WASHINGTON – Gov. Parris Glendening came to Capitol Hill on Wednesday and told members of Maryland’s congressional delegation that the federal government needs to help the state pay for his top agenda items.
Glendening, backed by scores of his staffers and Cabinet members, presented a list of federal funding requests that was long on wishes but short on specifics. Those items included funding to make prescriptions affordable for senior citizens and money to replace the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge.
“The biggest issue we face, No. 1 by far, is the Woodrow Wilson Bridge,” Glendening said.
Glendening asked for another $600 million in federal funding, in addition to the $900 million the feds have already said they would commit to the $1.9 billion bridge project.
The bridge, which carries Interstate 95 over the Potomac River, was designed to handle 75,000 cars a day and was carrying more than 190,000 cars a day by 1997. Traffic is only expected to increase over the drawbridge, which is deteriorating rapidly.
“This is a national priority” because 1 percent of the gross domestic product crosses the Woodrow Wilson Bridge each year, the governor said.
Glendening also said the federal government should make prescription programs part of the federally funded Medicare program. He said federal help is needed to make prescriptions more affordable for senior citizens because the states are burdened with paying for such programs.
“There are thousands and thousands of seniors making the choice between food and prescriptions,” Glendening said.
But Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, quickly turned the tables, challenging Glendening and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend on what the state is doing about the drug problem in Baltimore City.
“Maybe the state could do more in terms of treatment in Baltimore City,” said Cummings. “We are doing so much here (at the federal level). What is the state doing?”
Townsend responded by describing the state’s Break the Cycle program, which requires that addicted offenders on probation take regular drug tests. If they fail the drug test, they are fined and must receive drug treatment. With each failed test, the fine increases.
“We’ve had, in this program, a 55 percent reduction in drug use,” Townsend said.
During his hour-long meeting with the congressional delegation, Glendening also said that:
— $300 million of Maryland’s $4.4 billion share of the national tobacco settlement should go toward cutting in half the number of children smoking by the end of the decade. Some of the settlement money should go to helping tobacco farmers switch to other type of crops, and a large amount should go toward cancer research, he said.
— The $10 million President Clinton has proposed for smart-gun technology research “is a reasonable investment.” Glendening’s push for smart guns in Maryland appears to have failed this year, after the state Senate on Monday approved a gun-control package without that requirement.
The meeting between the governor and the delegation — which rarely ventured beyond mutual congratulation Wednesday — has become an annual event.
Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Baltimore, said afterward that he is looking forward to “continuing this close state-federal relationship on matters of mutual concern.
“We have a very close, constructive working relationship. We hope to implement as much as we can,” Sarbanes said.