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Spending plan seems OK

The Baltimore Sun

Howard County officials are still checking the fine print but are initially relieved that Gov. Martin O'Malley's $1.52 billion operating budget appears to contain no new reductions in local funding.

"We're still dealing with absorbing the cuts from the special session and the slowing economy, but it could have been much worse," said County Executive Ken Ulman.

"The governor from Day One when he laid out his package last year did not pass the majority of the cuts to the county," Ulman added. "We did take some cuts, but they were reasonable."

He said he believes O'Malley's experience as mayor of Baltimore influenced his view of how to cut state funding.

The fiscal 2009 budget now faces scrutiny by the General Assembly, whose members could make new cuts or other changes.

Ulman has said that Howard County would lose up to $10 million from state-aid cuts made during the special session of the General Assembly.

After a news conference Wednesday in the State House, O'Malley said his latest $552 million in spending cuts would not come from local governments' state funding, though the General Assembly could change that.

"Local governments are really going to be feeling the pinch because of all the suffering going on out there with foreclosures," O'Malley said.

That, plus the threat of recession, could mean lowered revenues for local governments.

Money proposed for school construction is down from last year's record $400 million statewide but still would total $330 million, O'Malley said. Howard County's share will not be made final until April.

Before the governor's State House budget announcement, Howard County's legislators met and unanimously approved nine local bills - including two designed to prevent sewage disasters such as the one affecting Villas at Cattail Creek, a retirement townhouse community in the western county.

Those two bills, sponsored by Republican Del. Warren E. Miller, would authorize the County Council to regulate the use of multiuse septic systems and require developers to buy performance bonds to guarantee repairs before any work is done.

If approved by the full General Assembly and signed into law by O'Malley, the bills, which are backed by the Ulman administration, would take effect July 1.

Over-55 residents of Villas at Cattail Creek have endured for years having noisy, smelly trucks pump out their septic holding tank several times a day because the system installed by the developer has never worked.

"We probably have a few more [development] plans to add these systems" elsewhere in the county, Miller told the delegation.

"That issue clearly needs some attention, and the [Ulman] administration recognizes that," said Del. Elizabeth Bobo, House delegation chairwoman.

The delegation also approved three requests for state bond money to help build parks in Columbia and North Laurel, plus the proposed Robinson Nature Center, and several routine, sometimes technical bills.

One would allow people who work for government to serve on the appointed Alcoholic Beverage Hearing Board, excluding only elected officials and Howard County employees.

howard representatives

Here are the local representatives serving Howard County in the Maryland General Assembly, which begins its 425th session today. The assembly is scheduled to adjourn April 7. State Senate Edward J. Kasemeyer (D, Dist. 12), 410-841-3653 Allan H. Kittleman (R, Dist. 9), 410-841-3671 James N. Robey (D, Dist. 13), 410-841-3572. House of Delegates Gail H. Bates (R, Dist. 9A), 410-841-3556 Warren E. Miller (R, Dist. 9A), 410-841-3582 Steven J. DeBoy Sr. (D, Dist. 12A), 410-841-3328 James E. Malone Jr. (D, Dist. 12A), 410-841-3378 Elizabeth Bobo (D, Dist. 12B), 410-841-3205 Guy Guzzone (D, Dist. 13) 410-841-3471 Shane Pendergrass (D, Dist. 13) 410-841-3139 Frank S. Turner (D, Dist. 13), 410-841-3246

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