Sun's rhetoric and figures misconstrued `prevailing...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

February 23, 2000

Sun's rhetoric and figures misconstrued `prevailing wage' bill

The Sun completely missed the mark with its recent editorial attacking my proposal to ensure that the prevailing wage for school construction is brought in line with prevailing wage requirements for all other state buildings and highway construction projects ("Adding extra costs to school construction," Feb. 15).

The editorial claimed my legislation would "sharply inflate" the price of school construction and would cause renovations to be postponed.

The only thing inflated was the anti-union rhetoric of The Sun's editorial and the spurious numbers used to justify that rhetoric.

On almost every point and number, The Sun was simply wrong.

Ensuring that wages paid for school construction are in alignment with all other state projects will not significantly increase costs or cause a single state-supported project to be delayed.

In fact, if my legislation had been law in fiscal 1999, prevailing wages would have covered an additional 23, out of 434, state-supported construction projects.

The effect on the $607.6 million school construction program would have been minuscule (raising costs less than one-half of one percent), even if every covered wage jumped by the maximum that The Sun claimed.

Although those figures may increase or decrease in other years, the record indicates they would never come anywhere near the extremes indicated by The Sun.

The Sun noted in a correction last Friday that the editorial also falsely claimed that the prevailing wage is almost always a union wage.

As The Sun accurately reported less than two weeks ago, for all building and road construction projects statewide, the prevailing wage and the union wage are the same in only 21 percent of job categories; in 79 percent of categories, the prevailing wage is less than the union scale.

Most important, The Sun missed the key issue in the debate: Why should a hard-working man or woman building one of our children's schools be paid a lower wage than someone performing similar work on a major road project or state building next to the school?

I believe that the same rules should apply across the board. I believe that Maryland should help move wages up, not down, for working men and women.

The Sun may disagree, but the numbers it used do not justify that position.

Parris N. Glendening

Annapolis

The writer is governor of the state of Maryland.

Bill could help break the cycle of addiction

Kudos to Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Del. Dan K. Morhaim for their vision and action regarding substance abuse treatment ("State must take charge on drug addiction," Opinion Commentary, Feb. 1).

The state's Citizens Review Board for Children strongly agrees that treatment must be made a priority if we are to break the cycle of substance abuse and child abuse and neglect.

For 62 percent of the children entering the state's out-of-home placement system, parental substance abuse is a factor. Yet little has been done to meet the needs of substance abusing parents involved with the child welfare system.

Many of the affected families are comprised of women with children. However, few residential treatment facilities are equipped to provide gender-specific treatment for them.

Our board is strongly supporting House Bill 7, which would integrate child welfare and substance abuse treatment services.

It would also provide more funding for testing and treatment, addiction counselors in child welfare offices, cross-training of addiction and child welfare workers and mandate the development of a protocol for managing child welfare cases, when parental substance abuse is suspected or confirmed.

Prevention services will also be provided to the children, so that the cycle of addiction can be interrupted.

We believe that the passage of this legislation will, over time, strengthen families, reduce the number of children in home care and reduce the law enforcement and health costs of addiction.

LaDean Barksdale

Baltimore

The writer chairs the state's Citizens Review Board for Children.

State must better serve kids needing psychiatric care

As providers of pediatric emergency care, we were pleased with The Sun's article "A hospital crisis: children in need of psychiatric care," (Feb. 13).

We are also encouraged by the Glendening administration's plan to expand health coverage for children ("Larger health plan sought," Feb. 10).

State and local health planners, and the insurance companies they regulate, must also take responsibility for improving care for child psychiatry patients and their families.

The terrible condition of child psychiatric care in Maryland is a result of too few inpatient beds and too few outpatient treatment options.

State and municipal leaders must make hard fiscal and political decisions.

Insurers should be required to provide psychiatric services and eliminate the bureaucratic road blocks that result in children waiting, sometimes days, in emergency departments for an inpatient bed.

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