School Construction Fracas Spills Over Into Baltimore County Executive Race
One Republican member of the General Assembly is ready to kiss the “beg-a-thon” goodbye.
Del. Patrick L. McDonough (R-Baltimore, Harford) was the only GOP lawmaker in either chamber to vote to override Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan’s veto of the 21st Century School Facilities Act. McDonough said he did it in part because he was tired of seeing local officials grovel before the Board of Public Works.
“I never did like the idea of local county officials parading down to Annapolis in front of the Board of Public Works like a bunch of beggars, in the beg-a-thon,” he told Maryland Matters. “I thought that was insulting.”
The measure, House Bill 1783, becomes law following votes Thursday to override the Hogan (R) veto one day prior. As a result, the board — made up of the governor, comptroller and treasurer — will no longer hear school construction appeals and allocate construction and renovation funds.
Good riddance, says McDonough, who is running for Baltimore county executive.
“This is the best legislation I’ve seen since I’ve been down here to help local education,” he said, pointing to the requirement that the state spend at least $400 million a year on school construction, while implementing reforms recommended by the Knott Commission, a panel that studied the issue for nearly two years.
“It gives more authority and flexibility on spending that money, and managing it, to the local authority like the county executive and the county council members. And I think it’s a great reform and a great change, and much-needed,” he said.
McDonough made his comments in response to criticism from his rival in the county executive primary, fellow Republican Alfred W. Redmer Jr., Maryland’s insurance commissioner.
In an email to the media, Redmer wrote, “It is completely unconscionable for a sitting Republican delegate to vote to override Gov. Hogan’s common-sense veto of the disastrous HB 1783 — legislation that removes accountability and oversight of billions of your hard-earned tax dollars for school construction and gives runaway authority to a group of lobbyists and Annapolis insiders handpicked by partisan insiders.”
The power to allocate school construction funding will shift to a revamped nine-member Interagency Committee on School Construction, comprised of two members of the governor’s cabinet, two others picked by the governor, the state schools superintendent, and four people chosen by the General Assembly. The law specifically bars lobbyists from serving on the committee.
Redmer said McDonough’s vote to override Hogan’s veto was “especially outrageous when you consider that this delegate is running for County Executive in the state’s third-largest jurisdiction — one that already has well-documented problems within its education system, including tremendous school construction needs and blatant corruption and abuse of power by former BCPS Superintendent Dallas Dance.”
“We need someone like Governor Hogan to fight this corruption, and we need a County Executive who will be a partner to the governor in doing so — not an adversary,” Redmer concluded.
McDonough welcomes the new arrangement.
“If you’re not playing politics, you have to ask the question: What relationship does the comptroller have, with any stretch of the imagination, to education policy or funding? He’s the tax man. He has nothing to do with it,” he said.
“I think this is a good bill. I think people like Redmer are playing politics,” McDonough said.
Among the Democrats running for Baltimore county executive is James Brochin, the only Senate Democrat to side with Republicans in voting to sustain Hogan’s veto.