- The Washington Times - Friday, December 8, 2000

Gov. Parris N. Glendening yesterday announced a six-year, $750 million plan to expand mass transit in Maryland, but legislators say it will overtax the state's coffers.

During a morning news conference at the Silver Spring Metro stop, Mr. Glendening, a Democrat, said his plan will extend bus and train service throughout the state, buy more buses and rail cars, and invest in new mass-transit technology.

"In fact, our goal must be to make mass transit not just an option, but it must be the preferred option," he said.

Counting on a strong economy, Mr. Glendening said he wants to fund his initiative by shifting three revenue sources from the state's general fund to its transportation fund $132 million from the car-rental sales tax, $360 million from the corporate income tax and $258 million from the Maryland Transportation Authority.

The plan includes:

n $267 million to develop and operate new transit services in the Rockville and Bethesda areas.

n $133 million to expand transit service to serve residents of Southern Maryland who travel to the District and bus service from Frederick County to Bethesda.

n $157 million for new buses and rail cars.

n $50 million to upgrade Smart Card fare technology so the card can be used interchangeably around the state's mass-transit system.

State Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, Baltimore Democrat and chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said she will take a critical look at Mr. Glendening's plan, which still must be approved by the General Assembly..

"We have to figure out how we are going to have to pay for it," Mrs. Hoffman said, adding that the good economy will not last forever.

State Sen. Martin G. Madden, a Republican who represents part of Prince George's County, said the governor is tossing fiscal prudence out the window.

"We cannot simply sustain the level of spending increases we have seen," he said.

House Minority Leader Robert H. Kittleman, Howard County Republican, said Mr. Glendening is spending the cash before it hits the bank. "We have so far over-promised everything for everybody over the next five years."

Mr. Kittleman, as well as two Prince George's County Council members, said Mr. Glendening may be repeating past budgetary mistakes with his plan.

"History has a way of repeating itself," said county council Vice Chairman Audrey E. Scott, Bowie Republican.

Before vacating his seat as Prince George's County executive for the governor's mansion in 1995, Mr. Glendening made a series of contractual obligations that left the county $100 million in debt.

Mrs. Scott, who has been on the council since 1993, said she is concerned Mr. Glendening is making promises he will never be able to keep. "It sounds wonderful, but I think you have to proceed with caution," she said.

County council member M.H. "Jim" Estepp, Upper Marlboro Democrat, said that even though he supports the goal of Mr. Glendening's plan to expand mass transit, "there is a history to some extent of a vicarious approach to funding."

Mr. Glendening's successor will have to fill his funding obligation, said Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, a possible Democratic gubernatorial candidate in 2002.

Mr. Glendening has added more than $1 billion for a variety of mass-transit programs to the budget, including $434 million to extend Metro's Blue Line to Largo.

House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., Allegany Democrat, said an economic downturn could occur, but at least Mr. Glendening is trying to solve the state's transportation woes.

"It seems to be obvious to me that we are going to have to find new revenue if we intend to keep up with our … transportation [needs]" Mr. Taylor said, adding he is seeking more money for road construction.

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