O'Malley touts state economy in address on middle class

May 30, 2013|By John Fritze, The Baltimore Sun

WASHINGTON -- Gov. Martin O'Malley used an address at the Center for American Progress on Thursday to argue that Maryland has become a national model for growing the middle class and suggested that most states led by Republican governors "only made things worse" by trying to "cut their way to prosperity."

In an address that summarized and sharpened many of the themes he has been discussing since he won a second term in 2010, the governor argued that Maryland had weathered the recession better than other states because it spent more on education, workforce development and infrastructure.

O'Malley, who is considering a run for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, also took aim at Reagan-era Republican policies and suggested the more recent focus by some on reducing the size of government in Washington and state capitals had worsened the recession's impact.

"Trickle-down economics has been an abject failure for 99 percent of Americans," said O'Malley, a Democrat and former mayor of Baltimore. "If we want to deliver better results -- if we want to strengthen our middle class…then we have to be willing to make better choices."

The address, like many others O'Malley has delivered over the past year, not only represented the governor's view of his legacy in Maryland, it also will likely serve as an early draft of a national stump speech -- should he decide he needs one. 

As usual, the governor noted the state had been ranked No. 1 for public education five years in a row by Education Week, that it has maintained its Triple A bond rating and that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce named Maryland the top state for "entrepreneurship and innovation."

"States with Republican governors generally tried to cut their way to prosperity," he added. "Most found this only made things worse."

A spokesman with the Republican Governors Association was not immediately available to respond.

Diana Waterman, chair of the Maryland Republican Party, responded to the address by citing another economic metric: A loss of Fortune 500 companies in the state.

"In light of the recent scandals and poor economic rankings, Governor O'Malley should be meeting with local business leaders and not the liberal elites in Washington, D.C.," she said in a statement.

"When Martin O'Malley took office in 2007, there were eleven Fortune 500 Companies located in Maryland," she said. "As of this month, there are only four located within our borders."

Maryland's economy, along with other states in the region, has been buoyed in part by the post-9/11 growth of the federal government. O'Malley was asked Thursday to respond to reports that the $85 billion in federal budget cuts known as sequestration haven't had as significant an impact on the regional economy as he and other Democrats initially warned.

"Because we have not taken a meat cleaver to the public sector we have been able to offset some of those early impacts of sequester," he said.

But, he added, "sequestration is almost like a vise that gets turned down a little bit more with every passing month…I would be very surprised if, as we move ahead, you don't see a little greater impact every single month from sequestration."

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