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O'Malley warns of 'job-killing' sequester cuts

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Gov. Martin O'Malley warned Sunday morning that Maryland faces "job-killing cuts" if Congress allows a wave of automatic spending reductions to take place this Friday as scheduled.

Appearing on CBS' Face the Nation alongside Virginia Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell, the Maryland Democrat stressed the two states' common interest in averting the severe cuts contained in the plan known as sequestration.

"This sequester stands to wipe out a lot of hard-fought job gains in Virginia and in Maryland. So whatever our  differences might be, we understand this is an economic threat. This is going to hurt a lot of moms and dads in our region," O'Malley said. He said the cuts could lead to job losses at such Maryland-based agencies as the National Institutes of Health and the National Security Agency as well as in private companies that work on government projects.

McDonnell, saying sequestration was intended as "a hammer, not a policy," warned that both states will be hurt by the sweeping defense cuts in the plan, adopted as a way to prod congressional Democrats and Republicans to reach a deficit-reduction deal.

"Don't put 50 percent of the cuts on defense," McDonnell said. "Find another way to do it and get it done now."

O'Malley said both governors, in Washington for a meeting of the National Governors Association, will be working with their congressional delegations and will meet with President Obama Sunday night and on Monday.

The two governors differed somewhat on what that "another way" should be, with McDonnell emphasizing cuts to programs such as Medicare and Medicaid and O'Malley recommending a "balanced approach" -- code words for the combination of spending reductions and elimination of certain tax deductions favored by President Obama and congressional Democrats.

For the most part, the two governors -- both mentioned as possible candidates for their parties' 2016 presidential tickets -- maintained a cordial tone and stressed their mutual desire to see a deal struck.

There was none of the partisan sparring for which the pair became know during last year's election, when they frequently paired off as surrogates for the presidential nominees. O'Malley even complimented McDonnell on Virginia's passage last week of a major transportation funding package that includes tax increases -- a feat business leaders and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller will be looking to O'Malley to replicate before the end of this year's General Assembly session.

O'Malley did keep up his running feud with another possible GOP contender -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. The Maryland governor questioned whether Christie could claim any innovations in governing and  said Christie's actions had led to the downgrade of bond ratings in New Jersey.

The two governors were joined on the program by two Western chief executives -- Republican Jan Brewer of Arizona and Democrat John Hickenlooper or Colorado.

Asked about the issue of immigration, O'Malley and Brewer disagreed sharply. O'Malley said the issues of increased border security and a so-called "path to citizenship" for illegal immigrants should be addressed at the same time. Brewer insisted the border must be secured before anything could be done about the status of those who are here illegally.

O'Malley was asked about why Maryland has lagged behind Virginia in the measures it has taken to keep guns out of the hands of those with dangerous mental health problems. The governor said provisions that would bring Maryland closer to Virginia's restrictions are part of the "comprehensive" gun bill he is backing in the legislature.

"There is always a balance to be achieved when it comes to the mental health issue," he said. "You don't want to discourage people from going to seek treatment."

O'Malley said Virginia likely got ahead of Maryland in dealing with the issue because of the 2007 massacre that killed 32 at Virginia Tech.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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