WASHINGTON – The federal government spent an average of $8,119.34 per person in Maryland in fiscal 1999, the third highest per capita spending among the states, according to the Consolidated Federal Funds report released Friday.
The top five Maryland recipients of federal cash were St. Mary’s County, Baltimore and Montgomery, Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties.
The federal jackpot, a total of almost $42 billion, went toward everything from government contracts to food stamps to highway construction. Just over 20 percent of this money came from the Defense Department, making Maryland the fifth-highest recipient of federal-defense money.
“(Maryland) is looked at as a center of defense for the nation’s capital,” said Kathy Snyder, president and CEO of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce.
Maryland was outranked by Alaska and its neighbor and rival, Virginia, in per capita federal spending, according to the report. The federal government spent $8,521 per person in Alaska and $8,416 in Virginia, which competes with Maryland for economic opportunities.
The Patuxent River Naval Air Station helped boost St. Mary’s County to the greatest beneficiary of federal funds in the state, despite the county’s low population.
Of the $24,151.02 spent for each of the 88,758 people in St. Mary’s, $21,158.24 went to defense spending – almost 90 percent of the county’s per capita spending.
“In the last five years we had quite a growth to the naval air station,” said Janet Cook, executive director of St. Mary’s Chamber of Commerce. “There was a huge building program on the base that brought in a lot of federal dollars.”
Also benefiting from defense spending were the economies of Harford, Anne Arundel and Charles counties — home to Aberdeen Proving Grounds, the Naval Academy and the Indian Head division of the Naval Warfare Center, respectively.
Second-place Baltimore received the most federal money in the state for grant awards and direct aid programs, such as food stamps, housing assistance and Medicare. These programs pushed Baltimore’s federal spending to $11,767.05 per person.
In Montgomery, the National Institutes of Health and information technology firms were the driving forces behind federal spending, officials said. The federal government spent the most in Montgomery – almost $9.2 billion – giving it per capita spending of $10,808.61, above the state’s average.
“There is a lot of research money going into Montgomery County,” Snyder said.
Montgomery County residents were paid the most in Maryland in federal salaries – $2.8 billion. Next was Prince George’s County with $1.7 billion; Baltimore County with $804 million; and Anne Arundel County with $797 million in federal salaries. State residents received a total of $8 billion in salaries and wages.
Maryland contains many federal workers, said Snyder, plus: “A lot of people are reliable on the government contractors for their private-sector lives.”
Such federal largesse is great, said an official with the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, but it can put the state’s economy in jeopardy.
“We are lucky in one regard that we are able to enjoy a lot of federal money,” said Vernon Thompson, assistant secretary for the department. “By the same token, we run the risk of the economy becoming dependent on federal spending.”
To mitigate that risk, the state is focusing on attracting private companies, such as biotech and information technology companies, to Maryland, he said.
“It all contributes to a sense of balance so that we are not heavily dependent on one or the other,” Thompson said.