By LAURA E. LEE
WASHINGTON (March 16, 2011) Gov. Martin O'Malley on Wednesday asked Maryland's congressional delegation to focus on job creation, public safety, transportation and environmental protection as they work through this session.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., welcomed the governor to Capitol Hill and introduced herself as "Coach 'B'" of "Team Maryland." Nine of the delegation's 10 members were present at the meeting with the governor.
Using a slideshow to outline his top priorities, O'Malley requested congressional support for the Workforce Investment Act, legislation to provide work training and placement funding.
"We will never be able to bring our cost curves down and to resolve the deficit until we get our people back to work," he said.
O'Malley called job creation an important priority, not just for Maryland, but for innovation on the national stage. "If we can create jobs in Maryland and move our state forward, we are moving an important part of our country forward," said O'Malley, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association.
Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin praised O'Malley's emphasis on creating jobs in the biotech and cyber-security sectors.
"I think he has made the right decisions on his priorities," Cardin said.
The governor requested support for the community development block grant that gives Maryland $59 million in federal funds for affordable housing and improved infrastructure.
O'Malley said the work of Congress is essential to enabling the state to meet its objectives. He cited food stamps and nutritional programming as vital to the success of his goal of ending childhood hunger in Maryland by 2015.
O'Malley also put in a pitch for the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program, which provides funding for targeted projects by state and municipal law enforcement agencies.
Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Cockeysville, discussed the need for expanding transportation options for the state.
"We talk about rail, but rail doesn't do us any good if you don't have buses to get people off of the train and get them to the job centers," he said.
O'Malley called Maryland Secretary of Transportation Beverley Swaim-Staley to the podium to discuss transportation issues. Swaim-Staley was one of several state Cabinet members in attendance.
Despite the characterization of the delegation as "Team Maryland," the meeting was not devoid of partisan jabs.
"We're kind of going broke," said Rep. Andy Harris, R-Cockeysville, one of two Republican delegation members and the only one present. Harris called balancing the budget "a strange concept in Washington."
"We're not estranged from balanced budgets," Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer responded. "As a matter of fact, we had balanced budgets during the Clinton administration. We are estranged, in my 30 years here in Congress, from balanced budgets from any Republican president's year, much less term."
Harris asked O'Malley if federal funding is not available for the implementation of Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Loads, or pollution diets, if he would consider delaying the measures.
"I'm not really the one that has the clock ticking," O'Malley responded. "I mean, it's Mother Nature." If funding cuts are "as reckless as what the Republican Congress has proposed," the harm to the bay could be irreparable, O'Malley said.
O'Malley criticized Republican spending cuts as "very, very fiscally irresponsible, as well as being very bad for our economy."
Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, did not attend the meeting.