WASHINGTON -- Threatened by the potential loss of hundreds of millions of dollars for the Baltimore Beltway and other local projects, Gov. Parris N. Glendening joined other governors yesterday to rally for a transportation program that benefits the Northeast.
Glendening's appearance on Capitol Hill represented his most visible involvement in the regional squabble, one of the most contentious matters in this Congress.
Transportation spending represents "one of the highest impact issues in America today," Glendening said at an afternoon rally. He echoed Republican governors from New York, New Jersey and West Virginia who urged Congress to refrain from radically changing the program.
At stake is $175 billion in transportation funding over the next six years, the bulk of which must be divvied up by Congress by Oct. 1. That has set off a vigorous "formula fight" over the first rewrite of the highway plan since 1991.
Delegations from Florida, Virginia and other Southern states have fought to rewrite the formula, which provides them with less highway money than they pay in federal gasoline taxes.
Northeastern lawmakers, representing winners under the current formula, argue that their region sees little of the billions of dollars in defense, agricultural subsidies and numerous other federal programs.
That argument doesn't wash for Maryland, which ranks at the top in federal per capita spending overall and received $1.45 in highway funding for each dollar it paid in 1995. State officials say Maryland needs the money because of its heavily used roads.
Maryland would lose about 17 percent of its federal transportation funds under the leading Southern plan -- or some $240 million over six years. Such a loss would force the state to delay numerous projects, including construction of an additional lane along the Beltway, said Clyde Pyers, director of the state Office of Highway Policy Analysis. He said the state is concerned about money for mass transit, including expansion of Maryland Rail Commuter service to Frederick.
Before the rally, the governors made their case to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi, House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia and other congressional leaders. Most GOP leaders in Congress are Southerners, and most back the Southern plan.
Glendening said the Northeasterners are showcasing officials whom Lott and Gingrich want to see re-elected, such as Gov. Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey.
Pub Date: 5/07/97