The Baltimore Sun

Land purchases invest in our future

The importance of the decision to purchase land in Southern Maryland cannot be understated ("State OKs $57 million to purchase 4,400 acres," Jan. 29).

Some may question the merits of spending state funds for open space preservation when the overall state budget is facing a possible $1.9 billion deficit. However, it is important to understand that the money used for this purchase, and for similar land acquisitions, comes from a special source.

Founded in 1969, Maryland's Program Open Space is a dedicated fund that pools the proceeds of the real estate transfer and recordation taxes. The purpose of this fund is to support land acquisition and protect open space at the state and local levels.

While the state certainly could - and unfortunately has in the past - shifted money from this program to help meet budget shortfalls, this kind of thinking is simply wrongheaded.

Taking funds dedicated for open space is easy to do in the present but robs future generations of a better quality of life.

Jeffrey Smith, Nottingham

The writer is chairman of the legislative committee of the Maryland Recreation and Parks Association.

When will the state own enough land?

While I generally support protecting land from development and the rest of the green agenda, I also have concerns about the amount of money our state is spending for the land while we are in a budget crisis ("State OKs $57 million to purchase 4,400 acres," Jan. 29)

The land the state is buying has been subject to taxes in the past. That flow of revenue to the state will stop now that the state owns the land.

When will Program Open Space stop buying taxpaying private property?

And what percentage of state land should the state own?

Wally Campbell, Severna Park

Stop state funding for private colleges

How can the state justify donating tens of millions of dollars in public funds to private colleges that are relatively well-endowed?

The scandal here is well illustrated by two front-page articles in The Baltimore Sun on Jan. 23. The Johns Hopkins University has just raised another $3.7 billion for its already huge endowment ("Hopkins wraps up fund drive with $3.7 billion," Jan. 23), while Gov. Martin O'Malley proposes slashing state aid to public schools by $69 million next year ("Cuts 'devastating' to local schools," Jan. 23).

Yet the governor also proposes giving Johns Hopkins $27.9 million in tax funds. That is the largest chunk of the $66 million he proposes to ladle out to private colleges and universities.

At a time when vital state services are being cut back and workers forced to take furloughs, the governor's budget allows for an increase in this handout to private institutions - $10 million more than was spent in fiscal 2008 and $16 million more than was budgeted for this year.

Seventeen private institutions are in for this gift of our tax money, while public universities such as Towson University and Morgan State University are chronically underfunded.

What's more, there are church-state issues that appear to have been ignored here. Among the recipients of this state aid are Loyola College, Baltimore Hebrew University, Columbia Union College, the College of Notre Dame and Mount St. Mary's College.

The program dates back to the administration of Gov. Marvin Mandel and is named for the Rev. Joseph Sellinger, the long-time president of Loyola College.

Whatever the justification for this program when it began decades ago, it is now an outrageous diversion of tax funds from our vastly underfunded public schools and colleges to private institutions that have their own resources.

The General Assembly should end it.

James S. Keat, Baltimore

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