Plans to build a football stadium in Baltimore aren't even dead yet, and politicians are looking for ways to spend the money.
State Sen. American Joe Miedusiewski, the East Baltimore Democrat and candidate for governor, stood on a bitter cold street corner at Greenmount and North avenues yesterday to lay out his plan for using the stadium money to build more prisons.
The financing scheme was Mr. Miedusiewski's answer to how the state could afford his proposal to deny parole to repeat violent offenders, which he estimates would require about $100 million in new prisons.
His plan is contingent on Maryland's failure to bring a National Football League team to Baltimore and would require changes in the state law that set up the authority to float bonds for construction of the football stadium.
"This is what I'm offering as a possibility to show that people are thinking about the process, rather than just talking about it," Mr. Miedusiewski said.
The state senator acknowledged that the plan -- which calls for the construction of 1,400 to 1,700 new double prison cells -- was tentative and in its infancy.
"This may even prove not to be available, but someone's got to start showing some creativity," he said.
Mr. Miedusiewski then offered a jab at Delegate Ellen R. Sauerbrey, the House minority leader from Baltimore County who is seeking the GOP nomination for governor. She has proposed denying parole even to first-time violent offenders.
"I think it's irresponsible for a candidate to say 'No parole' and 'Let's build more prisons' and not offer a plan to pay for them," Mr. Miedusiewski said, referring to Mrs. Sauerbrey. "You've got to get beyond the talking stage to the practical stage."
But Mrs. Sauerbrey, reached by telephone in Florida, took issue with Mr. Miedusiewski's assessment.
"I've been talking about this for six months, that we should be ready immediately, once it becomes clear that the NFL is not going to locate a team here, to take the money dedicated to a football stadium . . . and use it to build prisons," she said.
Mrs. Sauerbrey went on to detail options for paying for new prisons. Under her no-parole plan, she estimates that facilities for 4,000 new inmates would have to be built by the end of the decade.
Under Mr. Miedusiewski's plan, the state would pay for new prisons by using about $21 million in money overseen by the Maryland Stadium Authority for construction of a football stadium. That money -- lottery game revenue earmarked for construction of a stadium -- is the amount expected to be on hand by next June 30, the end of the current fiscal year.
Mr. Miedusiewski also said the state should use for prisons an estimated $15 million that the state will save from refinancing the debt for Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
In addition, legislation that authorized creation of the stadium debt also provided for three lottery games -- one a year in 1995, 1996 and 1997 -- to be offered to pay for the football stadium. He said that money, too, could be used for prisons. And he proposed possibly using money from the state's so-called "Rainy Day Fund."
The senator's plan was coolly received at the State House.
"Any discussion of tampering with the bonding authority is very premature at this point," said Joseph L. Harrison Jr., a spokesman for Gov. William Donald Schaefer.
"The governor remains committed to returning an NFL team to Baltimore," he said.