budget caps a week of record construction spending proposals from the governor. Last week, the governor announced a record $2.7 billion in transportation projects, including two projects to be paid for in part from the state's general fund: $200 million for the Woodrow Wilson Bridge connecting Maryland and Virginia, and $434 million for an extension of the Washington Metro's blue line in Prince George's County.

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