Bush budget mixed news for Maryland

Construction money up, other programs down

February 04, 2003|By John B. O'Donnell | John B. O'Donnell,SUN STAFF

President Bush's budget plan offers hundreds of millions of dollars for construction projects in Maryland even as it cuts funding for large federal agencies and projects dear to the hearts of the state's legislators.

The budget proposes $105 million in construction spending at military bases in the state, $147 million for a new Bureau of Census building in Suitland, $40 million to continue double-tracking the Baltimore light rail line and $65 million to extend the Washington Metro system to Largo.

The president also proposed an 8.5 percent increase for the Woodlawn-based Social Security Administration. The agency faces a 22 percent increase in applications for disability payments between 1999 and 2004 and a skyrocketing workload when baby boomers begin to retire.

At the same time, a Clinton administration program to pay for 100,000 police officers was cut from $1.3 billion to $146 million, said Jesse Jacobs, the press secretary for Maryland Democratic Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes. Last year, 28 Maryland police departments received $11.1 million from the program.

Federal funds to upgrade local sewage treatment plans - something Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. called a priority in his State of the State speech last week - will be cut sharply. The state would get $20.5 million under the president's budget, compared with $32.6 million last year, Jacobs said.

The budget contains no new funds for the consolidation of the Food and Drug Administration at White Oak in Montgomery County, according to Sarbanes and Maryland's other senator, Democrat Barbara A. Mikulski.

And, Mikulski said, it sharply limits increases for the National Institutes of Health.

Congress has approved $300 million for the FDA consolidation, an $800 million project to bring 6,000 agency employees together at one site, Mikulski said in a prepared statement.

Budget documents show that after five years of double-digit increases that saw the NIH budget nearly double from $13.7 billion to $23.6 billion, Bush is proposing a 2.2 percent increase for fiscal 2004.

On public housing, Bush sought no new money for Hope VI, a program that has provided hundreds of millions of dollars to Baltimore and other jurisdictions for the demolition and replacement of housing projects.

But the administration projected that $3 billion in already-appropriated HOPE VI funds would be spent over the next five years even if Congress provides no additional money.

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