WASHINGTON – Gov. Parris Glendening told members of Maryland’s congressional delegation Thursday that he has four broad policy priorities for the next year, all of which are “100 percent consistent with Smart Growth.”
But the Democratic governor warned that President Bush’s proposed $1.6 trillion tax cut would jeopardize his priorities, ranging from transportation to education to conservation.
“I’m deeply concerned that we won’t be able to provide the levels of programs that are desperately needed” if the tax cut is enacted, he said.
At his seventh annual meeting with the state’s congressional delegation, Glendening highlighted his successes, laid out his priorities and warned against Bush’s tax cut proposal. The governor also praised the delegation and members of his Cabinet, in turn, for specific projects and initiatives in Maryland.
Five of the state’s 10 members of Congress were on hand: Sens. Paul Sarbanes and Barbara Mikulski, both Baltimore Democrats, and Reps. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Kennedyville, Connie Morella, R-Bethesda, and Albert Wynn, D-Largo.
Glendening touted statistics showing Maryland’s strong economy, low unemployment and poverty rates, and falling crime rates.
He noted that Maryland’s welfare rolls have dropped 68 percent, with 154,000 people returned to “productive service,” and that the state has the second-lowest child poverty rate in the nation, behind only Utah. He also said that crime has dropped by 20 percent across the state during his tenure.
The four policy priorities outlined by the governor include preserving open spaces, adding money for mass transit, revitalizing urban areas and reusing existing federal facilities for new purposes.
But the latter priority, which Glendening said is an important way to curb sprawl, has upset environmentalists in at least one instance. The Sierra Club this week filed a lawsuit to block construction of the proposed 2-million square foot Food and Drug Administration complex on the 800-acre site of a closed naval research center in the White Oak area of Montgomery County.
The suit came as a surprise to Glendening.
“I love my green friends, but sometimes you have to tell them to avoid sprawl you have to reuse facilities and have some high density areas,” he said.
Mikulski said she is “enormously disturbed” by the lawsuit and will be asking the Sierra Club to withdraw it.
“The FDA is the single largest most important consumer protection agency in the country,” Mikulski said. “I will be meeting with representatives of the Sierra Club on Monday and I will ask them to withdraw the lawsuit.”
Glendening also said he will seek greater flexibility on “well-intentioned national efforts” that have produced unintended consequences and thus contribute to sprawl.
Specifically, he will try to revise Clean Air Act standards that force growth into the suburbs by making redevelopment in areas in violation of the standards particularly difficult.
On other issues, Glendening told the delegation that:
— He opposes turning all federal funding for elementary and secondary education into block grants and that he opposes so-called “portability,” in which money is moved to better performing school districts.
— That all state transportation funding, excluding money for Baltimore/Washington International Airport, is now balanced 50-50 between road construction and mass transit.
— And that specific transportation priorities include a rail extension from Washington, D.C., to Frederick and the extension of Metro’s blue line to Largo in Prince George’s County, both of which will require significant federal funding.
Glendening, who is currently the chair of the National Governor’s Association, also said that other governors share his worries about the Bush tax cut.
“Many governors are very concerned that it is too deep and it will cause a significant slowdown in the economy,” he said.