By Candia Dames
WASHINGTON – The federal government spent $48.2 billion in Maryland in fiscal 2001, or $9,093 per person, the fifth-highest rate of per capita federal spending in the nation, according to figures released Tuesday.
Federal spending overall in the state increased 6.8 percent from fiscal 2000 compared to a national increase of 9 percent, which could explain Maryland’s drop from third-highest the year before. Maryland followed Alaska, Virginia, North Dakota and New Mexico in per capita federal dollars in fiscal 2001, according to the Census Bureau’s annual Consolidated Federal Funds Report.
In Maryland, Kent, Frederick and Queen Anne’s counties received the largest gains in spending in fiscal 2001, with increases of 18 percent, 17 percent and 16 percent, respectively.
The report is a compilation of federal spending in every category including defense, food stamps, Medicare payments, highway planning and construction and salaries and wages.
Maryland got $8.9 billion in salaries and wages in fiscal 2001, $252 million less than it got a year earlier, a direct result of spending on Census 2000 winding down, said Gerard Keffer, chief of the Census Bureau’s federal programs branch. Keffer said staff and resources needed for the decennial census boosted federal salaries in Maryland, which is home to the Census Bureau, in Suitland.
The bureau falls under the Commerce Department, which sent $1.3 billion in salaries and wages to Maryland in 2000, but only $710.5 million in 2001.
“We are a statistic actually,” Keffer said. “That’s quite interesting.”
He said the continued strong federal presence in Maryland ensured that the state remained in the top five in per capita spending. The state is home to dozens of federal departments and agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Food and Drug Administration, the Goddard Space Flight Center and numerous military bases.
The state got a sizeable increase in spending for highway planning and construction, from $413 million to $1.2 billion. Federal funds for food stamps dropped from $199 million to $190.8 million.
Defense spending overall crept back up in Maryland, from $8.59 billion to $8.62 billion, after falling from $9.1 billion in fiscal 1999.
While defense spending fell in St. Mary’s County by more than $62 million, it still made up more than 80 percent of that county’s total federal receipts and helped keep it atop other counties with a per capita federal spending rate of $19,857.
“It’s a very, very large number, but much of it doesn’t stay here,” said Karen Everett, the county’s business development manager, who noted that many of the military personnel based at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in St. Mary’s County actually live in Calvert County.
Still, she said, St. Mary’s residents continue to get sizable benefits from that military presence, as evidenced by a sharp increase in new homes over the past three years.
“There are increased opportunities for employment and higher education,” she said. “It has also raised the caliber and expectation in our public school system and the wage level has increased in the county.”
The quality of life in the entire state is being improved by the flow of federal dollars, making Maryland home to some of America’s most affluent communities, said Anirban Basu, director of applied economics at RESI, an economic studies institute in Towson.
“It is our relationship to the federal government that serves to differentiate Maryland from other states just like the auto industry has differentiated Michigan as a state,” Basu said.
The impact of federal spending in Maryland cannot be calculated solely from looking at the Census Bureau’s report, he said.
“The federal government touches Maryland in so many different ways, not just through government contracts,” Basu said. “NIH has been a tremendous beneficiary of the Bush presidency and there are also spin-offs of jobs in private-sector biotechnology.”
Keffer believes the level of federal funds will continue to mean good news for Marylanders.
“Where the people are working and living, they’re spending that money in local economies and stores, buying homes, appliances and furniture and so forth. It’s big money.”