ANNAPOLIS – Harford and Cecil county delegates are gearing up to preserve local aid, particularly for education, limit pollutants fouling the Chesapeake Bay and emphasizing the link between horses and slot machines during the 418th convention of the Maryland General Assembly that began Wednesday.
Delegate Barry Glassman, R-Harford, said he wants to assure the county garners more local aid, which was slashed in the current fiscal year to plug a state budget gap.
“The local government is saying they can’t absorb additional cuts because they are pretty much at the bone,” Glassman said. “We are looking to at least hold onto what we have.”
Protecting farms from development also tops Glassman’s Assembly wish list. It’s an issue, he said, that goes hand in hand with approving slots at racetracks.
Harford also will be appealing for school funding.
Bel Air Middle High combination school on Paterson Mill Road, Glassman said, will be the first school that will be forward-funded, which means that the county will move ahead without state dollars and hope to be reimbursed later.
“The county has grown tremendously along with the rest of the Baltimore suburbs,” said to Glassman.
According to U.S. Census population figures, Harford County grew by 2.2 percent, or almost 5,000, to 227,713 from 2001 to 2002, while Cecil County also grew by 2.2 percent to 90,335. Baltimore County, in contrast, grew just .9 percent for the same period.
“Although our growth rate has slowed somewhat, during the 1980’s and 1990’s, we were one of the fastest growing suburban counties in the region,” said Glassman.
Delegate Michael D. Smigiel Sr., R-Cecil, is making the relationship between horses and slot machines a top priority.
Last year, Gov. Robert Ehrlich proposed approving slot machines at four racetracks in Maryland and earmarking the state’s earnings for education, however the measure died in the House.
“The slots are tied to the equine history,” Smigiel said. “Their survival is tied to the equine industry. My role is to keep that tie to the racing industry.”
Smigiel also said he’ll support Gov. Robert Ehrlich Jr.’s call for a $2.50 per month surcharge on sewer bills to upgrade 66 sewage treatment plants statewide. Upgrading the plants will help curb nitrogen pollution running into the Chesapeake Bay.
Delegate Joanne Parrott, R-Harford, focused on the importance of the “tourism” industry and added that the Democrats and Republicans have to eliminate partisan bickering.
“We need to get the slots legislation passed.”