Montgomery senators win concession in education bill

More funding for county may smooth its passage

March 30, 2002|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

Montgomery County senators won key changes last night to the Thornton Commission's recommendations for increased school funding, potentially clearing a major hurdle to approval of the legislation.

Two Senate committees agreed to change the proposed school funding formula to give the county an extra $80 million annually within five years. Overall, the Thornton plan would go from $1.1 billion a year to almost $1.3 billion. "It certainly meets our needs," said Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan. "We have always supported the Thornton recommendations with certain adjustments, and now we will work to get this passed this year."

The support of Montgomery's senators may help the Thornton plan pick up support in the House of Delegates, though House leaders have said they don't want to make any long-term education spending commitments until new sources of revenue are found.

The package proposed by the Senate committees would include about $90.4 million in new education money statewide for next year. Much of that would come from a 34-cent-a-pack increase in the cigarette tax.

The compromise was struck after more than two hours of frustrating votes and debate in which it became clear that an education spending package and tobacco tax could not be approved without the backing of Montgomery senators.

"Getting Montgomery County on board makes the work on the floor a lot easier," said Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, chairwoman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee. "I would not have chosen to do it this way, but you have to make compromises sometimes to get legislation passed."

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