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Friday, February 20, 2009

What Will the Stimulus Bring to Maryland?

Ann-Marie Luciano Bio

The short answer is that Maryland will receive a whopping $3.8 billion share of the total $787 billion federal stimulus package. Where will that money go and how will it help create jobs and grow our economy?

Governor O'Malley announced earlier this week that Maryland's $3.8 billion share of the stimulus package will include about $610 million in transportation funds, which is expected to support about 17,500 jobs. As the economy continues to spiral down, the key question is one of timing: How can Maryland spend this money fast enough in order to stop the bleeding and get people to work?

Governor O'Malley's answer on Wednesday was that as much as $365 million in transportation projects will be funded by federal stimulus funds within 90 days. The Maryland Board of Public Works has already approved $2.9 million to repair the Laurel MARC station.

What's amazing to me is to see how closely the government is following through with the pre-stimulus promises that were made about potential projects. In early February Vice President Biden toured the Laurel train station with Governor O'Malley and referred to it as an example of one of the train stations across the country that would benefit from the stimulus. In politics, usually there is a disconnect between promises and action, especially once money is in hand and competing interests start clamoring for their share. This time around, it seems that our leaders are highly attuned to the growing public outrage at waste and mismanagement and are taking extraordinary measures to instill public confidence.

For example, Governor O'Malley has already set up a website that enables the public to track the spending of the stimulus package in Maryland. I was impressed by the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Summary of Phase 1 Transit and Highway Projects" chart, which provides a detailed description of each project – organized by category – showing the jurisdiction of the project, cost, and estimated jobs supported. (One wonders what "supported" really means – is it new jobs, jobs saved, a combination of the two or simply the number of people it will take to do the job?).

Marylanders are also expected to receive approximately $1 billion in tax relief through the stimulus package. One wonders where the rest of the money will go and how those decisions will be made. Lobbyists have already started to pitch their case as to why they should receive part of the stimulus funds. Hopefully our leaders have devised some type of plan to spend or provide tax relief to those businesses and sectors that could stimulate the economy most directly. It would be a shame if only those with the loudest and most organized lobbyists get a share of the stimulus pie.


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