- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 16, 2002

ANNAPOLIS Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening's budget postpones what would be a $75 income-tax cut for an average family of four while increasing spending by just $600,000, mostly to pay for mandated and fixed costs.
The plan would preserve existing services and programs and continue a hiring freeze for all but public-safety jobs.
Mr. Glendening's $22.2 billion plan for the next fiscal year marks the first time the Democratic governor has submitted a proposal that did not strain or exceed a cap on increases recommended by the General Assembly's Spending Affordability Committee.
"This will be a tight budget," Mr. Glendening said.
But he said it "honors" priorities in education and environmental protection and provides a safety net to help people in need.
Although his plan calls for 23 percent of state spending for health care, it still leaves Medicaid for the poor underfunded by $70 million next year, despite a $227 million increase.
"That's flagrant mismanagement in a core governmental service and dishonest budgeting," said Delegate Robert L. Flanagan, Republican and Appropriations Committee member, who represents Montgomery and Howard counties.
A combined $678 million deficit through June 2003 appeared, as revenues declined this fall. That gap had to be covered because the state constitution requires a balanced budget.
But Mr. Glendening's scaled-down spending also is seen as a political imperative to help Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, a fellow Democrat, deflect criticism that the administration's policies and fiscal practices have driven the state into debt.
Her staff said she lobbied, as always, for her priorities, including health care and drug treatment, but declined to elaborate further.
Mr. Glendening's eighth and final budget would leave $500 million in the state's "rainy-day fund" as a cushion against a continued recession and to maintain a AAA bonding rating that allows the state to borrow at the lowest rate.
And he is asking lawmakers to incur an additional $210 million in debt to restart about $100 million in campus-construction projects he deferred in October when he ordered cost-containment measures to cover a shortfall that quickly erased a projected $153 million surplus predicted at the beginning of September.
Education would command the largest chunk of the governor's budget with 19 percent of state spending going to elementary and secondary education although it does not call for any of a $1 billion increase recommended by a blue-ribbon commission. It does include funding for an earlier pledge to help raise teachers' salaries. Colleges, universities and vocational schools would get a 16 percent increase in state aid.
The transportation trust fund established mainly to pay for roads will be tapped to help pay for replacing the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and extending Metrorail to Largo. Although transportation spending accounts for 15 percent, lawmakers of both parties say not enough roads are being built to solve gridlock, particularly in the Washington area.
New spending for social programs includes $37 million in aid for persons with developmental disabilities, $25 million for mental health, $15 million for drug treatment, $7.4 million for temporary cash assistance and $7 million for child-protection workers.
"Aggressive" new enforcement measures to stem pollution also are built into Mr. Glendening's budget and he is expected to detail that and other changes in his State of the State address today.
Meanwhile, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. said he is reluctant to take back the promised tax cut, but that budget committees will have to decide what to cut and how to revive it.
"Maybe we can't afford a 5 percent increase in higher education," said Mr. Miller, a Democrat.
"The tax cut is only a tiny part [at $175 million]," said Mr. Flanagan. "It's interesting that the first promise broken is the one to taxpayers."
Anti-smoking advocates also criticized Mr. Glendening for funding only $20 million of $30 million he agreed was needed to curb smoking among youth.

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