ANNAPOLIS – Gov. Martin O’Malley and other governors met with President-elect Barack Obama Tuesday, pushing for a stimulus plan that would help pay for infrastructure projects and social programs such as unemployment benefits and food stamps.
O’Malley was joined by the other 49 governors and the leaders of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands at the meeting in Philadelphia. The governors met with Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden for an hour and a half.
Maryland was not specifically discussed Tuesday, O’Malley said in a phone interview, but Obama asked the governors to help him craft an economic recovery plan.
O’Malley said no price tag was attached.
“There was a general agreement that it needed to be big if it were going to be impactful,” he said, as he rode in a car to a meeting in Washington.
O’Malley said he told Obama about the state’s pending $1 billion budget shortfall and other economic problems Monday night at a meeting of Democratic governors. O’Malley would not say whether Obama made any commitments to help the state.
Maryland, among many other states, could benefit from a stimulus package. The state’s unemployment rate of 5 percent is at the highest level in more than a decade, and in October, the Board of Public Works, citing the country’s soured economy, cut nearly $350 million from this year’s budget, affecting schools, museums and a slew of other programs.
The downturn has crimped consumer spending and caused widespread layoffs, leading to, among other problems, a drop in sales and income tax receipts. This money is used to help pay for a range of government operations and services.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington-based research group, at least 41 states face budget shortfalls this fiscal year or next.
O’Malley noted the comments Obama made on television Tuesday afternoon, when he said he wants to save or create 2.5 million jobs nationwide, and improve the country’s infrastructure.
“He understands that when the economy takes a downturn, the responsibilities at the state level go up,” O’Malley said, referring to the rise in health and unemployment claims that normally come with a downturn.