- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 20, 2000

ANNAPOLIS Gov. Parris N. Glendening yesterday urged Marylanders to support his vision of the state as a place where children "will think of handguns and cigarettes as relics of a past, unenlightened age" and view tuition as an "anachronism."

"This is the moment to be true to our values, bold in our goals, far-reaching in our actions, and unlimited in our vision," Mr. Glendening said in his sixth State of the State address. "Now is the time to look to the furthest horizons, to push the boundaries of our children's potential and our state's promise."

Among the initiatives he called for were:

$1.2 billion over the next five years to build and renovate higher education facilities around the state.

$256 million for school construction this year and $8 million to install telephones in every classroom.

A bill to require contractors to pay union-scale wages on school construction projects, just as they do on other state contracts.

Legislation based on a task force's recommendation that new guns sold in 2002 be equipped with mechanical locking devices built into the weapon. Mr. Glendening said he plans to offer research grants of $3 million over three years to help develop locking devices for guns.

A proposal to loosen zoning codes dealing with rehabilitation to make it easier for developers to work on old buildings.

The spending plans Mr. Glendening, a Democrat, advocated would be inconceivable without Maryland's $1 billion budget surplus and the $1.4 billion anticipated from the national tobacco settlement.

"Please, let us resist the temptation to dilute these resources and to waste this chance," he told a gathering of lawmakers.

Meanwhile, his $19.6 billion budget for next year, which contains increases for higher education and a 4 percent pay raise for state workers, was introduced in both the Senate and House of Delegates yesterday.

It includes a large increase for the state's juvenile prison system, which has come under intense criticism as a result of allegations that young inmates were treated brutally at three military-style boot camps.

But the budget offers little in the way of tax relief. Mr. Glendening included $3 million to begin the elimination of the state inheritance tax over two years.

In his State of the State speech, the governor offered no encouragement that he would approve legislators' proposals to return any of the budget surplus to taxpayers.

Nonetheless, putting the last step of a 10 percent cut in the state's income tax in place next year instead of in 2002 remains on the agendas of Democratic and Republican leaders in the House of Delegates and the state Senate.

Many observers said Mr. Glendening will be receptive to speeding up the tax cut after state officials announce what they expect will be encouraging revenue estimates in March. That's also when the hard bargaining over priorities will begin between the governor and legislators.

Although many lawmakers did not quarrel with many of Mr. Glendening's ideas about improving education, some expressed reservations about other proposals and the risk he was willing to take that the state could pay for it all.

"He threatens to undo the legacy he has built in education" by forcing contractors building schools to pay workers a prevailing wage, said Senate Republican Leader Martin G. Madden, who represents Howard and Prince George's counties.

Mr. Glendening may have blunted some opposition with his plan for record spending to build classrooms this year as well as by urging localities to ease an already dire shortage of qualified teachers by increasing their salaries.

The governor did little to soothe rural and conservative legislators when he told them localities would forgo state funds whenever they depart from the "smart codes" he aims to impose statewide to curb suburban sprawl and concentrate development in designated areas.

Most of the controversial initiatives Mr. Glendening emphasized in his speech homosexual rights, groundbreaking steps in gun control, land preservation conformed to his liberal image.

But one step Mr. Glendening has taken that he didn't mention in his address has broken with that paradigm spending $6 million this year, and probably more later, to help parochial and private schools buy textbooks.

The proposal seems to be drawing increasing support, although Republicans and Democrats can be found on both sides of the issue.

House Majority Leader John A. Hurson, Montgomery County Democrat, said it's too early to say if the proposal will overcome the opposition of teachers unions, public school advocates and those who oppose blurring the constitutional separation between government and religion.

"It's getting the camel's nose under the tent," said Delegate Wheeler R. Baker, Eastern Shore Democrat.

"The camel's nose is already under the tent," said Mr. Madden, Senate Republican leader. "Last year, we sent $41 million to Loyola [College in Baltimore, which is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church] and Johns Hopkins University [which is secular but private]."

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