OPINION: Securing Maryland's Economic Future

By Governor Martin O'Malley

Over the next few weeks, we will be bringing hundreds of millions of dollars in proposed budget cuts to the Board of Public Works to address the state's budget deficit. Given the faltering national economy, turmoil on Wall Street, national foreclosure crisis, and the increased price of energy, gasoline and food, the estimates we received last week are not unexpected.

But while these cuts will not be easy, Maryland is in a better situation than many other states. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that at least 29 states are facing a total budget shortfall of $48 billion in FY 2009; and our federal government is expected to run a deficit of $546 billion in 2009.

In Maryland, we have worked hard to restore fiscal responsibility to our State. Over the last two years, we have reduced spending by $1.8 billion, eliminated over 700 state positions, and kept budget growth at less than four percent annually – compared to 22 percent in the last two years of our predecessors.

Without these actions and tough decisions, our State would be facing an estimated $2.5 billion shortfall in FY 2010. Instead, Maryland is a facing a shortfall that is significantly less than that, and is the result of a downturn in the national economy, not structural in nature.

As we have worked together to address the structural deficit that we inherited, we will come together in the weeks ahead to address this latest budget challenge presented to us by our national economy, and we will do so in a way that recognizes the burden and challenges faced by our middle-class families as the cost of everything continues to rise even as wages remain stagnant.

We've already outlined $1.1 billion in transportation project delays and deferments, while protecting ongoing safety programs, existing road, tunnel, and transit projects, and the continued investment in our infrastructure. And we will continue to identify opportunities throughout the budget, maintaining our commitment to protect our shared priorities and invest in the future of Maryland.

The investments we have fought so hard to preserve in public education, public safety, and public health are intended for one purpose only – to strengthen and grow our middle class over the long-term and create a more sustainable future for our children.

This has been our goal from the beginning, and it will continue to guide the actions of this Administration as we work to address this latest challenge.

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