Debate continues over use of new bay fund

DNR has proposal, but lawmakers have their own ideas

January 16, 2008|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,Sun reporter

The O'Malley administration wants to use its computerized "BayStat" system to determine how to spend a new $50 million Chesapeake Bay cleanup fund, a top official said yesterday.

"We want to be able to refocus funds from programs that aren't working to those that are," Natural Resources Secretary John R. Griffin told a Senate committee. "That's another touchstone of BayStat: rigorous performance review," he said.

But some lawmakers have other ideas about how the money should be spent, with House leaders wanting percentages for agricultural runoff prevention and other programs and some senators asking for accountability to make sure the money would actually reduce pollution.

The Chesapeake Bay 2010 Trust Fund - which will get its money from car rental and gas taxes - was approved by the General Assembly during its special session in November. The Senate Education, Health and Environment Committee took up yesterday the debate over how to spend the $50 million every year.

State Sen. Paul Pinsky, a Prince George's Democrat, said he wants verification that money given to local governments, farmers and others is actually spent on pollution reduction. "We need to be clear on accountability, especially in agriculture," Pinsky said. "Are nutrient-management plans [to minimize fertilizer runoff] being enforced?"

In November, Pinsky and Sen. Brian Frosh, with the backing of Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, blocked a bill by Del. Maggie McIntosh that would have set aside 30 percent of the money for farm runoff prevention, 30 percent for urban and suburban storm water systems, up to 10 percent for urban parks, with the remaining 30 percent to other pollution programs, with all the money overseen by an advisory committee.

tom.pelton@baltsun.com

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