Prospects dim for extra Moco school construction aid from Annapolis this year

February 25

Montgomery County’s attempt to secure a major financial package from the General Assembly to leverage borrowing for school construction appears to be dead in the water, for this year at least.

The Gazette’s Kate Alexander reports this evening that Montgomery legislators say the bill to establish up to $20 million a year in matching state funds for eligible counties is not likely to pass.

“We’re not necessarily expecting it to pass,” Del. Anne R. Kaiser said.

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett, who made the bill the centerpiece of his Annapolis program this year, said in an interview with The Post that election politics and reduced estimates of state revenues has made passage of the measure a multi-year process.

“We’re still pushing for it. But I’m being realistic about it,” Leggett said. “I think that because this is an election year it will give [legislators] a little bit of a pause before taking on a big obligation at this point in time.”

Leggett said he’d also been told that new state revenue forecasts have come in lower than expected, also placing a hold on some new spending.

County officials had been pushing for extra state aid to address serious overcrowding in the Montgomery school system, which has enrolled 14,000 new students since 2007.

It was last October when Leggett first publicly sounded the call for new state construction money, in a package similar to one Baltimore city received in 2013. Leggett supported Baltimore’s push for money, while Baltimore lawmakers backed Montgomery on an increase in the statewide gasoline tax for transportation improvements.

Leggett said then that this was a “me-too moment” in which he expected help from the Baltimore delegation.

But Leggett said last night that Annapolis “takes a step back before it takes a step forward,” and that it took Baltimore several years to finally get its money. He also said that the county’s need for the additional state cash will not become urgent until 2016 or 2017.

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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