Maryland Officials See Merit, Pitfalls in Federal Stimulus

“Capital News Service

With the vote imminent, at least two members of Maryland’s House delegation were unconvinced Wednesday that the economic stimulus package is the right move for the current economic crisis, even as misgivings rumbled from the State House in Annapolis.

Freshman Rep. Frank Kratovil, D-Stevensville, called it “”wasteful spending”” in a news release Wednesday, while Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, was applauded by fellow Republicans during a meeting with President Obama Tuesday after he bellowed his concern for the burden that this stimulus package could have on future generations.

“”Mr. President, I think our obsessive borrowing has fully mortgaged my kids and my grandkids,”” Bartlett told Obama, according to a statement from Bartlett’s office. “”Now we’re working on mortgaging my two great-grandkids. Mr. President, I think it’s more than a little bit selfish to try to solve our economic problems which we created by burdening future generations yet to be born.””

Kratovil, meanwhile, voted Jan. 21 to block the release of additional bailout money, and remained undecided on Wednesday’s economic stimulus bill as of late morning, according to spokesman Kevin W. Lawlor.

“”Right now Frank’s working with the Blue Dogs to get some of the wasteful spending out of the bill. If they can strip enough wasteful spending out of the bill, then he might be comfortable voting for it. As of now, he hasn’t decided how he’s going to vote,”” Lawlor told Capital News Service. The Blue Dog Coalition is a group of fiscally conservative Democrats.

And even in Annapolis, where lawmakers and Gov. Martin O’Malley are trying to cobble together a budget in the face of projected shortfalls of $346 million this year and $2 billion next year, there was skepticism about the package.

“”It’s certainly not a quick fix, and it’s not an ultimate solution,”” said Shaun Adamec, a spokesman for Gov. Martin O’Malley. In addition to protecting the workforce and education, “”we’re also relying on the stimulus to get us by for a time until the economy has a chance to rebuild itself.””

Maryland stands to gain nearly $3.5 billion of relief including approximately $339 million injected into the school system, more than $2 million in tax cuts for residents and the retention of 100,000 Maryland jobs, according to information from House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s office.

Like their national counterparts, some Maryland Republicans believe the stimulus package falls short of solving what they call a long-term spending issue.

“”Right now we have a very bad spending problem in Maryland, and we have to figure out how we can restructure that before this is going to be resolved,”” said Senate Minority Leader Allan Kittleman, R-Carroll. “”Simply getting money from the federal government is not the answer.””

Sen. Janet Greenip, R-Anne Arundel, agreed.

“”What I believe is we are not addressing the problem,”” she said. “”Getting the country in more debt is not helping the country at all. It’s just postponing a major problem.””

The grousing brought a strident defense of the legislation from Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, on the floor Wednesday, pointedly countering Republicans charges that Democrats have ignored their input.

He cited Democratic support for the Bush administration’s $700 billion banking system bailout as an example of Democrats’ willingness to work with Republicans.

“”When they saw crisis, we responded,”” he said. “”We did so because we believed it was in the best interest of our country.””

Hoyer also described Republican predictions about the success of their proposals “”inaccurate.””

“”What we have seen from our Republican colleagues is a history of overstatement of what their program would do and great understatement of what the programs and policies that we pursued would do,”” Hoyer said.

“”I hope that our Republican colleagues will put that history aside and join with us to pass this bill and try to help restore our prosperity.””

Probably the delegation’s biggest win with the legislation came with an amendment from Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington, and Rep. Todd R. Platts, R-Pa., to incorporate their Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act from last session into the stimulus bill, HR 1. The move passed by a voice vote.

“”We need to make sure that these funds are spent for their use and that they are not lost through any waste fraud or abuse . . . and ensure accountability in the process,”” Van Hollen said on the House floor during the debate for the Whistleblowers Amendment, which would provide protection for federal and state employees.

Capital News Service Staff Writers Michael Frost, Megan Miller, Leonard Sparks, Lauren C. Williams, Erika Woodward and Dylan Waugh contributed to this report.”