Senate debate of capital budget distinguished by partisan bickering

March 30, 2001|By Sarah Koenig | Sarah Koenig,SUN STAFF

In a raw display of partisan squabbling, Senate Republicans complained long and loudly yesterday that their pork-barrel requests weren't being funded because they had opposed the state budget bill - and Democrats freely admitted such was the case.

Republicans used a floor debate on the $475 million proposed capital budget to vent their frustration.

In particular, they were angered at having their bond bill requests for local projects denied because they voted against Gov. Parris N. Glendening's proposed operating budget. Republicans said punishing them outright was a new twist and an affront to their independence as legislators. Several noted they had opposed past budgets without suffering such pointed repercussions.

"There ought to be a law about discrimination against conservative Republicans," said Sen. Timothy R. Ferguson of Carroll County.

In response to the complaints, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said, "Politics is about who gets what, when and why."

The GOP lawmakers began stewing in the wee hours of Tuesday morning at the end of a filibuster of gay rights legislation.

Sen. Thomas V. "Mac" Middleton, a St. Mary's County Democrat who chairs the capital budget subcommittee, told a group of senators they wouldn't get their bond requests because they had voted against the operating budget.

Yesterday, Senate Minority Leader Martin Madden of Howard County said Republicans had come to expect some quid pro quo from the governor, "but it's really kind of disturbing and sad to see it here on this floor."

Madden's comments were followed by speeches from a half-dozen other angry Republicans, who used words like inappropriate, outrage and vindictive to describe the Democrats' refusal to fund the pet projects lawmakers hope to bring home.

The Senate's capital budget proposal includes $18.5 million in bonds, for programs including theater groups, a lighthouse memorial and boys and girls clubs.

The Republicans could still see their local projects funded. For example, Sen. Larry E. Haines got nothing from the Senate, but the House offered $200,000 for the Carroll County Arts Council and $250,000 for the Carroll County Historical Society.

Middleton acknowledged that the Democrats had cracked down on the Republicans.

"You're right, the rules have changed this year," he told them. But he said that capital and operating budgets were interdependent, and that the way to deal with a budget one doesn't like is to suggest changes, not vote against it.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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