ANNAPOLIS – Lawmakers from Western Maryland — both Democrats and Republicans — objected Wednesday to a range of proposals championed by Gov. Parris N. Glendening in his State of the State speech.
They voiced concerns about the governor’s plans to control handguns, build two new NFL stadiums and cut more than 1,000 state jobs.
But some regional lawmakers also found reasons to praise Glendening’s proposals, outlined during a noon speech at the Statehouse.
During the 45-minute address, Glendening disclosed his $14.7 billion spending plan for fiscal year 1997 and reviewed his legislative priorities.
Glendening, a Democrat, hopes to spend more on education, crime control and job creation while shrinking other parts of state government. He would also limit handgun purchases to one a month and spend $273 million for NFL stadiums in Baltimore and Landover.
House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., D-Cumberland, called Glendening’s speech “visionary” and “positive,” then predicted rough sailing for the governor’s gun-control package.
In addition to the purchase limit, Glendening would require handgun buyers to obtain licenses and undergo safety training. The governor also wants to start tracking second-hand sales.
Together, those proposals are “a little too much for the legislature to digest in one year,” Taylor said. “Whether points of it are enacted remains to be seen.”
But on the subject of football stadiums, Taylor said he detects a “majority consensus” in favor in the House.
Any such consensus, however, will not include Del. D. Bruce Poole, D-Hagerstown. While Poole could not be reached for comment immediately after the governor’s speech, his aide released a letter the delegate had written to the Hagerstown newspapers.
“Nothing has electrified the voters and legislators of western Maryland like the proposal to spend state funds to build football stadiums for the Cleveland Browns and the Washington Redskins,” Poole wrote.
He said lawmakers could stop the Baltimore stadium by amending 1987 legislation that authorized the construction project or by pressuring the Board of Public Works to reject the sale of bonds.
In the Senate, John J. Hafer, R-Frostburg, said he was pleased the governor’s operating budget would increase state spending by only 0.15 percent, which Glendening said was the smallest increase since 1945.
But the governor’s budget makes no room for an income tax cut — at least not yet — and Hafer sounded caution on that score.
Hafer said he supports Glendening’s decision to delay consideration of the promised income tax cut until March, when the state will know more about how much money it can expect from the federal government.
But Hafer said lawmakers should keep a tax cut at the “forefront of our decision-making process” and implement one unless there is a “big-time reason for not doing it.”
Hafer declined to rule out support for the stadium projects, noting with the governor that they are expected to generate more revenue than expenditures.
To encourage job growth, Glendening proposes to grant tax credits to businesses that create new jobs and raise the “Sunny Day Fund” for attracting new businesses from $20 million to $30 million. Hafer said those proposals are “good news for Western Maryland” and its troubled economy.
Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Hagerstown, said he was worried about the impact of the governor’s plans to eliminate 1,030 state jobs.
The governor’s budget secretary, Marita Brown, said Tuesday that the administration will try to make the reductions through attrition and early-retirement offers but that hundreds of layoffs were likely. At least one aspect of the governor’s budget will add jobs to Western Maryland. Glendening’s spending plan includes $18 million to operate the Western Correctional Institution, a new prison in Allegany County. -30-