House OKs bill to provide aid to WIC program


ANNAPOLIS -- Four days after refusing a Schaefer administration plan to provide $1 million next year for poor pregnant women and their children, the House of Delegates gave final approval to a proposal to mandate the same program in 1993.

In a 128-2 vote, the House passed the bill to mandate $1 million in state aid to the federal Women, Infants and Children program, which provides food packages to poor families. The two dissenting votes were cast by Delegates Martha S. Klima, R-Baltimore County, and Robert A. Thornton Jr., D-Caroline. Earlier this week, Gov. William Donald Schaefer included the same amount of money in a supplemental budget for fiscal year 1992 that he submitted to the legislature Monday.

Lawmakers rejected the budget, which proposed a total of $48.3 million in social programs, including WIC, because it came so late in the 90-day session and because the programs would have been financed by money earmarked for transportation.

Yesterday's actions represented a form of one-upmanship by legislators who were embarrassed by having to vote against the various welfare programs. If the Senate also approves the bill, Governor Schaefer will have to provide funds for WIC next year.

"He's decided this is his commitment and if it is, the legislature definitely supports it," said Delegate Marsha G. Perry, D-Anne Arundel, the bill's sponsor. Ms. Perry said WIC has been an effective federal venture and deserves state support. Last year, 16 states added local money to the federal program.

Among other things, meeting the nutritional needs of pregnant women lowers the fetal death rate and prevents premature births, causing a significant cost-savings in medical care, WIC supporters claim. Also, young children who eat better are more likely to develop normally and do well in school.

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