Governor Glendening will ask lawmakers to approve spending $1 billion to reduce smoking and fight cancer
The governor will ask lawmakers to approve spending the first $1 billion from the state's share of the national tobacco settlement to reduce smoking and fight cancer, and will propose expanding the state's health care program for uninsured children to add
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) -- Gov. Parris Glendening outlined what he called an extraordinary legislative agenda on Monday, made possible because of ''the best financial condition we've ever been in the modern history of the state.''
As he has since taking office, Glendening said he will focus on education and health issues and will propose a big financial commitment to transportation.
But despite a surplus that he said is already nearing $1 billion and will probably get bigger, there is little in the way of tax relief.
Glendening said at a news conference that he supports the plan by legislative leaders to get rid of the inheritance tax, which would save Marylanders about $50 million annually.
The governor said he does not see the need for further tax cuts.
''I have listened carefully to citizens and business leaders throughout this state,'' Glendening said, and the message is they want money spent on education, not tax cuts.
Glendening,however, did not rule out the possibility that he will go along with legislative leaders if they decide to speed up the state's 10 percent income tax reduction, putting it into effect one or two years before the 2002 deadline.
There were no surprises in the plans, which Glendening had largely disclosed in speeches over the last two or three months.
Glendening said he will use about $165 million from the surplus to pay for most of his $250 million school construction program for the coming year. Also in the area of education, he said he will expand the Hope college scholarship program and will propose improvements in the prepaid tuition plan run by the state to help parents save for their children's college education.
The governor will ask lawmakers to approve spending the first $1 billion from the state's share of the national tobacco settlement to reduce smoking and fight cancer, and will propose expanding the state's health care program for uninsured children to add about 18,000 people to the 60,000 already covered.
And Glendening said he will propose a $1 billion transportation program for each of the three remaining years of his term, including using $200 million of the surplus to help build a new Woodrow Wilson Bridge over the Potomac River.
Glendening did speak briefly about some proposals that have gotten limited attention so far, including legislation dealing with technology he said he is developing with legislative leaders. While he did not discuss details, the governor said his goals will be to protect the security of electronic commerce and protect the public from abuse by Internet sellers.
He said he also will push for legislation to require contractors to pay union scale wages on school construction projects, just as they do on other state contracts.
Opponents said the prevailing wage law drives up the cost of government projects, but Glendening said there have been studies showing it has little effect on construction costs. He said it ensures living wages for Marylanders in the construction business who might otherwise be hired for low wages and given few, if any, benefits.
Glendening left little, if any, doubt that he will ask the legislature for the first time to provide state aid to parochial and private schools in the form of $6 million to $7 million to buy textbooks with the money coming from the tobacco settlement.
The plan is opposed by public school teachers, some of the governor's most faithful allies, who say it would divert money from public schools that do not have enough books and supplies.
Glendening said he and teachers are allies in the fight for better schools, but ''in this case, I think we might have a slight difference of opinion.''