April 6, 2010

House wants to keep bond bill earmarks

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By Andy Rosen
Andy@MarylandReporter.com

The House wants to keep the legislative earmarks in local bond bills that the Senate is threatening to cut for the next two years, setting up another budget showdown between the chambers.

Delegates could finish work on their capital budget proposal Wednesday, and the chamber gets one more chance to make changes before finalizing the bill. But lawmakers signed off on a measure Tuesday that would maintain bond bills, which lawmakers use to direct money to specific projects in their districts.

The Senate voted last week to cut bond bills in the budget years 2012 and 2013, while maintaining the $15 million for the measures in the fiscal 2011 budget that will be approved by the end of the session next Monday.

Del. Adrienne Jones, D-Baltimore County, who heads the House subcommittee handling capital spending, said bond bills are an important tool that delegates use to identify worthy projects.

“It gives an opportunity to [devote] funding for worthwhile projects,” she said. “We like the aspect of being able to do that.”

Jones acknowledged the bond bills may be fodder for negotiation with the Senate, as well. The House has eliminated the legislative scholarship program that allows lawmakers to give financial aid to students from their districts. The House plan would send the $11 million from the program to the state for distribution among other scholarships, but the Senate budget conferees have not gone along with the proposal.