Glendening Plan Rewards His Backers
By Daniel LeDuc
There's money for community associations in Rosecroft and for a new performing arts center in Bowie. There's cash for renovating the auditorium at the old Montgomery Blair High School and to buy land for a new District Court building in Rockville. Baltimore County gets funding for a new waterfront recreation area.
All that and more is in the $118 million supplemental budget proposal that Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) sent to Maryland legislators yesterday. If they approve, the 15 stapled, photocopied pages will translate into classrooms, drug treatment projects, parks and basketball courts.
The way in which the projects were selected provides a primer on politics, the art of compromise and the most basic of human equations: You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours.
Under the state constitution, Maryland governors must propose all state spending. If legislators have a pet project, they have to get the governor to put it in his budget. It creates a sometimes useful political barter system.
Governors traditionally have withheld most pet projects from the big budget proposals presented at the outset of the annual 90-day legislative session and have included them in the supplemental budget as rewards for compliant allies in the House and Senate.
In keeping with that tradition, Glendening has been dangling projects in front of legislators as incentives and rewards for their votes on his General Assembly agenda.
That helped him win critical votes on his gay rights initiative, tobacco tax increase and expanded union rights for state workers -- all of which have passed the House. They are due for a vote this week in the Senate, and the political denizens of Annapolis pounced on the list of programs and projects presented yesterday to prognosticate the prospects of the legislation.
"Obviously, the governor is very satisfied with the actions taken by the House," said Glendening spokesman Ray Feldmann. ". . . He is confident that his legislative items are going to move in the Senate as well."
In his budget proposal, the governor took care to meet the needs of key lawmakers -- some of them swing votes on his agenda. Because of that, some observers gave his agenda a better chance than they did a few days ago.
"There are clearly a lot of sweeteners in here," said Sen. Christopher Van Hollen Jr. (D-Montgomery), sponsor of a Glendening-backed $1-a-pack proposed increase in the cigarette tax. It has had trouble in the Senate, but, Van Hollen said, "this should turn the tide."
Opposition from some senators to the tax is still strong. But the greatest sweetener of all in yesterday's proposal was that unless the Senate increases the tobacco tax, there will be no money to pay for the items in the supplemental budget.
That prospect had been obvious since Glendening presented his first budget weeks ago. Yesterday, he brought into sharp focus what was at stake.
In the $30 million operating supplemental budget, Montgomery County would receive $1.4 million to hire first- and second-grade teachers to reduce class sizes. Community associations near Rosecroft in Prince George's County would receive $100,000 to assist with local projects.
The capital supplemental budget totals $88 million. In it, Montgomery County is slated to receive $7.5 million for projects, including partial funding of a parking garage in Rockville, a Youth and Senior Technology Center in Takoma Park and redevelopment in downtown Gaithersburg.
Most county lawmakers who have been backing Glendening's agenda were rewarded. But nothing submitted by Del. Cheryl C. Kagan (D-Montgomery) was on Glendening's list; she had voted against the tobacco tax increase in the House and had said she might be punished.
Prince George's County would receive $12.7 million for a new health center in Cheverly, a municipal center in Glenarden and a public works building in Laurel. Also included in the total is the civic auditorium at Bowie High School, which would receive $3 million in state funds, and additional money for the Lake Arbor Community Youth Center.
The auditorium is in Sen. Leo E. Green's district. The Democrat has been wavering on whether to support Glendening's gay rights legislation, which would provide protection against employment and housing discrimination based on sexual orientation. Funding for the Lake Arbor center was sought by another Prince George's Democrat, Sen. Ulysses Currie, who is considered one of three swing votes on the tobacco tax increase.
Another swing vote on the budget committee is Sen. Gloria G. Lawlah (D-Prince George's), who sought funding for Rosecroft. When that money was outlined by a Glendening aide yesterday, Sen. Robert R. Neall (R-Anne Arundel) joked: "How do you spell grant? G-l-o-r-i-a."
Funding was included for pet projects of the powerful budget committee chairmen in both houses. The Washington Center for Internships, which helps pay for students to intern with the federal government, would receive $200,000 and is a favorite of House Appropriations Chairman Howard P. Rawlings (D-Baltimore).
As Glendening's budget secretary, Fred Puddester, outlined the proposals to the Senate budget committee yesterday, Chairman Barbara A. Hoffman (D-Baltimore) said, "We could actually put names [of legislators] next to these" projects.
Puddester leaned into his microphone and said, "We have."
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