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Fiscal Policy &Maryland politics Richard Falknor on 22 Apr 2009 01:32 pm

Pork – Or Urgently Needed Maryland Infrastructure?

“Much of what’s being counted on is hope,” said Sen. David R. Brinkley, a Frederick County Republican and longtime budget committee member. “They are just crossing their fingers that the economy gets better instead of dealing with the problem.” Baltimore Sun, April 13, 2009. (Underscoring Forum’s.)

This is not a story about spending unimaginable sums of public money like the Obama government-stimulus and mega-appropriations packages recently enacted. 

Instead, our purpose is to draw attention to the seeming inability of some Maryland Republican politicians to connect the dots between Annapolis spending on a variety of unwise or questionable smaller and larger projects, and the anger and frustration of the participants in the many Tea Parties.

It just won’t do to tell Maryland taxpayers that these are comparatively lesser expenditures,which won’t hurt quite so much when they finally learn of them.

Here is a list of Maryland Republican state senators who obtained approval for money in this year’s capital budget, borrowed on the taxpayer’s promise to pay, for favored projects in their districts. In spite of Republican rhetoric and an extremely fragile economy, these lawmakers persisted in sponsoring local projects, some of which are likely questionable in the best of times.

The list includes only the names of those Republican state senators who sponsored these local-bond bill projects and who actually voted for the last capital budget.

2009 was the first year since 2002 that any member of either chamber voted against the state capital budget. And readers may review here the details of sponsorship of all these local projects by members of both parties, no matter how these sponsors voted on this year’s final capital budget package.

Faithful readers will also recall that we have long suggested criteria for judging the worth of this kind of capital spending:  many projects might arguably  be valuable endeavors – - – but for private donors, or for private investors. Some are defensible for urgent public funding. But it is a stretch, in our view, to burden Maryland taxpayers with debts for undertakings far removed from the core roles of state and local government especially in these perilous times.

Readers might also note, when reviewing the Bond Bill Fact Sheet for each project, the amount of money (if any) the project has previously received through the credit of Maryland taxpayers, and the amount of taxpayer money coming from other sources.

And remember that the amount requested in each Fact Sheet is not necessarily the final amount the General Assembly approved, which sum we have listed after each project.

The documents linked below should help voters to decide for themselves which projects merited taxpayer support in a tumultuous economy like this one.

State senator George C. Edwards:
Allegany Museum. $225,000 approved.
See Bond Bill Fact Sheet for details.

State senator Bryan W. Simonaire:
Historical Freetown Renovation. $150,000 approved.
See Bond Bill Fact Sheet for details.

MTR Education and Rehabilitation Center $25,000 approved.
See Bond Bill Fact Sheet for details.

State senator David R. Brinkley:
Mental Health Association Building. $250,000 approved
See Bond Bill Fact Sheet for details.

The John Hanson Memorial.  $50,000 approved.
See Bond Bill Fact Sheet for details.

State senator Richard F. Colburn:
Adkins Arboretum Native Garden Gateway. $125,000 approved.
See Bond Bill Fact Sheet for details.

Oxford Community Center. $75,000 approved.
See Bond Bill Fact Sheet for details.

YMCA Fire Safety System Upgrade. $125,000 approved.
See Bond Bill Fact Sheet for details.

State senator J. Lowell Stoltzfus.
Parsonburg Volunteer Fire Company Community Center. $250,000 approved.
See Bond Bill Fact Sheet for details.

Senior Training Center for the Blind. $150,000 approved.
See Bond Bill Fact Sheet for details.

State senator Donald F. Munson
Barbara Ingram School for the Arts. $150,000 approved.
See Bond Bill Fact Sheet for details.

Doleman Black Heritage Museum $25,000 approved.
See Bond Bill Fact Sheet for details.

Museum of Fine Arts $100,000 approved.
See Bond Bill Fact Sheet for details.

Readers will also recall senator Munson’s 2008 vote in support of sending $1,000,000 to Casa of Maryland here.

Latino Economic Development Corporation

All Republicans who voted for this year’s capital budget thereby voted for a $150,000 grant to the Latino Economic Development Corporation here.  That organization is clearly unwilling to check here and here whether their beneficiaries have lawful presence in the United States. As we quoted from their website on April 13:

“No organization checks the immigration status of its clients nor does local government, schools, hospitals, or any other major institutions unless they are hiring someone for a job.  It is not the role of LEDC or any other institution other than the federal government to enforce US immigration laws.”

We wrote then that there can be no justification for taxpayer money going to establish or expand the businesses of those who do not have lawful presence in the U.S.  A prudent legislator should insist that any organization receiving taxpayer money for these purposes have a serious program to ensure that all its recipients are lawfully present in the U.S.

Larger Capital Projects

All Republicans who voted for this year’s capital budget thereby also voted for this “miscellaneous” set of larger capital projects — well, see for yourself !

Here are a few:

Z00L Misc: Lyric Opera House – Stage House Expansion $1,500,000
Z00M Misc: Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts                    500,000
Z00Q Misc: National Children’s Museum                              1,500,000
Z00R Misc: Park Heights Revitalization                                1,500,000
Z00V Misc: WestSide Revitalization                                       2,000,000

Plus $3,000,000 for An Affluent Doggies Park?

Z00S Misc: Robert E. Lee Park                      3,000,000

 “The request is for planning and construction funding for improvement to Robert E. Lee Park – a 415-acre park used primarily by dog owners for recreating with their pets in and around the adjacent Lake Roland.”

 Again, our purpose in writing this story is to point up the inability of some Maryland Republican politicians to connect the dots between the grass-roots frustration we all saw last week, and “going along to get along” in Annapolis. Note that Republican senators Brinkley, Edwards, Munson, and Stoltzfus of the key Budget and Taxation Committee all voted for this year’s capital budget.

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