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Fight for school funding reveals political rifts
ANNAPOLIS — Tough economic conditions have contributed to an unprecedented drive for the largest shares of the state’s $341 million school-construction money, exposing political rifts throughout the state.
Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, lashed out yesterday at Montgomery County leaders who say he broke a promise to give them $55 million.
Montgomery is set to receive $46 million, the largest share next year.
“My point is … that’s the largest allocation in the state, correct?” Mr. O'Malley said at the Board of Public Works meeting before approving $341 million in school-construction money. “It’s the largest by $5 million right? The closest one is $41 million correct? Thank you.”
The Baltimore County proposal was undercut by a report by school-construction officials who said its proposal was “replete” with errors. The county is set to receive $41 million, the second-largest amount.
Montgomery County lawmakers traded their votes during the special General Assembly session in the fall for the guarantee of $55 million in school-construction money — but cried foul when Mr. O'Malley gave them $46 million.
Mr. O'Malley chastened the Montgomery lawmakers in a radio interview earlier this month.
“You did not support my [budget] package, you said, ‘Oh, goodness, what a horrible notion,’ ” Mr. O'Malley said on “The Kojo Nnamdi Show” on WAMU-FM.
Many county school systems have been starved for school-construction money since Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. cut spending to close budget shortfalls during his first two years in office.
However, Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, increased construction spending his last two years in office.
David Lever, Maryland’s school-construction director, told the board in a letter that most counties were prepared to spend the additional money, but that Baltimore County was “replete” with errors, which indicated a lack of communication between the county executive and the county school board.
The situation previews a likely showdown between Mr. Franchot, a staunch O'Malley critic, and Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith, a close O'Malley ally who many expect to run against Mr. Franchot in the 2010 Democratic primary.
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