Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) and Comptroller William Donald Schaefer (D) teamed up Thursday to advocate giving this city a greater share of state tax breaks for developers who restore historic properties.
The bipartisan appeal came during a morning event called to announce this year's recipients of nearly $20 million in tax credits -- and highlighted perennial tension between state lawmakers from Baltimore and the Washington suburbs.
Under a law passed last year, no jurisdiction can receive more than half of the historical preservation tax credits awarded annually. Ehrlich and Schaefer argued that the cap is unfair, saying Baltimore's need for redevelopment far outstrips that in the rest of the state.
Program officials said they were able to fund only eight of 51 Baltimore projects that qualified for funding; all 28 qualified applicants from other parts of the state were approved. Several hundred thousand dollars authorized by the legislature will go unspent.
"It's a dumb law. It has to be improved," said Schaefer, a former governor and former mayor of Baltimore.
Ehrlich said he agreed with Schaefer and urged Baltimore lawmakers to press the issue in January when the legislature reconvenes.
"Baltimore should be leading the charge," Ehrlich said at Fells Point Recreation Pier, one of the Baltimore projects that were selected.
The 50 percent cap was added to the nearly decade-old program last year at the insistence of House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Sheila E. Hixson (D-Montgomery) in response to concerns that other jurisdictions were being shortchanged. Hixson did not return a call to her office Thursday.
Another member of her committee, Del. Obie Patterson (D-Prince George's), said the legislation was justified.
"Just about all of it was going to Baltimore City before," Patterson said. "I believe those in Prince George's County and those on the Eastern Shore and those in Cecil County should also benefit."
The program, administered by the Maryland Historical Trust, provides credits equal to 20 percent of the capital costs of rehabilitating eligible structures.
The Baltimore projects announced Thursday were generally more costly than those submitted by developers elsewhere in the state. One exception is refurbishment of the Forest Glen National Park Seminary in Silver Spring, a $15 million project that was awarded a $3 million credit.
Other Washington area projects include the Bethesda Theatre in Bethesda, which was awarded a $950,000 credit, and Melwood Park in Prince George's, which was awarded a $330,000 credit.