Legislators urge Baltimore-D.C. union

As 1 area statistically, both benefit, federal office told

March 27, 2003|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

Maryland's congressional delegation is lobbying to keep Baltimore and Washington together as a single metropolitan area in the eyes of the federal government, preserving the area's rank as the fourth-largest market in the nation.

In a letter to Mitchell E. Daniels Jr., director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, both of Maryland's senators and all eight members of the House of Representatives said they lent "strong support" for the continued designation of Baltimore and Washington as a combined statistical area.

The letter came a week after The Sun reported that the Baltimore and Washington areas could be separated by OMB when the office draws the lines to define metropolitan areas throughout the nation in coming weeks. Separation would push Washington down to eighth in market size and Baltimore to 18th or 19th. It could also affect economic development efforts and federal funding in some cases, according to economic development and U.S. Census Bureau officials.

The combined designation - won by Baltimore and Washington 10 years ago but in need of being reaffirmed with each census - "has more accurately portrayed the close relationship between the regions, and has been advantageous to both regions in their efforts to enhance economic development and job creation," according to the letter, which was sent last week.

"It was a strong statement by the entire congressional delegation in support of continuing this designation," said Jesse Jacobs, a spokesman for Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes. "Since we've had this designation, the area has grown. It just would not make sense to de-designate it. Clearly, the [designation] means additional federal dollars flowing into the state."

According to Michael R. Ratcliffe, a geographer in the population division of the Census Bureau who also advises a committee that will give recommendations to OMB, several federal agencies use the metropolitan areas as mapped out by OMB to determine eligibility and funding levels. A combined designation also would improve opportunities to attract companies to the region by virtue of market size, economic development officers say.

Before the news story appeared, OMB had received only one letter supporting a combined region, sent through Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski's office from a local business group. But the recent response from the Maryland delegation will not alone resolve the issue.

According to OMB's standards, all parties involved - in this case the District of Columbia and northern Virginia - would have to support the combination. Ratcliffe said OMB had sent letters as recently as last week to Virginia Sens. Mike Allen and John Warner, but it has not received a response.

Although for the past 10 years the area's official title has been Washington-Baltimore, Maryland's delegates wrote they supported putting Baltimore's name first.

The committee that will make recommendations to OMB regarding metropolitan areas has begun its process and has discussed Washington and Baltimore's union, but has not made any decisions, Ratcliffe said.

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