- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 21, 2011

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley sparred Sunday for the first time as leaders of their respective parties’ governors associations, drawing clear lines in the sand on federal spending, job growth and President Barack Obama’s performance on the economy.

Mr. McDonnell, Republican, said that it’s “crystal clear” to every American that the government has to cut spending as Washington leaders prepare to craft a jobs and deficit-reduction package, while decrying unfunded mandates on states in the way of environmental regulations and health-care reforms.

“They’ve got to cut spending, and they’ve got to lessen the unfunded mandates on the states, [because] we cant afford it,” he said, although saying that short-term items such as extending unemployment benefits should be considered if they create jobs and promote economic activity.

Mr. O'Malley, Democrat, said he hopes that Congress will return from August break to pass bills that make new investments in infrastructure, innovation and education, while working to balance the budget.

If it’s something that actually creates and inspires investment and innovation, I would be for it,” he said.

Mr. O'Malley also argued that the $14.6 trillion national debt was primarily driven by the Bush-era tax cuts that benefitted “the most wealthy among us.”

“That’s 55 percent of the projected deficit by 2019; another 14 percent is these wars, so we have to be able to both balance our budget but make investments in the modern economy if we’re going to create jobs,” he said.

Mr. McDonnell said that the federal government has already tried such large-scale investments — and it hasn’t worked.

“We’ve tried stimulus spending; we put very little into infrastructure, we put it into a lot of other spending that didn’t create jobs, and now we’ve gone from 7.8 to 9.1 percent unemployment,” he said. “And I absolutely disagree with the governor… he continues to blame Bush. Here we are three years in the administration and starting to talk about jobs.”

The two, also used the time to tout the performances of governors in their parties.

Mr. McDonnell pointed to the fact that nine of the top 10 pro-business states in Pollina Corporate’s rankings released last week were led by Republican governors.

Mr. O'Malley shot back that in such states as Florida and Ohio, Republican governors have not been as inspiring, also singling Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, whose bond rating was recently downgraded.

The back-and-forth comes as the two governors are quickly becoming rising national political stars.

Mr. O'Malley took the helm of the Democratic Governors Association in December, and McDonnell took the reins of the Republican Governors Association last week — posts that should position either of them well for any future campaigns for higher office.

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