- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley told Capitol Hill lawmakers yesterday the state’s top priorities for federal money are transportation, preparing for the military base realignment, cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay and health care for children.

Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat, requested almost $130 million for statewide highway projects and $33 million for road projects related to the federal Base Realignment And Closure program, also known as BRAC. The program is expected to bring 45,000 jobs to the state by 2011.

The governor also asked members of Congress to reauthorize the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which covers about 120,000 poor Maryland children and receives the majority of its funding from the federal government. The state’s allotment of federal money will run out in May, he said.

Mr. O’Malley acknowledged he was asking for money during a tight fiscal environment. Members of the Maryland congressional delegation pledged to do what they could to get the state its share of the federal budget, but said fulfilling all the governor’s requests would be hard.

“This is a tough year,” said Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, a Democrat. “You know it by the budget in Annapolis. The budget here in Washington is very much out of balance.”

The governor said BRAC issues were a high priority and that he wants to maintain the quality of life in Maryland as the state grows because of the base realignment.

Officials near Fort Meade and the Aberdeen Proving Ground, the areas with the most dramatic growth, are worried that the arrival of new jobs will put a strain on the state’s public services and infrastructure, particularly roads, many of which were in need of improvement even before BRAC was announced in 2005.

“As Maryland continues togrow due to BRAC, we also need to coordinate with our federal partners in order to ensure the proper funding and infrastructure support,” Mr. O’Malley said.

Last month, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer cautioned that Maryland should expect to shoulder the majority of the fiscal load in preparing for BRAC. Yesterday, he restated his position.

“Governor, obviously at your level and our level we are confronting fiscal challenges in terms of we have an extraordinary deficit to confront,” Mr. Hoyer said.

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