O'Malley seeks federal dollars on Capitol Hill

Snow removal costs among items congressional delegation can help find money for

March 12, 2010|By Paul West | paul.west@baltsun.com

Washington — - State transportation agencies have spent more than $130 million for snow removal this winter, more than double the budgeted amount, members of Maryland's congressional delegation were told Thursday.

Federal aid to recoup some of the costs of snow removal is "critically important," Gov. Martin O'Malley said during his annual meeting with Democratic and Republican lawmakers at the Capitol in Washington.

Final figures won't be known until officials tally the expense of the latest storm in Western Maryland, where more than a foot of snow is still on the ground.

The transportation department is cutting its operating budget and stretching out future building projects to try to close the shortfall, said state Transportation Secretary Beverley K. Swaim-Staley. The state expects to file a formal federal disaster aid request for the back-to-back February storms in the next two weeks.

The governor's 93-page wish list contained a total of more than $823 million for environmental, transportation, health, public safety and homeland security projects.

Many of the initiatives are perennial recipients of federal aid earmarked by Maryland congressmen and senators. The largest single request, $150 million, was for the troubled Washington area transit system.

O'Malley also delivered a pitch for a national initiative to provide $30 billion in federal TARP money to states for use in small-business loan guarantee programs.

The annual Washington gathering, O'Malley's fourth, featured a considerable amount of mutual congratulation among the state's politicians. It took on a bipartisan tone at one point when Maryland's sole Republican in Congress singled out the governor for praise.

"I'm not a big fan of these two wars that we're fighting," said Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, adding that he attends the funerals of the troops from his Western Maryland district who lose their lives overseas. "And the governor's there every time," without fanfare or notice to the news media. "He's just there to support the families. Thank you, thank you, governor."

Bartlett also said that, as a conservative, he routinely opposes federal spending measures. But "after the vote to spend the money, I join my Team Maryland colleagues in trying to get it all for Maryland."

O'Malley, a former Baltimore mayor, also urged the issuance of a commemorative coin to help fund a bicentennial celebration of the writing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" and the War of 1812.

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