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House Passes $1.1B Capital Budget

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — With tempers flaring, the Maryland House of Delegates on Wednesday approved authorizing $1.1 billion in borrowing for the state’s capital budget.

The House passed the bill on a 97-41 vote, mostly along party lines.

The capital budget, which pays for infrastructure projects, accelerates borrowing in an effort to spur construction work and create jobs. The acceleration means the state may not be able to borrow as much in coming years, but Democrats say now is a very good time to borrow, because interest rates and construction costs are low.

“The bottom line is undeniably this capital budget creates jobs in the state of Maryland and puts people to work so that they can pay those mortgages we talked about,” said Delegate Melanie Griffith, D-Prince George’s.

But Republicans say the state is getting too close to maxing out its debt capacity, when lawmakers should focus on more cuts.

“We don’t have the money for it,” said Delegate Andrew Serafini, R-Washington. “We are already under pressure. We’re under watch because those that rely on federal funding are in trouble.”

The plan calls for the state to spend $351.4 million to build and renovate schools. There are some changes made by the House that will need to be reconciled with the Senate before final passage.

Tempers flared during the debate.

Delegate Adrienne Jones, D-Baltimore County, said she was frustrated by Republicans who have voted against the capital budget — only to show up at ribbon-cutting ceremonies in their districts for projects that are financed by it.

That brought a frustrated response from Delegate Anthony O’Donnell, R-Calvert, who said lawmakers were simply debating how to best use taxpayer money.

“Now go to your ribbon-cuttings, all of you, and vote your conscience the way you need, but don’t be cowed into having to vote a certain way or be told what your vote means,” O’Donnell said.

Lawmakers are nearing the end of the scheduled legislative session, which is set to adjourn Monday. This session has been a long and difficult one as lawmakers have struggled with ways of balancing the books while also trying to reduce an ongoing $1.1 billion budget deficit.

Separately, a panel of lawmakers is having difficulty reaching a compromise on a package of separate budget legislation. The panel is scheduled to meet Thursday morning to resume negotiations. The session is scheduled to end Monday.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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