ANNAPOLIS – Securing and maintaining funding for schools and neighborhoods was at the top of Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson’s agenda for the 2003 General Assembly, which began Wednesday.
Newly elected County Executive Johnson stressed that the delegation and the council were united in promoting “an agenda for the people.”
“A minimum of 90 schools must be repaired and 13 schools, including two high schools, need to be built,” Johnson said during a briefing here following the convening of the 195th Maryland General Assembly.
The Bridge to Excellence in Public Schools Act of 2002 provided an additional $350 million in state aid to the Prince George’s County school system by 2008. The county wants the state to honor this commitment. It also wants $35.9 million in state funds to build and renovate schools.
The Interagency Committee on School Construction recommended approving $4.7 million in state funds in fiscal year 2004, but the county will appeal for the remainder, $31.2 million.
“Jack Johnson’s priorities are correct — schools and protecting our neighborhoods come first,” said new Delegate Justin Ross, D-Prince George’s.
That agenda is “doable,” he said. The county’s 23 delegates must stick together and work with Montgomery County, and the agenda will be fulfilled, he said.
The need for continued funding for the county’s established communities and protecting state aid to local governments also headlined Johnson’s agenda.
Incoming Gov. Bob Ehrlich is committed to protecting aid to the states, Johnson said, an issue important to Prince George’s County in terms of education, crime, health care and the environment.
Delegate and Vice Chairman James E. Proctor Jr., D-Prince George’s, said the delegation is committed to helping its citizens. He called the effort “Team Prince George’s County.”
Democratic Sen. Nathaniel Exum agreed saying, “We need to stand united and fight to no end to attain our goals.”
Rounding out the agenda were creating safer communities by preventing speed-related fatalities with new technology; improving health care, especially for the 90,000 county citizens without health insurance; protecting senior citizens; supporting open space and rural legacy programs, and protecting neighborhoods that could be affected by expanded gaming.
Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan attended the briefing and said Johnson’s agenda is “aggressive” and similar to his own. He applauded calls for cooperation among the state’s two largest counties.
“If we work together, nobody can stand in our way,” Duncan said.
Delegate Mary Conroy, D-Prince George’s, called the agenda optimistic and said, “Jack Johnson is a dream come true, I believe he will work very hard in our communities.”