- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 17, 2001

ANNAPOLIS Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening is making no apologies for submitting today a $21 billion operating budget that he says aims to "push the edge of affordability."

Mr. Glendening proposes using the largest share of the $838 million increase on elementary and secondary education, state colleges and universities, social programs and public safety.

"I believe government should have a role in helping people," Mr. Glendening, a Democrat, said at a briefing yesterday. "This budget reflects that philosophy. It's aggressive and progressive."

State aid for higher education unlike aid for grades K through 12 is not largely determined by a formula. Mr. Glendening said the $159 million increase he is proposing is needed to make up for losses those institutions suffered during the recession-driven budget cuts of the 1990s.

Mr. Glendening said an extra investment in higher education and a $203 million increase in aid to local school districts will help ensure the state's prosperity by developing a work force and research that will attract businesses and create jobs.

More than half of the higher-education increase $112.5 million will go to the schools in the University of Maryland system, with $44.4 million set aside to help make the flagship College Park campus competitive with top-ranked public universities, such as the University of Virginia and the University of California at Berkeley.

Merit- and need-based state scholarship aid will increase about 19 percent.

About $138 million in new spending would be targeted to Marylanders needing help with basic food, shelter and medical care. Almost $42 million would be added to the current and coming budget to improve delivery of foster care services to children.

Disabled Marylanders now getting about $132 monthly in state assistance while they wait to qualify for federal aid would get a 40 percent increase to about $185.

Another $133 million in increases would go to public safety and the judicial system. Among initiatives it would fund are 108 additional probation and parole agents to reduce supervision caseloads to 50, technology to improve parole and probation case management, 166 correctional officers to improve prison security, operating funds and 134 positions to staff a new 256-bed unit in Western Maryland. About $12 million would expand services and supervision in juvenile cases.

The judicial branch has submitted a request for a 28 percent increase in its budget, much of which would go to funding 19 new judges, staff and technology.

Although Republicans generally endorse public-safety spending increases and some new plans for social programs such as more drug treatment, many fiscal conservatives see Mr. Glendening's spending plan at least $234 million over the legislature's affordability guidelines as foolhardy.

"We're going to walk off this floor in three months and hope this budget holds for 15 months, with economic warning lights going off all around us," said Senate Minority Leader Martin G. Madden, a Republican who represents parts of Prince George's and Howard counties.

Mr. Glendening's staff insists the budget is responsible because, although it would grow at 8 percent, faster than personal income much of the growth comes from one-time expenditures funded by a $375 million surplus and excess reserves.

But legislators and the governor both said they expect more than $200 million to be cut before the General Assembly approves the budget in April.

And House leaders hope to trim enough to add back about $20 million to expand health care coverage beyond poor children to their parents. They also want more aid for schools in poor areas and to help schools meet high costs for special-education students.

"While it's not in [the governor's] budget, he has indicated he's supportive and we're still talking with the governor's staff," said House Majority Leader John A. Hurson, Montgomery County Democrat.

Sure to be controversial and on the chopping block is $8 million Mr. Glendening wants to give parochial and private schools to buy textbooks.

Last year, when the economic outlook was brighter, he narrowly won approval of $6 million for that purpose.

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