Gov. Parris N. Glendening's 10-year plan for the state's settlement with the tobacco industry, including his decision to focus its health spending on cancer, came under skeptical questioning yesterday from legislators with their own priorities for the nearly $2.5 billion.
Despite a surprise appearance by the governor to show his support for the plan, members of the House Appropriations Committee spent the afternoon picking it apart -- especially his proposal for millions of dollars of bricks-and-mortar spending at the Johns Hopkins University.
Hopkins is proposing to spend $63 million of the $150 million Glendening wants to give the school on buildings and technology -- including a new life sciences building and two additions to the School of Public Health. The University of Maryland Medical Center, which the governor also wants to give $150 million, would spend $30 million on laboratories and other facilities.
Committee Chairman Howard P. Rawlings put the administration on notice that he wants extensive changes in the governor's plan, especially a shift of money and emphasis from cancer to heart and lung disease.
"We have a real dispute with the governor's proposal. We don't think it went nearly far enough in addressing smoking-related diseases," Rawlings said. "It is an issue of conflict between the two branches of government."
The West Baltimore Democrat detailed a list of proposed changes to next year's budget that included cutting almost in half the $50 million Glendening has proposed for cancer prevention, treatment and research.
Rawlings suggested cutting the entire $20 million budgeted to the state health department for anti-cancer programs, as well as $10 million of the $30 million Glendening wants to spend at UM and Hopkins to fight the disease.
Rawlings proposed that the state shift $12 million into fighting cardiovascular disease and $13 million into regional health care centers.
He also wants to add $8 million to the $10 million Glendening earmarked for drug treatment.
Most of the questions members raised involved the governor's health spending plans, especially his ambitious proposal to make Maryland the nation's leader in cancer research.
Glendening's plans to spend large chunks of the money on anti-smoking programs, tobacco crop conversion and education met with little criticism -- with one exception.
Several members expressed reservations about the governor's proposal to spend $6 million next year on textbooks for private and parochial schools.
Del. Rushern L. Baker III, a Prince George's County Democrat, asked Budget Secretary Frederick W. Puddester how the state could justify taking $6 million from public schools to meet private school needs.
Puddester noted that the state spends $3 billion on public education and that the private school textbook money would come from the settlement rather than general revenue streams.
"I don't think that you can make the case that this is $6 million we stole from public education," Puddester said.
The budget secretary made his appearance after legislative analysts raised questions about the governor's program, especially the appropriateness of spending settlement funds on Hopkins' capital project at the public health school.
Rawlings pressed Hopkins officials to justify their plans to spend the money on buildings. Delegates appeared skeptical as Hopkins Executive Vice President Elias Zerhouni explained that the institution was running out of space because of an increase in research work.
Rawlings also ridiculed Glendening's proposal to spend money to fight several forms of cancer that are not strongly linked to tobacco. He noted that one of the diseases on the governor's lists was melanoma, a skin cancer.
"Are we going to go out and buy sun screen for everyone in Ocean City?" the chairman asked.