ANNAPOLIS – The House of Delegates and Senate Wednesday both gave tentative approval, with modest trims, to Gov. Parris N. Glendening’s 2002 capital budget.
The $1.5 billion capital budget — Glendening’s largest ever — is 15 percent larger than this year’s. It includes $603.7 million in general revenues and $483.3 million in general obligation debt, excluding transportation projects.
With transportation, the total is $3.1 billion.
Although the budget is Glendening’s largest to date, this may be the last one of this size for some time. The state is expecting a far smaller surplus and decreased revenues next year.
The House Appropriations Committee’s recommended cuts brought the capital budget’s general obligation debt within the $475 million limit, according to Delegate Norman Conway, D-Wicomico.
The House approved $437.8 million of the governor’s proposed $451.5 million in new debt, which Conway said “continues the prudent use” of state funds.
The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee cut the governor’s request from $451.5 million to $446.2 million.
Education received the lion’s share of Glendening’s capital budget: $667.1 million, or 44.5 percent. Higher education projects would receive 27.9 percent of the total bond debt, and primary and secondary education about 21 percent.
Public school construction funds remained unchanged in both the Senate and House versions of the budget.
Both chambers also asked the governor to consider increasing funding for the Partnership Rental Housing Program, an affordable housing development project.
House Majority Leader John Hurson, D-Montgomery, wants to recommend including criteria to guide the Department of Transportation in planning mass transit expenditures, and cited three light rail projects in development, including the Georgetown branch line in Montgomery County.
“All of them are extremely expensive,” he said of the light rail projects. “They can’t build them all at the same time.”
The House also recommended almost $27 million for local projects.
The largest request for that money came from Montgomery County, $14.8 million, but it received just $4.85 million.
“That’s more than we got last year,” said Delegate Kumar Barve, D- Montgomery, chairman of the county delegation.
Montgomery County asked for funds for 20 projects, and all of them received some funding. Among those project requests was $2.1 million for the Silver Spring Innovation Center, but the House only approved $150,000. Another was $1.8 million for the Olney Boys and Girls Club Community Park, which received $300,000.
The House approved all local project funding for Allegany, Calvert, Harford and Wicomico County local projects, but none of those counties requested more than $550,000.
Although the Senate received requests for $39 million in local projects, it recommended about $18.6 million.
The Senate and the House both tentatively approved $6 million for independent colleges and universities and $4.2 million for private hospitals.
Both chambers are expected to vote on the budget by the end of the week and send the bills to a joint conference committee.
Both chambers have already approved the governor’s $21.3 billion operating budget. Although they cut about $200 million from the budget, a number of lawmakers are concerned about the spending increase in the face of a softening economy.
The economy has already affected the governor’s capital budget plans. The state can expect $50.2 million less in revenues than originally forecasted, according to a report issued by the Board of Revenue earlier this month.
In response, Glendening announced March 14 that he would delay spending $130 million from the capital budget’s general funds until new revenue estimates are released in mid-December.
According to Mike Morrill, the governor’s spokesman, the decision was an insurance policy in case the economy continued to slow.