By Sandy Alexander
WASHINGTON – Maryland did “very well” in President Clinton’s proposed budget for fiscal 2001, said members of the state’s congressional delegation, citing proposals to improve transportation and protect natural resources here.
They said the budget, presented to Congress Monday, includes $600 million for a new Woodrow Wilson Bridge, $4.75 million to extend Metro’s Blue Line to Largo, $1.45 million for Chesapeake Bay preservation projects and $20 million in Baltimore harbor improvements. It also calls for a 3.7 percent pay increase and other benefits for Maryland’s more than 130,000 federal employees.
“This is a good budget because it calls for economic development, it protects our environment and it develops transportation,” said Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Baltimore.
But some said the price tag for President Clinton’s wish list is too high.
“The $237 billion in tax increases hidden throughout the budget is intolerable,” said Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, who also used “intolerable” to describe what he said were 83 new programs and 155 program expansions in the budget.
“After all of Clinton’s talk about the debt, his last budget does nothing but bust the budget,” Bartlett said.
Many of Maryland’s federal lawmakers said they were comfortable with Clinton’s budget, however.
“I think Maryland did very well in the president’s budget,” said Rep. Albert Wynn, D-Largo, who pointed to the proposed federal contribution toward the $1.9 billion Woodrow Wilson Bridge project.
Sarbanes called the budget’s transit funding a “breath of fresh air,” including the three-mile Metro Blue Line expansion, $4 million for a transit center at the Silver Spring Metro station, $10 million to double-track Baltimore’s light rail line and $10 million for MARC improvements and extensions.
Other Maryland initiatives cited by members of the state’s congressional delegation included:
* $500 million over five years for a new program at Goddard Space Flight Center to study the sun;
* $101 million to consolidate Food and Drug Administration offices at White Oak;
* $13.3 million to continue to modernize the Human Nutrition Research Center at the Beltsville Agriculture Research Center;
* $8.2 million for new workspace at the Suitland Federal Center;
* $35 million for lab and infrastructure improvements at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg.
* $2.2 million for restoration and improvements to Glen Echo Park in Montgomery County;
* An increase for biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health;
* $5 million for operations and maintenance at the Beltsville Secret Service Facility;
* More than $4 million to protect the Anacostia River;
* And $21 million to protect and restore Poplar Island, Smith Island and Assateague Island National Seashore.
Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, D-Kennedyville, said “the spending levels are probably above what we would like to see in order to pay off the national debt” in 13 years, as the president has projected. But Gilchrest is optimistic that in the “interesting chess game” of budget deliberations, Congress will be able to trim spending while maintaining worthwhile programs.
Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, called it “a good budget” that addresses the country’s needs and ensures repayment of the national debt. He was particularly pleased with support for federal employees, although both he and Rep. Connie Morella, R-Bethesda, want to increase the amount of the pay raise.
The budget would let federal employees pay health insurance premiums with pre-tax income, repealing higher retirement contributions that were instituted in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. It would also reverse a planned delay for the last paycheck of fiscal 2000.
Rep. Ben Cardin, D-Baltimore, said Maryland’s drug treatment and gun violence programs should give it a leg up on winning additional federal fund from the budget.
Morella agreed that Maryland would feel the impact of increased funding for nationwide programs, particularly funding for science and technology programs, $1 billion for Head Start, $690 million to expand housing vouchers for low-income families and $20 million for the Violence Against Women Act.
“In looking at all parts of the budget, there seems to be a lot of good things across the board, she said. “I wish we could afford everything that is in the budget.” — Capital News Service reporters Kent S. German, Erin J. Medea, Nicole Morgan, Ananda Shorey and Kathryn S. Wenner contributed to this report.