Duncan, Leggett Tussle Over State School Construction Funding
Montgomery County legislators don't expect to get a much-desired school construction funding package in this year's General Assembly. That has county executive candidate Doug Duncan on the attack. "This is the latest in a string of school construction defeats over the past seven years because county Executive Ike Leggett has failed to lead and make education a priority," read a press release from Duncan's campaign on Wednesday night. "Due to the county’s lack of leadership in making education a top priority, we have squandered yet another opportunity to get extra, necessary funding for school construction," Duncan said, in the release. "Rather than provide real leadership, my two primary opponents were taken advantage of in Annapolis and we wound up trading higher taxes and gambling for less money for our schools." Duncan said Baltimore City leveraged its support for the recent gas tax increase to get a school construction funding package last year. Leggett and the county's state delegation pledged to push a similar effort in this year's session. Leggett also pushed the three Democratic gubernatorial candidates for their support and partnered up with the county executives of Prince George's and Baltimore Counties in a "big three" attempt to address overcrowding issues in all three school systems. But with tepid election year support from legislators outside of the county, it looks as if the bill won't pass. The measure would make the "big three" eligible for up to $20 million each year to fund a portion of school construction projects or project debt. "You can't wait until an election year to finally make a concerted push for more school construction dollars," Duncan said in the press release. "I’m glad the county is taking my suggestion to push vigorously for school construction, I just wish we had done it earlier. Now it looks like Montgomery County will be a day late and millions short." Leggett's campaign responded by saying this year's effort continues "full speed ahead." "As for school construction funding from the State, County Executive Leggett -- working with our delegation -- has won $262 million in school construction funding from the State over the past seven years -- despite extremely tough budget times," read a response provided by Leggett campaign manager Scott Goldberg. "That is $60 million more than the County received under the previous Executive’s previous seven years -- during which the economy was booming and budgets much easier. "In fact, County Executive Leggett has averaged $37.4 million per year in State school construction funding -- again during tough times -- while the County averaged only $33 million per year under the previous Executive for his entire 12 years in office."