ANNAPOLIS – For Rep. Robert Ehrlich, R-Lutherville, spending outlined in President Clinton’s budget is just more evidence of the president’s liberal leanings and his embrace of “cradle-to- grave” government paternalism.
Until it came to spending on projects in Maryland.
Clinton’s proposals for a $1.1 billion increase in spending at the National Institutes of Health and $50 million to finish the Washington’s Metro system were just fine by Ehrlich.
His response was typical of members of Maryland’s congressional delegation, who were quick to praise specifics in the budget even if they disagreed with other broad areas.
Ehrlich, for example, slammed Clinton’s proposal to spend federal money for new teachers.
“You start this program, can you imagine where it will end?” he asked. “You will have every school board in the country paying a lobbyist to come to Washington to lobby for more money.”
But NIH “is a proven entity” and deserving of more federal funding, said Ehrlich.
“It does not waste the taxpayers’ money and it’s involved with something the government should be involved with — basic research,” he said.
Rep. Connie Morella, R-Bethesda, also championed the spending on NIH — which is in her district — as an investment that will save money later.
“Biomedical researchers have been coming up with a lot of advances,” she said. “If we can hold back illnesses we can save a lot of money.”
Morella also celebrated the proposal to spend $40 million for an Advanced Measurements Laboratory as part of the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, also in her district. And she supported Clinton’s child-care initiatives.
On the Democratic side, Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mitchellville, expressed his support for a laundry list of initiatives in the budget. But he lamented the president’s proposed 3.1 percent pay raise for federal workers as too small.
“It is time to start sharing some of this economic success with federal employees,” Hoyer said in a prepared statement on the budget.
“We have an obligation to the American people to recruit and retain the most qualified workers, and setting pay at a comparable rate to the non-federal work force is central to this objective,” his statement said.
Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Kennedyville, said he was still wading through the budget. But his initial impression is that the president is trying to do many things.
“He proposes to balance the budget, increase spending and save Social Security,” said Gilchrest. “I don’t think it’s compatible.”
But Rep. Benjamin Cardin, D-Baltimore, said it’s not too much. The anticipated tobacco settlement made it possible for Clinton to propose new initiatives, he said.
“If we don’t get the tobacco settlement, there’s no way we can go forward with these initiatives,” said Cardin. “If we get the tobacco revenue, there’s a legitimate debate whether to have the initiatives or to have the tax cuts.”
He said Clinton’s proposal to fund new schools and teachers fits well with Maryland’s needs. Cardin also backed the president’s proposal to boost the Clean Water Initiative by 35 percent and to earmark $9 million for pfiesteria research.
“The environmental initiative is patterned after work we’ve done on the Chesapeake Bay and will translate into added money for Maryland,” he said.