ANNAPOLIS — Maryland lawmakers passed a capital budget on Wednesday that could bring $16 million in grants to a proposed downtown Frederick hotel and conference center — if the funding survives the governor’s veto pen.
With only a handful of dissenting votes in the House of Delegates, lawmakers approved a 111-page capital budget bill that outlines the state’s plan to take out $1 billion in debt for projects in all 23 counties and the city of Baltimore.
The downtown Frederick hotel and conference center appropriation was discussed briefly on the floor of the House of Delegates on Wednesday morning and passed through the Maryland Senate without discussion.
The final version of the conference committee — as negotiated by 10 senators and delegates — was subject only to an up or down vote and could not be amended.
Delegate Kathy Afzali, R-District 4, explained that she and other Republican members of the Frederick County delegation oppose state funding for the project, but would not vote down the capital budget as a whole.
“I think it’s a very sad day in Annapolis that this was snuck in on the Senate side at the last minute,” Afzali said during Wednesday morning’s floor session. “While I will be voting for the capital budget, I am sorry to see this monstrosity put into the capital budget.”
The bill ultimately passed 123-13 in the House of Delegates and 45-0 in the Senate, with all members of the Frederick County delegation supporting the bill.
Sen. Michael Hough, R-District 4, said he’s talked to the governor’s staff about the lack of Republican delegation support for the appropriation, which is subject to a line-item veto.
“I’ve expressed my thoughts to them, which are obviously well-known,” Hough said.
Earlier this week, a spokeswoman for Gov. Larry Hogan (R) did not address the capital budget appropriation specifically, and said the governor will “carefully consider” each item in the capital budget.
The capital budget, along with 26 other bills that have passed both the House and Senate chambers, were presented to Hogan’s office on Wednesday. The governor’s office will have to sign or veto the legislation by next Wednesday, which could bring any vetoes back to the House and Senate in time for a veto override vote before the Legislature adjourns on April 10.
As amended, the capital budget includes $16 million in grants for the project. In fiscal 2018, the project would receive a $5 million grant. Other amendments include a $7.5 million grant preauthorization for fiscal 2019 and a $3.5 million grant preauthorization for fiscal 2020.
Sen. Ron Young, D-District 3, cheered the final budget decision on Wednesday and shared an update on the project’s cost and timeline through social media.
According to the new fact sheet, the budget plan for the project includes $53 million in private funding from Plamondon Hospitality Partners. It also includes $31 million in public funding through a combination of city payments and parking funds, tax-increment financing at the city and county level, and the state capital grant funding, among other public sources.
The fact sheet also states that design will begin as soon as funding is in place — estimated as the start of the 2018 fiscal year, July 1 — and that the hotel and conference center is projected to open in the spring of 2020.
The proposed hotel and conference center property at 200 and 212 E. Patrick St. is owned by a business entity formed by members of the Randall family. The Randall family also owns the parent company of The Frederick News-Post.
Other Frederick County funding in the state’s capital budget plan includes matching grants for the Remsberg Park multipurpose youth sports field in Middletown ($100,000), the Historical Society of Frederick County ($25,000) and New Spire Stages ($50,000). Capital funding is also included for renovations at Frederick Community College and improvements to the water treatment plant at Cunningham Falls State Park.