Modest capital budget is proposed

Glendening plan includes no new major projects, but `honors our commitments'

January 23, 2002|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

Slowing the state's record-breaking construction program, Gov. Parris N. Glendening proposed a modest capital budget yesterday that includes no major new projects but emphasizes the three priorities of his administration - education, the environment and Smart Growth.

Glendening's $1.1 billion capital budget proposal is almost $400 million less than the current year's budget, but it provides money for the buildings he has promised in the past few years.

"This is a good, progressive capital budget that makes fiscally responsible investments in our people," he said. "Our capital budget honors our commitments and focuses on the priorities we have focused on during our administration."

The largest share of the budget is going toward education, with $150 million for public school construction and almost an equal amount for colleges and universities.

Although the amount for public schools is less than in recent years, Glendening emphasized that it fulfills his pledge to spend $1.6 billion over his eight-year administration to renovate older buildings and add new classrooms.

Glendening presented much of the rest of his capital budget in a similar manner, emphasizing the scope of what he's spent during his two terms in office - including $1.7 billion on higher education "to make our colleges and universities world-class centers of scientific and medical research" and $1.7 billion on the environment.

Next year's capital budget proposal includes $277 million for environmental preservation programs and $169 million for community investment programs - most aimed at Smart Growth initiatives designed to curb suburban sprawl.

"Tough budget times come and go, but once our natural resources are gone, they're gone forever," Glendening said.

Some of the largest Baltimore-area institutions to receive funding in the proposed budget include more than $30 million for projects at Morgan State University, $17 million for renovation at Baltimore City Community College's Liberty campus, $5 million for Baltimore County Detention Center expansion, $8.5 million for Anne Arundel Community College's new Center for Applied Learning and Technology and $9.2 million for Baltimore's African-American Museum.

While the governor has relied heavily on surplus cash to pay for many past construction projects, yesterday's proposal calls for almost two-thirds of the money to come from new state debt.

"With the nation in an economic slowdown and low interest rates, it makes the most sense to issue bonds for the majority of this year's construction program," Glendening said.

Legislative fiscal leaders praised the governor's decision to rely on bonds, noting that he is following the recommendation of the General Assembly's spending affordability committee.

The governor also released a $9.1 billion, six-year transportation plan that follows the same pattern - no new projects but continuation of those promised.

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