ANNAPOLIS – The year’s first Public Works Committee opened with Comptroller William Donald Schaefer admonishing Gov. Parris N. Glendening for his spending in this year’s budget.
Glendening smiled as Schaefer grilled the governor’s staff about the possibility that the state would run a $356 million deficit in the coming year because the economy is expected to slow down – a number provided by the Department of Legislative Services.
Glendening’s staff persisted in projecting a $6 million surplus over the next five years.
“You are one big spender,” Schaefer said to Glendening. He called the $6 million dollar figure “propaganda.”
Schaefer and Glendening, with State Treasurer Richard Dixon, comprise the board. There’s little love lost between Schaefer, who preceeded Glendening as governor, and Glendening, and previous public works meetings have been marred by their acrimony.
After Schaefer finished his comments Glendening asked with a smile, “Anything else?”
The tension continued when debate began on a $2.5 million project to demolish Memorial Stadium in Baltimore.
The plan did not do enough to preserve the World War II memorials or create new housing, according to Schaefer. The motion to demolish the landmark passed 2-1, with Schaefer opposed.
Dixon said the stadium had been there for too long and it was time to do something about it.
“I can’t believe that two intelligent people. . . would vote on this,” Schaefer said.
Calling Glendening intelligent was about the only nice word Schaefer had for Glendening during the committee hearing.
However, he didn’t save all his animadverts for the governor. As Dixon applauded Glendening for his work in helping fund schools in his home Carroll County, Schaefer blew mock kisses in the treasurer’s direction implying that he was kissing up to the governor.
Schaefer quieted during the second half of the meeting, when the board heard appeals from school districts for a part of the $266.7 million set aside in the capital budget for public school construction.
Several counties, including Howard and Montgomery, said they needed extra funds to keep pace with their growing populations.
“I thought maybe Smart Growth would stop the growth of these counties,” Schaefer said, continuing the day’s mood. It was one of several opportunities he took to jab at Smart Growth, Glendening’s signature initiative to reduce sprawl in Maryland.
Schaefer used the Montgomery delegation’s presentation as an opportunity to blame Glendening’s cancellation of the proposed inter-county connector, which would connect I-270 and I-95, for causing automobile accidents on narrow roads.
Sen. Ida Ruben, D-Montgomery, defended the governor by saying many of her constituents also opposed the road.
“It’s not because of the governor,” Ruben said. “We’ve been behind the eight-ball because many of residents say, `Not in my back yard.'”
A few delegates appealed on behalf of their counties’ school districts by reminding the governor of their support on his previous budget requests.
Sen. Larry Haines, D-Carroll, told the governor he’d voted “green” on most of Glendening’s budgets, to which Schaefer replied, “I never forced anyone to vote for my budgets.”
The Harford County delegation tried another tactic to impress the board. The members gave Dixon, Schaefer and Glendening Ravens T-shirts and dolls.
“I think your proposal is looking better by the moment,” Glendening said with a smile.
The board finally worked through all the school jurisdiction requests, from Anne Arundel to Worcester counties. Delegate Bennett Bozman, D-Worcester, complained about the alphabetical order of proposals, saying his county always wound up getting the scraps. Worcester County has been trying to get $3.8 million for three years, but has yet to see the money.
“If you’re always the last to ask, you’re going to get cut out of the money,” Bozman said. Bozman wasn’t the only one upset by the proceedings. When a member of the St. Mary’s County delegation asked if the board was having a good day, Glendening and Dixon politely nodded while Schaefer muttered, “I’m not.” – 30 – CNS-1-24-01