From combined dispatches
ANNAPOLIS Sluggish growth in revenues forced Gov. Parris N. Glendening to cut the size of the capital construction budget for next year by $400 million, but he said yesterday that won’t keep him from his pledge to spend $1.6 billion on school construction during his eight years in office.
The governor said his final capital budget of $1.1 billion increases total spending during his two terms to $1.7 billion for higher education construction and $1.7 billion for land preservation.
“Our capital budget focuses on our priority areas,” Mr. Glendening said.
The Democratic governor called it a “progressive capital budget that makes fiscally responsible investments in our people.”
The governor also released his latest transportation budget, which includes $9.1 billion in projects to be built in the next six years.
Like the capital budget, funding for highways, bridges, mass transit, ports and airports will drop about $400 million from the current budget.
Mr. Glendening said because tax revenues are stagnant and because he has had to close a $1 billion gap between spending and revenues in next year’s budget, there was no room to add any significant programs to the capital budget.
Even though it is the smallest in four years, Mr. Glendening said the budget keeps commitments made in previous years on construction projects.
Education was the big winner in the capital budget, with Mr. Glendening setting aside $150.5 million for public schools and $103 million for higher education.
He also is asking for an appropriation of $130.9 million for land preservation.
Despite the drop of $400 million in the six-year transportation program, it is still at the second-highest level in history, and Mr. Glendening said every project complies with his Smart Growth policy for concentrating state spending on projects aimed at curbing suburban sprawl.
Mr. Glendening said he was able to maintain funding levels for three huge projects construction of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, expansion of Baltimore-Washington International Airport and extension of the Washington Metro to Largo.
The Woodrow Wilson Bridge, which carries Interstate 95 over the Potomac River near the District, has run into a major hurdle because the only bid submitted for the construction of the superstructure was almost double the $2.4 billion estimate.
John Porcari, state transportation secretary, said his department is trying to decide whether to try to negotiate a better price for building the bridge superstructure or to rebid the project, perhaps splitting it into smaller contracts.
“The bridge must be built, and it must be built as nearly on schedule as possible,” Mr. Glendening said. “It’s not an option to say we are not going to do it.”