The Baltimore Sun

State must spend the stimulus money

Maryland is reportedly the wealthiest state in the nation. But underneath the politics and pronouncements that emerge from Annapolis, the public seldom hears that we underfund the well-documented needs of children, seniors, people with disabilities and others ("O'Malley poised to spend $350 million of stimulus on transportation projects," Feb. 18).

Public functions are understaffed, from processing unemployment benefits and food stamp applications to child welfare agencies to correctional institutions. Program waiting lists for seniors and the disabled have ballooned.

In recent years, as we "addressed" our structural budget problem with increased taxes and expanded gaming, we also cut back our commitment to the same public education funding program that led to the school improvements we now hear trumpeted by freezing the growth of the Thornton funding formula.

And even now, with a budget crisis driven by a national recession causing an unprecedented decline in revenues, we continue to hear talk of bringing spending under control.

However, the president and Congress have acted at a time when government action is critical. Funds are coming in to help states sustain services for those in need and avoid spending cuts that would further worsen the economic crisis. Support is even provided to accelerate infrastructure projects.

Now, it's the state's turn to sustain our economy and help the Marylanders who are hurting the most.

Our General Assembly must not sit on this money or hold portions of it to meet concerns for years ahead. It must get the money out quickly to provide food, housing, education and health care, jobs, income and infrastructure.

Individual consumers and private businesses can't restart this economy on their own. Government has to step in to fill the gap.

Henry Bogdan, Baltimore

The writer is director of public policy for the Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations.

Leaders acted when action was needed

President Barack Obama and the Democratic leaders in Congress, along with the three moderate Republican senators who voted for the stimulus bill, should be praised for moving the bill into law ("Making sense of stimulus," Feb. 18).

The bill may not be perfect, but urgent action is needed immediately to help rescue our economy. And because of this bill, those who may be unemployed or otherwise struggling will be getting help, and not a day too soon.

We can be proud of our government and its ability to act when it is needed most.

Steven M. Clayton, Ocean, N.J.

Slots the wrong way to welcome visitors

Slots at the airport? What a way to introduce someone to the state of Maryland ("House bill would allow 3,000 slot machines at BWI," Feb. 17).

I'll recommend that my friends get here via Philadelphia.

Jeff Matthews, Conowingo

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