O'Malley, Democrats craft federal wish list

The Baltimore Sun

Maryland's congressional delegation met with Gov. Martin O'Malley in Annapolis yesterday to discuss a possible infusion of federal funds through a fiscal stimulus package and how that money could be used to prop up the state's economy.

O'Malley convened a meeting at the governor's mansion for more than an hour with Sens. Benjamin L. Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski along with several congressmen, including newly elected Rep. Frank Kratovil, and Maryland State House leaders. The lawmakers, all Democrats, talked about the state's wish list of projects they would like to be funded.

In a letter to delegation members this week, the governor had outlined what the state would seek from President-elect Barack Obama's administration after he takes office in January. In addition to an expansion of unemployment insurance and increased Medicaid funding, O'Malley asked for an "aggressive investment" in ready-to-go infrastructure projects and a flexible block grant to states.

"Not only would an infusion of funds keep hardworking people employed, it would allow us to deliver infrastructure improvements that will last beyond the immediate economic crisis," O'Malley wrote.

Maryland's Department of Transportation has compiled a list of at least 50 projects of more than $310 million that could begin within six months of enactment of federal legislation. That includes $100 million in highway resurfacing, $50 million in bridge rehabilitation, $18 million for Baltimore-area transit needs and $48 million for MARC projects.

In addition, the state environmental agency has identified more than 100 water and wastewater infrastructure projects at a cost of nearly $1 billion, many of which would reduce pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. And the housing department has identified $119 million in affordable rental housing projects that would help close a projected shortfall of more than 150,000 units.

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