By Ben Meyerson, Capital News Service
WASHINGTON (Feb. 15, 2008) - Gov. Martin O'Malley visited Capitol Hill Thursday evening hoping to get Maryland's congressional delegation in sync with state goals, such as protecting the environment, boosting the economy and defending against terrorism.
Speaking to a group referring to itself as "Team Maryland," O'Malley spelled out some of the state's plans and talked about how the federal delegation could help its people back home.
"We're a strong state, and we're going to go through this economic downturn more quickly if we're able to protect our priorities," O'Malley said.
Much of O'Malley's presentation focused on getting more defense-related money, including homeland security funding.
"During these increasingly dangerous times, Maryland actually lost funding" for homeland security, O'Malley said.
The state's federal grants dropped from $30 million to $8 million between fiscal years 2004 and 2006—particularly egregious, he said, considering the state's proximity to the nation's capital.
O'Malley also requested the team try to obtain more money for the state's MARC train system and for federal highways—services that will help accommodate the massive shift of jobs to Maryland due to the Base Realignment and Closure plan, which is projected to bring 14,159 jobs to Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County and 10,679 jobs to Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County.
The status of the Chesapeake Bay was, as usual, a hot topic. Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Towson, told O'Malley he wanted to get more money to save the Chesapeake Bay—something that was cut in President Bush's proposed federal budget.
"We will work with you to make sure the bay gets to that tipping point where it gets better and better, as opposed to worse and worse," Sarbanes said.
Most of the delegation railed against Bush's proposed budget.
"Last week the president sent down a budget that had huge reductions to the very things that families affected by the economic downturn depend upon," said O'Malley, referring to social services for veterans and other programs.
Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, was conspicuously silent on this point. The only Republican represented at the meeting, he had made his view known early in the session.
"As a conservative Republican, I oppose the raising of spending," he said. "But, once they decide to spend it, I want it all for the 6th district and Western Maryland."
Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski said the state's federal politicians had a simple goal.
"We want to make sure Maryland gets its fair share and the federal government does no harm to its people," she said. "Your delegation is first focused on working as Team Maryland, checking our hats at the door."
The delegation meets with the governor every year to discuss how the state's most powerful politicians can best serve their constituents.
Reps. Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington, and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, also attended, as did Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin.
Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Cockeysville, missed the meeting due to recent surgery. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, popped in to greet his colleagues, but left to attend a U.S. Coast Guard hearing.
Reps. Al Wynn, D-Mitchellville, and Wayne Gilchrest, R-Kennedyville, who both lost their primaries Tuesday, were absent.
O'Malley's 16 Page Presentation to the Delegation