WASHINGTON – The speaker of Maryland’s House of Delegates Wednesday appealed to a reform-minded congressional subcommittee to continue funding for the state’s Appalachian area.
“Please don’t pull the rug out from under us too quickly,” Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., D-Allegany, told a House subcommittee chaired by Maryland Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, a Republican.
At issue were the merits of the Appalachian Regional Commission and the federal Economic Development Administration, which provide funds to distressed communities to develop local economies and foster private-sector growth.
“I support the continuation of these two programs, but I recognize the need for reform,” Gilchrest said. “There will be cuts in discretionary programs and these two programs are no exception.”
Taylor said Appalachian Maryland, consisting of three counties within the foothills of the Alleghenies and possessing an economic legacy rooted in coal mining, farming, railroads, forestry and heavy manufacturing, has benefitted greatly from the programs.
The speaker, a Cumberland resident, said 32 loans from the regional commission since the late 1980s created hundreds of jobs. The government loans also enabled the leveraging of more than $7 million in private financing.
From its creation in 1966 through September 1993, EDA, an agency of the Department of Commerce, has approved more than 200 projects in Maryland totaling more than $80 million.
Public investment provided through the regional commission, Taylor said, for industrial parks, access roads, water and sewer facilities and buildings, has helped to “halt our decline, stabilize our economies, and establish an infrastructure for future growth and expansion.”
Yet Garrett County still has an unemployment rate of more than 11 percent, twice the national average, Taylor said.
Suspecting the GOP-controlled Congress might attempt to fold these funds into direct block grants to the states, Taylor advised against it.
“If you go to block grants, where the money gets spread over the entire state, Appalachian Maryland” gets shafted, he said. -30-