Duncan: Leggett’s weak leadership led to school construction funding setback

February 27

Weak leadership has left Montgomery County “a day late and a million short” in its bid for more school construction aid from Annapolis, county executive candidate Doug Duncan has charged.

County Executive Ike Leggett and Montgomery state lawmakers acknowledged earlier this week that a bill to provide up to $20 million annually to leverage county borrowing for school construction and renovation was unlikely to pass this year. County officials were pushing for increases in state aid to relieve overcrowding in Montgomery schools.

Duncan, the former three-term county executive who is challenging Leggett in the June Democratic primary, alleged that Leggett and his other opponent, Council member Phil Andrews (D-Rockville-Gaithersburg) have mismanaged dealings with the General Assembly and the governor’s office.

“You can’t wait until an election year to finally make a concerted push for more school construction dollars,” Duncan said in a statement released late Wednesday. “I’m glad the county is taking my suggestion to push vigorously for school construction, I just wish we had done it earlier. Now it looks like Montgomery County will be a day late and a million short.”

Leggett has made school construction funding his top legislative priority. He said on several occasions that after assisting Baltimore City lawmakers in securing a major school construction package last year, that he expected it to be Montgomery’s turn this year. But he said Tuesday that election year pressures and lower-than-forecast state revenues combined to stall the bill’s progress.

Leggett added in a statement Thursday that he will continue to push for passage. He said he will join county parents and students in Annapolis on March 6 to testify in favor of the bill before the House of Delegates.

“The effort continues – full speed ahead,” Leggett said

Duncan said this was not the first time Leggett and Andrews have come up short in attempting to obtain extra school construction funding. In 2008, Leggett and county lawmakers expected $55 million from Gov. Martin O’Malley in exchange for supporting his gambling and tax proposals.

“Rather than provide real leadership, my two primary opponents were taken advantage of in Annapolis and we wound up trading higher taxes and gambling for less money for our schools,” Duncan said.

Leggett aides produced state figures showing that Montgomery has won $262 million in school construction funding over the last seven years in a difficult fiscal environment — $60 million more than the county received during the final seven years of Duncan’s tenure.

The three candidates are expected to meet next Wednesday evening at a forum sponsored by the Montgomery County Renters Alliance.

Bill Turque, who covers Montgomery County government and politics, has spent more than thirty years as a reporter and editor for The Washington Post, Newsweek, the Dallas Times Herald and The Kansas City Star.
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