State of the States
Gov. Ehrlich Revives Slots As Fiscal Remedy for State
For the third year in a row, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is urging Maryland lawmakers to expand gambling in the state to help finance K-12 education.
“These dollars would help pay for mandated increases in educational spending pursuant to the Thornton formula, and new school construction so desperately needed in every subdivision,” Mr. Ehrlich said during his Jan. 27 State of the State Address. He was referring to a 2002 report from a state panel known as the Thornton Commission that found Maryland schools were underfunded by approximately $1.1 billion a year.
Maryland has struggled through deep budget deficits over the past two years to raise the additional funds, however, and Mr. Ehrlich has warned of cuts in other areas in order to fund education, unless the legislature supports his bill that would bring slot machines to Maryland. For the past two years, the House of Delegates, the lower house of the Democratic-controlled legislature, has turned the Republican governor’s bills down.
Gov. Ehrlich’s fiscal 2006 budget would give public schools $5.1 billion—an increase of $397 million, or 8 percent over last year. He is also seeking to increase funding for school construction by 55 percent, to $155 million.
Pointing out that “dollars are only part of the debate,” Mr. Ehrlich said there is a need to focus on how well schools prepare students for the challenges of the 21st-century workplace. Toward this end, he said, Lt. Gov. Michael E. Steele will soon convene a group of Marylanders to report on whether the state’s historic investments in public education are paying off.
Vol. 24, Issue 22, Page 20