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O'Malley travels to D.C. with funding requests

The Baltimore Sun

WASHINGTON -- On his visit to Capitol Hill yesterday to meet with Maryland's congressional delegation, Gov. Martin O'Malley brought with him a red binder fat with requests: 148 priorities worth more than $200 million.

Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin asked him to consider adding one more: global warming.

"Maryland the state is particularly vulnerable," the Democratic senator said. "Sea level change is clearly a matter that is of direct interest."

Maryland's representatives in Washington - who include the House Democratic leader, and members of the Appropriations committees - were generally receptive to a wish list that included funding requests for transportation, children's health insurance and the Chesapeake Bay.

Several members acknowledged fiscal challenges in Washington. But some joined Cardin in going beyond O'Malley's PowerPoint presentation: Democratic Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, asked about expanding broadband Internet access on the Eastern Shore. Democratic Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Baltimore County, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, asked about anti-gang efforts.

Even Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, a Western Maryland Republican, said that if his colleagues insisted on increasing spending, he'd fight to bring home all the bacon he could.

"We have a wonderful opportunity," said House Democratic leader Steny H. Hoyer of Southern Maryland. "We have a new momentum here in Washington for new directions and for investment in the quality of life of our people and our future."

The bulk of the requests focused on transportation. The Democratic governor, flanked by Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown and several Cabinet members, asked for help securing $184.1 million in federal funding for highways, the MARC train system, buses and the port of Baltimore.

He sought an additional $39.6 million for highway projects, park-and-ride lots and transit associated with the expansion of Aberdeen Proving Ground, Fort Meade and other military facilities in the state.

And he asked for $33.6 million for security measures at the port of Baltimore and Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and an interoperable communications system.

"The likelihood is that in this 100 years war that we are only in the first few years of experiencing, there will be subsequent attacks," O'Malley said. "And when they happen, we need to be able to support one another."

Mikulski expressed concern about the State Children's Health Insurance Program, a federal-state program that covers 133,000 children in Maryland. In his budget proposal for 2008, President Bush has sought to curtail funding for the program.

Other members asked about the impact of military base realignment, expected to bring 40,000 to 60,000 new jobs to Maryland over the next five years. O'Malley spoke of ensuring adequate water, sewer and storm water systems.

"We have first an obligation to our existing constituents that we do not negatively impact on the existing residential or business communities," Ruppersberger said. "So in order to do that we have to focus on infrastructure. ... We have to do something about this whole traffic situation."


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