Delegates approve budget for public works plans


The House of Delegates yesterday approved a $390-million public works construction budget for next year despite opposition from some Republicans, who said too much money was going to projects that could be left to the private sector.

The capital spending plan, which now goes to the Senate, contains more than $100 million for construction or renovation of public schools.

It also provides $48 million for a prison south of Cumberland and millions more for new gymnasiums, science centers, libraries and other buildings at state colleges and universities.

Money is earmarked for a variety of new research centers, mostly in Montgomery County and Baltimore; for jails and juvenile delinquency facilities; and for hospitals, parks and sewage treatment plants.

The projects range from $1 million for a building for the Hospice of Prince George's County -- a program supported by first lady Frances Hughes Glendening -- to a $250,000 statue on the State House grounds of former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

In all, the capital budget authorizes the sale of state general obligation bonds to finance nearly 140 separate projects, a large number of them in Baltimore.

The city projects include $1 million for the National Aquarium, $500,000 for the repair of the wooden warship USS Constellation, $1 million for the Lyric Opera House, $4 million for the Johns Hopkins Oncology Center, and $250,000 for the Eubie Blake National Museum and Cultural Center.

The city's success in obtaining approval for capital projects -- helped, no doubt, by Baltimore's hold on the chairmanship of both budget committees -- rankled lawmakers in other jurisdictions, who said they felt their counties have been shortchanged.

"Very candidly, Montgomery County took a tremendous hit," said Del. Gilbert J. Genn, one of three Montgomery Democrats who regularly sided with Republicans in voting against some projects. "We're not pleased with the allocation."

Del. Richard N. Dixon, a Carroll County Democrat who became chairman of the House's capital budget subcommittee this year, said his panel attempted to work with every county delegation to assure that each area's top priorities were included in the final capital budget.

But delegates such as Dana Lee Dembrow, a Democrat from Montgomery County complained that the decisions were made in back rooms by House leaders, not through open voting in the Appropriations Committee or on the House floor.

"I don't understand where the decisions were made," he said.

Republicans criticized the $450,000 for renovating a building at the Ladew Topiary Gardens in Harford County, the $125,000 for a Charles County historic site honoring Declaration of Independence signer Thomas Stone, and the $125,000 for a baseball museum on the Lower Eastern Shore.

"That's the most irresponsible expenditure in our capital budget," Del. John S. Morgan, a Prince George's Republican, said of the baseball museum bill before it was approved, 90-37.

Though they slowed the process, the Republicans were not unified in their opposition to capital projects.

On most bills, the 41-member GOP caucus mustered fewer than 20 votes in opposition. And on several, including the Ladew Topiary Gardens, the leading supporters were Republicans.

"I think it was part of their attempt to try to flex their muscles," said Democrat Howard P. Rawlings of Baltimore, the Appropriations Committee chairman. "But it was wonderful to see Republicans stand up and defend these projects."

Many of the projects the Republicans opposed, he said, were of statewide or regional significance. The Ladew Gardens, he said, draws tourists from throughout the state.

"When I was young and my bride was young and we had small children, we'd go there," Mr. Rawlings told the House. "It's a place of tranquillity and great beauty. We need to do more to provide to our citizens places they can go to expand their minds, their souls, their spirits."


Here is a sampling of the 137 construction projects in the $390 million capital budget approved by the House of Delegates yesterday. The spending plan now goes to the state Senate.


* Design, Inner Harbor Visitors Center, $131,000

* Repair, Constellation, $500,000

* Renovation, National Aquarium, $1 million

* Construction, Baltimore Children's Museum, $1 million

* Construction, Life Sciences building, Baltimore City Community College, $15.6 million


* Design, construction, Center for Advanced Research in Biotechnology, $9.7 million

* Construction, Maryland Technology Center research park, $4 million


* Construction, Hospice of Prince George's County, $1 million

* Redevelopment, historic Bladensburg waterfront, $1 million


* Construction, 720-bed housing unit, Western Correctional Institution, $48 million

* Development, historic preservation district, Cumberland, $3.8 million

* Construction, Jack Nicklaus golf course at Rocky Gap State Park, $2 million


* Construction, physical education building, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, $17 million

* Additional funding, minor league baseball stadium, Wicomico County, $1.1 million


* Construction, District Court/multi-service center, Annapolis, $12.3 million


* Renovation, St. Vincent's Children Center, Timonium, $500,000


* Restoration, Union Mills Homestead, $100,000

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