WASHINGTON – Gov. Parris N. Glendening urged members of Maryland’s congressional delegation Wednesday to fully fund a Clinton proposal that could bring up to 1,150 teachers to the state.
In his fifth annual visit with the delegation on Capitol Hill, Glendening also said that the federal government needs to pony up more money for the estimated $1.8 billion Woodrow Wilson Bridge replacement project and let the states keep money from the tobacco settlement.
“Education is the most important issue. It’s primarily a state responsibility, but the system works best when the local, state and federal levels work together,” Glendening said.
Delegation members listened without dissent before commending Glendening for making education the top priority on his federal wish list.
“It is valuable to show that a state that’s moving aggressively still has need,” said Rep. Benjamin Cardin, D-Baltimore.
The governor said that fully funding the Clinton administration’s education plans would mean $100 million for school construction and modernization in Maryland and another $52 million for teachers. Glendening underscored the need by noting that school modernization statewide will cost an estimated $1.3 billion.
He said federal money to reduce class sizes would mean 600 new teachers for the Baltimore region, 300 for the Washington suburbs, 100 for Western Maryland, 100 for the Eastern Shore and 50 for Southern Maryland. Glendening said the federal plan to reduce class sizes would complement a proposal in the General Assembly to add 1,100 new teachers.
As for the tobacco settlement money, Glendening said it “is state money” and the federal government should not try to get a portion for itself.
Unlike some other governors, however, Glendening said he does not oppose federal stipulations on how the money is spent by the states. That’s because Maryland’s plans for the money — to spend it primarily on children, health and education — match the proposed federal regulations, he said.
The governor also urged the delegation to push for more federal funds for the Wilson Bridge, which carries Interstate 95 over the Potomac River. He said the federal government should pitch in more than the $900 million it currently plans to spend on the $1.8 billion project.
As with many of the issues discussed Wednesday, the Wilson Bridge and the tobacco settlement brought barely a peep from the members of the delegation. The only hint of disagreement came when the governor and Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R- Kennedyville, discussed the pace of dredging for bay shipping channels, with Gilchrest urging caution on the project.
Glendening conceded after the meeting that he was preaching to the choir on many of the issues, saying he and the delegation had discussed more “sensitive” issues in detail over lunch. He said the real disputes begin when the delegation members take the state’s fight to the rest of Congress.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Baltimore, who breezed in from one meeting to say she “absolutely supports” Glendening’s agenda, may have summed up the collegial tenor of the meeting best. “I refer to these as 411 (information) meetings,” Mikulski said. “When we need each other for 911 (emergencies), we’re ready to go.”