Gov. Martin O'Malley hailed yesterday the $3.3 billion in federal aid and other benefits Maryland could receive under a stimulus package that congressional leaders hope to pass within days.
An estimated 66,000 jobs would be saved or created if the bill is enacted, and 242,0000 workers would get $100 more a month in unemployment benefits, O'Malley said. More than 2.2 million Maryland residents would get a tax cut of up to $800 or become eligible for a tax credit to make college more affordable, he said.
The federal windfall, parts of which have been attacked by Republicans in Washington and Annapolis as wasteful largesse, is expected to help O'Malley avoid some budget cuts he has proposed, including laying off 700 state workers.
The Democratic governor, who must close a $2 billion budget gap in the fiscal year that begins July 1, said he would announce what spending cuts he would be able to retract "as soon as the ink is dry on this."
Congressional leaders hope to hold final votes before the week is out and to send a bill to President Barack Obama early next week.
The package includes $800 million for road, sewer and other infrastructure projects in Maryland over two years and $1 billion for education. It directs more than $1 billion to the state's Medicaid program and includes more than $100 million in discretionary funding to help plug the budget shortfall.
The bill also funds renewable-energy projects and the development of electronic health records, an initiative that is expected to make care more efficient.
"This country and our state need this stimulus money to not only help balance budgets here but to keep people working in the private sector," state House Speaker Michael E. Busch said. "So it's been a great boon for us."