- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 27, 2004

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. yesterday proposed an $847 million capital budget — the state’s smallest in several years — that focuses on construction projects in higher education and upgrading sewage-treatment plants to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.

The spending program includes $100 million to build and renovate public schools, about the same as last year, but far below the spending levels of former Gov. Parris N. Glendening, Democrat.

Mr. Ehrlich said the capital budget reflects the high priority he places on improvements to community colleges and universities.

“It provides a record level of funding for [community colleges] for one year … and a record level of funding for five years,” said Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican.

He included $58.8 million for community-college projects this year as part of a $237 million, five-year plan; $55.8 million for a biological-sciences research building at College Park; and $19.8 million for five projects at Coppin State College in Baltimore.

The major environmental initiative was $98.5 million to begin what the governor says will be a $1 billion program to improve sewage-treatment plants, which he said are responsible for about one-third of the pollution in the Bay.

Mr. Ehrlich said he would like to provide more money for schools because of enormous needs around the state. “If we had $400 million in there, it wouldn’t be enough,” he said.

The capital budget includes almost $50 million for state and local correctional facilities. The governor said he placed a high priority on jails and prisons because “that is something that is often overlooked, certainly in the last eight years.”

Keeping with tradition, the governor set aside $30 million for projects to be added by the legislature.

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