ANNAPOLIS – The House Thursday sent its $1 billion capital budget to the Senate, which is expected to alter the lower chamber’s plan to borrow $250 million for public school construction.
The Senate will likely trim between $25 million and $50 million from the $250 million allocated by the House for school construction, said Sen. Ulysses Currie, D-Prince George’s, chairman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.
The Senate’s school plan will be “completely different” from the House’s, Curry said.
“We’re going to appropriate the money based on the number of kids in each county,” Curry said.
The House allocated construction funding to school projects recommended by the state Interagency Committee on School Construction. But the committee’s executive director, David Lever, said the House Appropriations Committee never answered his questions on how delegates determined the projects and their funding levels.
“All of the projects that were shown were, in fact, eligible projects,” Lever said. “They weren’t the ones we gave great emphasis to.”
The House plan skims bond money from various capital projects to reach the funding level recommended last year by a state task force to build more schools and renovate aging ones.
But the task force also said $250 million will be needed each year until 2010 to fix the school system — the House budget maps out only spending during the fiscal year beginning July 1.
The House passed the capital budget, 137-0, with some Republicans saying they had reservations despite voting in favor.
Those Republicans criticized some of the cuts made by the House Appropriations Committee, which removed bond funding for a number of projects favored by Gov. Robert Ehrlich.
Under language adopted by the committee, Ehrlich would have to fund those programs with surplus money in the state Rainy Day Fund. Among the deletions:
— $3 million in bonds to be issued for a rural land preservation fund, leaving the fund with $9.9 million.
— All $8 million in bonds for a neighborhood revitalization program, allowing up to $5 million to come from the reserve fund.
— $14 million in bonds for an economic development assistance fund, which the panel instead funded with $7 million in reserve money.
If all the shifted projects receive funding, about $186 million would be left in the Rainy Day Fund surplus above the required level, budget analyst John Rohrer said.
But Republicans remained skeptical.
“It’s not good policy to add to the over-the-limit credit card bill when you don’t have enough money to pay the next bill,” said Delegate Herbert McMillan, R-Anne Arundel. “We need to be careful about increasing the amount of structural deficit next year.”
The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee is scheduled to consider changes to the House’s capital budget Friday.