Glendening budget gets preliminary House OK

spending mostly intact

$100 million is trimmed, including $750,000 to UM

March 23, 2000|By Gady A. Epstein and Thomas W. Waldron | Gady A. Epstein and Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

The House of Delegates gave preliminary approval yesterday to a $19.5 billion state budget that leaves Gov. Parris N. Glendening's spending priorities largely intact.

Like the Senate a week ago, the House cut more than $100 million from the governor's budget proposal, but most of the trims simply slow the growth of state spending.

The operating budget for the University of Maryland, College Park was cut by $750,000, but the state's flagship university would receive more than $30 million in new spending -- an increase of roughly 10 percent.

The House put off until today a debate on Glendening's most contested proposal -- $6 million for textbooks at private and parochial schools. The Senate approved that funding last week by a vote of 27-19. A close vote is expected in the House.

Without debate, delegates cut some of the governor's less-noticed proposals, including $2 million to buy classroom telephones for teachers and $1 million for handgun safety research. The Senate has cut both of those items as well.

The House also cut $1.75 million from state's $33 million children's health insurance program, which concerns the governor. If the state couldn't draw more federal funds to offset it, some of the 60,000 children and pregnant women insured by the popular program could lose coverage.

That and other differences between the House and Senate versions will be resolved by a conference committee.

Most of the major pieces of the governor's operating budget remain in both versions:

$320 million for public school construction and new buildings on college and university campuses, with $300 million more to come in the proposed capital budget.

$1.4 billion in transportation spending, including $100 million for an extension of the Washington Metro's Blue Line north of the Capital Beltway in Prince George's County.

$35 million for a state-supported pay raise for public school teachers.

$21.5 million for renovating the Hippodrome Theater, a linchpin for the planned $350 million redevelopment of Baltimore's west side.

Earlier in the day, delegates gave tentative approval to a plan for spending hundreds of millions of dollars Maryland will receive from the national tobacco settlement -- rejecting calls to spend more on drug treatment and smoking cessation efforts.

On a vote of 59-67, the House turned back an amendment sponsored by Del. Tony E. Fulton that would have devoted $60 million a year of the tobacco money to drug-treatment efforts in Baltimore.

"We have 60,000 drug addicts in Baltimore City," said Fulton, a Baltimore Democrat. "We are dying a slow death."

Del. Clarence Davis, another Baltimore Democrat, said the plan did not go far enough to address the problems of drugs and smoking in the black community and sent too much money to "lily white suburban groups."

"Give us some of the money," said Davis, who is African-American. "Where is the balance?" He later apologized to anyone offended by his statement about race.

House leaders defended their tobacco spending plan, saying it was "balanced" to address health, education and other needs. The Senate has embraced a substantially different plan that focuses more on smoking-cessation and cancer research.

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