During his visit to Leonardtown July 17 for the Capital for a Day event, Gov. Martin OMalley sat down with The County Times for a brief interview on issues close to county interests.
County Times: How do you rate St. Marys County as regards to infrastructure with regards to other counties in Maryland that will be undergoing BRAC changes?
Gov. O'Malley: There are infrastructure needs throughout the state and every county of the state
Its a national challenge but were doing much better than we were on a number of scores, but theres a tremendous need throughout out the country and certainly throughout our state.
On our school construction program weve in essence taken in two years and tripled school construction dollars from $241 million to $733 million and compared to the same time frame of the previous administration.
On roads and transportation weve increased that about $350 million a year but unfortunately most of that has been chewed up in the price of oil, steel and asphalt.
Hopefully after this next national election well get our federal government back in the game here.
I think theres an awareness in Congress that the next stimulus package needs to be directed towards infrastructure and projects that have been languishing in the design and plan phase just waiting for construction dollars.
County Times: Like the Thomas Johnson Bridge?
Gov. O'Malley: Were putting planning dollars to it
as I understand the process we have to expend our dollars on the planning end before we can even get in the queue and apply some for cost sharing of federal help on that.
There have been so many projects around the state that have been languishing.
The tough thing about transportation for us as a community, and I say that in a statewide sense, we dont notice that our state governments not investing in infrastructure until about six years after they dont.
All of that stuff takes a while before the lack of funding manifests itself, so short term some of the things weve done to address the budget deficit were of course on the short term unpopular but in the long run its whats best in order to get us back on track in keeping pace with school construction, with roads also with water and sewer.
County Times: What about getting light rail down to St. Marys County?
Gov. O'Malley: Id really like to see that happen and we have a study under way right now. Id like to see a lot more rail all around. Rail is really the one thing that connects all of the various BRAC communities together in our state.
County Times: Are you going to put some money towards it (light rail) this term or next term, if youre in office?
Gov. O'Malley: I sure hope so. I hope that when the economy bottoms out well start to come back, so that well be able to start making these kinds of investments.
County Times: Recently you signed a bill that did away with certain video gaming terminals in the county. Some 20 percent of students here go to parochial schools that benefited in someway from those gaming machines.
Is there anything in the administration that you have planned to possibly help out those parochial schools with that source of funding, of revenue thats not there anymore?
Gov. O'Malley: I know we do something annually on textbooks; we did not cut that in the budget. Its a challenge on the gambling front; but that bill didnt eliminate all of the assorted charitable things.
County Times: What about just generally strengthening ties with Southern Maryland, how are we going to do that?
Gov. O'Malley: Theres good things that are going on with law enforcement cooperation that have gone under the radar, we had a big interoperability press conference that (Commissioner Thomas) Mattingly was involved in, in order to finally move towards interoperable communications between first responders in the state can communicate with each other.
Thats actually a move forward; not many states have been able to achieve that.
Your (Sheriff Timothy K. Cameron) has really been a leader in law enforcement down here, we had the gang task force, CompStat on demand, and [on-line] crime reports on targeting bad guys regardless of what side of the county border they live on.
If you look at the increases in school construction [funding] in this county, from $10 million to $17 million in a comparable two year period of the prior administration.
You look at the test scores in the way that theyve come along and this years as another record level of investment in state aid to public schools.
Everybody agrees that weve got to strengthen and grow the ranks of our middle class and how you do that is fundamentally by improving public safety, improving public education and expand [economic] opportunities.
And thats what your guys do well and I think they do it in a regional way and its in a much more collaborative way than what you find in other more rural parts of our state.