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Federal budget fight bodes ill for Maryland


Call it the Showdown at Gucci Gulch: Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole says there will be no Republican compromise on the federal budget as Congress gets serious about a fiscal 1996 plan this month. President Clinton says he will be the voice of sweet reason. But lay aside what this year's budget will mean for long-term economic health. Lay aside even next year's presidential election. What happens if, as many believe, the posturing by both sides leads to a deadlock that temporarily shuts the federal government down? Will Maryland be especially hard-hit because of its high concentration of federal workers and contractors? And who, to borrow a line from the president, will feel Maryland's pain if there is deadlock?

Barbara A. Mikulski

U.S. Senator, Maryland

A federal shutdown will have severe and draconian impact on Maryland's economy. It will directly affect federal employees, those who have contracts with the federal government, and the private sector in terms of a severe curtailment of consumer income.

It will have a really severe impact on retail purchases, on real estate purchases, on big-ticket items like cars. It could have an [extra] impact because in many Maryland families both spouses are federal employees.

We're talking about civilian federal employees -- not military or Department of Defense -- a total of 283,000 Marylanders work for the federal government. That is not [including] federal contractors. This equates to $9 billion in total wages a year, or $25 million a day.

I'm saying to the president and my colleagues that federal

employees should not become ploys. If you're running for president, do it in the primaries and not in the budget.

Michael A. Conte


Regional Economic Studies,

University of Baltimore

[Woodlawn] along with a number of other areas around the state will be very heavily impacted. Maybe 50 percent of the people would not have to go to work and that's a lot of money. They had a similar situation in 1990 and Washington turned into a ghost town. My recollection is that only 10 to 20 percent of employees there were required to report for work.

You have the whole Food and Drug Administration concentration in Montgomery County, you have the IRS and Census folks in Prince George's. To some extent it's going to affect military installations, and they're all over the place. People will be surprised at the percentage of employment involved in just delivering the mail.

Prince George's has the most federal employment in Maryland. They will probably be hurt the worst, then Montgomery, then Baltimore County. There's also a huge concentration downtown.

Lori Marler

Marketing manager,

Security Square Mall, Woodlawn

It would undoubtedly have a great impact on the retailing in this area, for the entire Security Boulevard. They've just widened Rolling Road and expanded Security Boulevard to go out to the [new Health Care Financing Administration headquarters] site. Along with that has come a lot of revitalization along Security Boulevard. There's a lot more traffic here, and I know it's a direct result of people who are in this area for work. Our daytime traffic is completely different than our nighttime traffic.

Thirty-five percent of the people who shop during the day work in this area. Since [HCFA and the Social Security Administration] are the two biggest employers in our area, the math is not too hard to figure out. It's about 26,000 people.

They come to us to get lunch and do their errands. Christmas shopping is very convenient. What we sell them is endless, everything from candy and cookies for the office to incidentals. People in the corridor depend on these people being here every day. And you're going to affect the areas they live in, so it's a two-fold problem.

Charles McMillion

MBG Information Resources

If they shut down the agencies, a lot of contracts for everything from building maintenance and security to high-tech research could be disrupted. And that is a very large dollar figure.

Westinghouse works for the federal government, Lockheed Martin works for the federal government, as well as hundreds if not thousands of small companies whose primary or only customer is the federal government.

Maryland will be disproportionately harmed by the train wreck if it occurs. Many retailers in Maryland have been hard-hit by the past five years of extremely sluggish economic growth, and many of them are looking to the Christmas buying season in 1995 as a make-or-break season.

The consequences would be particularly severe for smaller retailers and particularly for smaller retailers in smaller rural markets . . . places like Chestertown or Bowie, Upper Marlboro, Frederick, those type of places.

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