Maryland House Speaker Benjamin L. Cardin, as part of his strategy to win legislative support for a multiyear, $300 million plan of state aid for local schools, presented compromise legislation today that would delay a large portion of the funding for three years.
But after Cardin presented his compromise amendments, key state senators repeated their opposition to the education funding bill, calling it well-intentioned but ill-timed.
"It is totally affordable [and] it does not affect the budget over the next two years," said Cardin, a Baltimore Democrat who is retiring from the legislature this year to run for Congress in Maryland's 3rd District. "What we're doing with this is maintaining the progress we've made over the last two years " to improve public education with large infusions of additional state funds, he said.
In another education-related development, the state's Board of Public Works voted to reimburse Montgomery County for the $6.2 million it will spend to build the new Germantown Elementary School and to expand Gaithersburg High School.
The funding must be approved by the General Assembly, and some lawmakers from Montgomery, which is already scheduled to receive $5.3 million in school construction money, speculate Cardin will use the reimbursement as leverage to win support for his bill. Cardin's bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate, where it must be acted on by a panel that reluctantly approved an education aid program two years ago.
That program, which would receive a massive increase of state funds if Cardin's bill is passed, distributes aid to local elementary and secondary schools under a formula drafted by a commission headed by former U.S. attorney general Benjamin Civiletti.
It gives local governments more than $600 million to spend on elementary and secondary schools during a five-year period ending in fiscal 1989. This year Democratic Gov. Harry Hughes proposed to increase education spending by $14.2 million in the fiscal 1987 budget under consideration by the legislature, but Cardin proposed to go a step further by cementing additional increases into the law until fiscal 1991.
His bill as originally drafted would cost a total of $289.2 million. His amendments would extend the plan another year -- to 1992 -- and would cost a total of $335 million.
Since he proposed the measure, however, several key lawmakers, including Senate President Melvin A. Steinberg (D-Baltimore County), have gone on record against the bill saying it unfairly commits future elected officials to a large budget item. Montgomery County lawmakers who sit on the budget committees are particularly opposed to the measure since their affluent jurisdiction benefits least under the progressive, wealth-based formula for distributing the funds.
"I'm not supportive of it at this time -- it raises too many controversial issues without accomplishing a great deal," said Steinberg, adding in reference to Cardin's political aspirations: "We have to deal with it later, and I think the persons who are going to have to deal with it should push the buttons to pay for it."