No Plan B Emerges for O'Malley Federal Priorities - Southern Maryland Headline News

No Plan B Emerges for O'Malley Federal Priorities


By LAUREN C. WILLIAMS

WASHINGTON (Feb. 11, 2009)—Gov. Martin O'Malley couldn't say what the state would do without President Obama's $800 billion stimulus package when he listed his federal priorities for the Maryland congressional delegation Wednesday.

"We want to hear from you what we need to be able to do," said Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., before O'Malley's presentation. "We are dedicated to having a smart government and a smart stimulus."

The governor listed education, transportation, health care, environment and public safety items on his federal wish list.

"We need to recover, we need to reinvent, we need jobs, jobs, jobs," O'Malley said, flanked by members of his Cabinet.

But when Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, asked if Maryland could shoulder the burden of the state's financial demands and crashing job market in the absence of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, O'Malley's answer was circuitous and boiled down to: The state needs that money.

Joining Mikulski and Hoyer in the new U.S. Capitol Visitor Center were Maryland's junior Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin and Reps. Donna Edwards, D-Fort Washington; Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore; John Sarbanes, D-Towson; C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger, D-Cockeysville and Frank Kratovil, D-Stevensville. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington, and Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, did not attend.

"It's important not only to create jobs, but not to lose jobs," O'Malley said. "If we only invested in the infrastructure we'd be back where we started."

O'Malley said he has the "same challenges as the President," however on a much "smaller scale."

Maryland could create and retain between 70,000 and 100,000 jobs with federal aid, according to O'Malley.

In late afternoon Wednesday, it appeared the House and Senate had reached agreement on the differences in their stimulus plans and planned to push a compromise bill worth about $789 billion.

"If what comes to Maryland is in the form of $3 billion, two-year, economic stabilization plan," that's certainly much better than what Maryland has received from the federal government over the last eight years, said Shaun Adamec, responding for the governor to the news of the agreement.

At the Capitol Hill meeting, Cummings wanted to be reassured that the money that Maryland would receive from the stimulus would be "effectively and efficiently" appropriated.

O'Malley said he would "use every dollar for the purpose it was intended" and be able to show how it was used.

"We're in crisis mode here," said Cardin, who also said he wanted O'Malley to invest in Maryland's future by creating and preserving jobs.

Cardin asked O'Malley how he would ensure that Maryland's local governments will be able to sustain essential government services.

O'Malley said 40 percent of the state's budget goes back to the counties and that when shrinking a budget "it's almost impossible" not to touch monies designated for local government services.

"The real need outpaces the dollars available to do the construction," said O'Malley. "We know where the need is . . . Our economic crisis cannot be saved in 22 days," he said, citing the budgetary process involved in implementing the stimulus package.

But the bottom line came when Mikulski asked if she was correct in saying that Maryland could not support the state's increasing fiscal demands, including that of Medicaid, which has seen a significant increase in enrollment over the past few years.

"Absolutely, positively true," O'Malley responded.

And when further asked of the grim possibility that the legislation or its implementation might fail, O'Malley said: "The good news is there is a bill."

Among the specific items O'Malley presented to the delegation were:

-- $5 million for the Judith P. Hoyer Center for Early Childhood Learning and Innovation at the children's Museum at National Harbor.

-- A new rail tunnel alignment in Baltimore.

-- Maintenance funds for Interstates 70 and 68.

-- Upgrades to major wastewater treatment facilities.

-- New money for "recapitalizing" the troubled Prince George's Hospital Center.

-- $300,000 for a technical assistance program for minority businesses to compete for federal contracts as part of the Base Realignment and Closure process.

Governor O’Malley outlined specific priority areas for Maryland:

Transportation Infrastructure

Governor O’Malley highlighted several infrastructure projects for federal funding, including a new rail tunnel alignment in Baltimore, Intelligent Closed Circuit Television integration, and funding under the Interstate Maintenance program for I-70 and I-68 as well as under the Public Lands Highway program for BRAC related improvements in Harford, Anne Arundel, Montgomery, and Prince George’s counties. Funding under the Transportation Community and System Preservation program includes bridge rehabilitation and replacement, system preservation, safety, and storm water management. Transportation infrastructure project requests total $328 million.

Environment & Water Quality

To protect the health of Maryland’s children, Governor O’Malley requested funding for a number of projects to improve and protect the environment and water quality, including an upgrade of major waste water treatment facilities, restoration of the Patuxent River, modernization of the Cooperative Oxford Lab to facility biomolecular research, and the continued success of the lead poisoning prevention program. Project requests for environmental and water quality protection total $1.1 million.

Homeland Security & Public Safety

To protect Marylanders and their quality of life, Governor O’Malley outlined ways federal funding would initiate and continue homeland security and public safety projects including the recapitalizing and development of the Prince George’s Hospital Center, communications interoperability among State and local law enforcement agencies, broadband access connecting key public safety operations centers, automated equipment for Maryland’s Bomb Squad, enhanced fingerprint technology for booking facilities and State police, and an extension of the in-car camera project to include all patrol vehicles. In addition, Governor O’Malley requested funding to expand the State’s successful Violence Prevention Initiative, create a pre-apprenticeship workforce development program, expand summer job programs for at-risk youth, and create a mentorship program for at-risk youth across the State. Homeland security and public safety project requests total $212 million.

Healthcare

Governor O’Malley outlined healthcare priorities aimed at protecting indigent communities and educating Marylanders to effectuate preventive service. These include passing a moratorium on seven Medicaid regulations, six of which already exist in the House version of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, establishing a statewide health IT exchange, creating a statewide unified oral health education message initiative, and providing behavioral health care services to our veterans. Healthcare project requests total $4.5 million.

Education

Governor O’Malley asked the delegation’s help in developing the Judith P. Hoyer Center for Early Childhood Learning and Innovation at the Children’s Museum at National Harbor, which will be a world-class cultural and educational center dedicated to engaging children and empowering them to make a difference and become the leaders of tomorrow. This project request totals $5 million.

Federal Procurement

As part of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process, the Governor’s Office of Minority Affairs has put forth a request for assistance for Maryland’s Procurement Technical Assistance Program, which will help translate to more technical assistance to Maryland minority firms to increase capacity to compete. The total request for this project is $300,000.

Source: Gov. O'Malley's Office


Capital News Service reporter Dylan Waugh contributed to this report.

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