OPINION: Our Fiscal Future - Southern Maryland Headline News

OPINION: Our Fiscal Future

By Martin O'Malley, Governor

As we come together as a nation this week to renew America's promise, we did so with hope for a better and brighter tomorrow for our children and a keen awareness of the challenges that lie ahead. As Americans we have always progressed on the strength of our neighbors, and as our new President took his oath of office, we were reminded so vividly that we are all in this together.

Yesterday, we gathered to release the FY 2010 budget for the State of Maryland. The proposed budget closes a projected $2 billion shortfall due the national recession and at the same time protects the progress we have made in improving public education, workforce investments, and making college more affordable.

These are not easy times, and here in Maryland we haven't been immune to the national recession. Our families are struggling. Our family-owned businesses are struggling. And just as our people have to find ways to do more with less, so too must those of us in government.

But at the same time we cannot abandon the important progress we've fought for over the last two years for our families, including the progress that led Education Week to rank our public school system #1 in America just a week ago. Nor are we willing to turn our back on our workforce and Maryland families who are struggling in this difficult economy to make ends meet.

While we were forced, by necessity, to craft a painfully lean budget, our proposal seeks to protect those priorities we share, containing modest increases in five key priority areas:

-- Fully funding of the Thornton Bridge to Excellence Plan, protecting our progress in K-12 public education and school construction by proposing a $5.4 billion investment in K-12 education, and $260.3 million for public school construction to get out children of temporary learning shacks and into state of the art classrooms.

-- Providing a fourth straight year of zero percent increase for in-state college tuition, making the dream of a college education affordable for more Maryland families rather than fewer.

-- Providing a safety net for Maryland's working families by including $5 billion to support Medical Assistance benefits that ensure 700,000 Marylanders access to health care, increased funding and services at our One-Stop Career Centers, as well as a record $90 million in available assistance to help low-income households pay their energy bills.

-- Continuing our commitment to the safety and security of Maryland's families by including $2.1 billion for public safety, contributing to a $160 million increase over three years.

-- Protecting our important progress made on environmental protection by including funding to protect our land, our water, and our air for future generations.

Throughout our great Revolutionary history, our greatest triumphs have always come at times when we've faced our greatest adversity. We are going to get through these tough times the way we always have: by working together. We have made tremendous progress for Maryland families these past two years. Now, when our families need us most, we are united in our commitment to stand up and fight to protect our progress.

More information on the proposed FY 2010 budget can be found here, http://www.governor.maryland.gov/ .

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