Plan Would Boost U-Md. at College Park
By Robert E. Pierre
Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) yesterday proposed $27 million in new spending for the University of Maryland at College Park, a move meant to shore up the school's position as the state's flagship university.
The new money would be in addition to $102 million in new higher education funding statewide that Glendening proposed last month in his budget for the fiscal year beginning in July.
"Now is the time, when our economy is strong . . . to make this historic investment in higher education," Glendening said in a statement. "Not only are we opening the doors of higher education wider but we are making the institutions within better, more focused and more accountable for what they do."
But news of the increase was met with some tepidness, even among lawmakers who support additional funding for the College Park campus. Glendening's proposed $8.6 billion operating budget exceeds state spending guidelines by at least $150 million.
Under self-imposed rules, Maryland is not allowed to spend more annually than the growth in taxpayers' personal income. Glendening's proposed budget depends on proceeds from a proposed $1-a-pack increase in the cigarette tax to bring it into balance, but lawmakers have yet to agree to the higher cigarette tax. So, adding $27 million for the College Park campus will only make the balancing act harder for legislators. If the money is approved by the legislature, Glendening will include it in a supplemental budget for next fiscal year.
"We've got to find the money to make room for it," said Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman (D-Baltimore), who chairs the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.
To do so, Hoffman said, higher education needs will be pitted against the needs of students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Much of the other proposed spending increases for the coming year are in those areas.
Glendening's spending proposal for the College Park campus is part of legislation he proposed that would give officials of state-supported colleges and university campuses more autonomy to abolish courses and raise and manage money. But it would require the 14 institutions in the University of Maryland System to show results.
The legislation, supported by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's) and House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. (D-Allegany), was crafted from recommendations of a task force created in 1998 to study the funding and overall structure of the university system.
Officials at the College Park campus had sought to be removed from the system, saying that its restrictions hampered their school's ability to get the funding, facilities and curriculums it needs to compete with other top-rated state universities. That idea, however, was rejected by members of the task force, which was headed by retired Adm. Charles R. Larson, a former superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy.
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