By Michael Dresser
The Baltimore Sun
9:17 AM EST, January 9, 2013
House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said Wednesday that they have reservations about a plan advanced by the Rawlings-Blake administration to expedite school renovation in Baltimore.
Appearing on the Marc Steiner radio show just hours before the General Assembly is scheduled to convene for its 90-day annual session, the two legislative leaders agreed that the proposal raises questions about how it would affect the state's finances.
The city is asking for a guaranteed stream of at least $32 million in school construction aid a year for 20 years against which it could float bonds to pay for a $2.4 billion program to rebuild Baltimore's crumbling facilities.
Busch said such a renovation is needed but would not commit to such a program.
"You have to scrutinize this to make sure the state is not liable," Busch said.
Miller sounded even more skeptical. "You don't borrow debt against debt. It's ridiculous," he said.
On another issue facing the legislature this year, Miller predicted Senate approval of a repeal of the death penalty by one or two votes over his opposition.
The Senate president said that if there's a majority on the floor he will work to get a repeal bill an up-or-down vote.
On the issue of hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas, known as fracking, neither Busch nor Miller would endorse an outright ban. However, they expressed support for measures to ensure the practice doesn't lead to groundwater contamination.
"There's got to be protections in place before we move forward," said Miller, calling for a "middle ground" on the issue.
Miller and Busch both expressed support for an O'Malley administration plan to build a new juvenile detention facility in Baltimore that has drawn opposition from some city elected officials.
"I support the construction of a juvenile facility in Baltimore because I don't support housing juveniles with adults," Miller said.
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