O'Malley: Obama's model is working in Maryland

Thoughtful cuts, essential investments pave the way for future success

February 14, 2011|By Martin O'Malley

At Parkville Middle School today, President Barack Obama offered a vision to equip every American with the ability to "compete with any worker, anywhere in the world." To do so, we have to make tough choices together as a nation: choices that will create jobs and expand opportunity today while positioning our country to win the future.

After eight years in which Washington squandered record surpluses in favor of record deficits, all of us, regardless of party, can agree that progress is only possible with fiscal responsibility and restraint. As the president said in Baltimore County, we can only invest in the future if the federal government starts living within its own means.

What differentiates the president's budget from the House Republicans' proposal is the call to be responsible in how we cut. House Republicans would slash the very things we need to expand opportunity: priorities like Pell Grants that put the dream of a college education within reach of more middle-class families.

The president proposes to bring non-security-related federal spending down to the lowest share of gross domestic product since the Eisenhower administration — but he proposes to do it while investing in and reforming education and job training so that our children will be able to win in the new economy.

This is the path we have chosen together in Maryland — and it's allowing us to deliver results. During the past four years, we have cut more state spending than ever before in Maryland's history, $5.6 billion in all. Our proposed budget would cut nearly $1 billion more. Meanwhile, with state-level initiatives like StateStat, and local initiatives like the Montgomery County school system's M-Stat, we are also working to get more out of every dollar we invest through accountability and performance measurement.

And yet, even as we've make cuts, the people of our state have chosen to make the largest investment our state has ever made in public education: $5.7 billion last fiscal year. What's more, through a $1.5 billion school construction investment, we're choosing to rebuild our schools and replace temporary learning shacks with state-of-the-art classrooms. And, alone among the 50 states, we chose to make college more affordable for more families by freezing in-state college tuition four years in a row.

At the same time, we've created targeted tax credits to help businesses put Marylanders back to work and to support key sectors of Maryland's innovation economy, like biotech and green tech. We're bringing 5,700 jobs to the Port of Baltimore through an innovative public-private partnership. We're infusing capital into small businesses through a Small Business Loan Guaranty Fund. And by partnering with GM, we're bringing new jobs to Baltimore County, where Marylanders are building the next generation green electric motors.

By choosing to be fiscally responsible — and responsible in the way we cut — we are moving Maryland forward. Last year we created 26,000 new jobs, and last month Education Week magazine affirmed for the third year in a row that we've built America's No. 1 public schools. Our high school students rank No. 1 in achievement on AP exams, according to the College Board. The Chamber of Commerce, the Milken Institute, and the Kauffman Index all rank us in the top two or three among the states for innovation, science and our ability to win in this new economy. And in times when other states' bond ratings are being downgraded, Moody's, Fitch, and Standard & Poor's have all recertified Maryland's triple A rating.

Our country is in a fight for both our present and our future. To win, we must cut responsibly and invest responsibly. We cannot afford to let our own kids fall behind students in so many other countries in science, technology, engineering and math. Our country deserves better than the tired old partisan grandstanding that shut down the government in the 1990s and squandered last decade's surpluses.

As the president wrote in his budget proposal, "in an increasingly competitive world in which jobs and businesses are mobile, we … have a responsibility to invest in those things that are absolutely critical to preparing our people and our nation for the economic competition of our time."

Martin O'Malley is governor of Maryland. His e-mail is governor@gov.state.md.us.

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