WASHINGTON – George Tate has let frugality guide his Upper Marlboro-based company through the economic downturn that has claimed other hauling businesses.
“In my business, it’s always up and down, so you don’t spread yourself too thin,” he said.
It’s worked so far, but he’s counting on the federal stimulus package to get him through the rest of the recession.
On Wednesday, Tate sat in a meeting room at the State Highway Administration’s district office in Greenbelt, where SHA officials briefed contractors about the federal stimulus legislation signed Tuesday by President Obama.
Gov. Martin O’Malley put out a list of $365 million in projects to be funded by that stimulus money on Wednesday — some of which are designed to keep Tate and other contracting businesses like his moving again.
The stimulus bill “means a great deal,” Tate said.
“Anytime you got construction, that means dirt has to be hauled,” he said. “When dirt stops being hauled, the truck sets.”
A lot of trucks will begin moving across the state over the next few months as the state acts swiftly to begin spending the estimated $900 million in federal funding it will receive for roads, highways, bridges and water and transit projects.
The normal pace of procurement is being quickened by a dual motivation: to reverse the job drain that has pushed Maryland’s unemployment rate up by more than 2 percent in a year; and to comply with spending requirements that could penalize states that fail to spend fast enough.
Maryland’s first round of spending includes $146 million to resurface highways around the state, $66 million to buy 100 hybrid buses for the Baltimore region and $2.9 million to renovate the Laurel MARC station.
The governor estimates the projects will involve almost 9,800 jobs. Maryland could begin receiving money within weeks and projects could begin as early as April.
“Months ago I asked my staff to develop a plan to make sure that Maryland is not only shovel-ready, but rather was next-day ready,” O’Malley said at the Board of Public Works meeting Wednesday. “This is the day after President Obama signed this legislation, and we are ready to go.”
The broad-based bill contains tax cuts of up to $400 for individuals and $800 for families. It sends significant funding to the states for programs spanning education, health care, energy and public safety.
The highlights for Maryland include about $719 million in budget aid, $254 million for its food stamps and $200 million for special education, according to an analysis by the Senate’s Democratic Policy Committee.
The bill will also bring the state an estimated $431 million for highway, rail and port projects; $179 million for mass transit; and about $123 million for drinking and clean water projects, more than doubling the $117 million in the current budget.
Portions of the transportation funding must be spent by the middle of June or returned to the federal government for redistribution to other states. The legislation also requires that states return water project money not under contract on under construction by next February.
Maryland Transportation Secretary John Porcari told BPW that his agency has been meeting for weeks with contractors and that the contracting “capacity is there” to handle the large influx of money.
Dawn Stoltzfus, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of the Environment, said MDE has notified local jurisdictions that they have until Feb. 28 to submit water projects for consideration by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The normal approval process takes six months, Stoltzfus said, with funds handed out as projects become ready to start. But MDE has been following the legislation’s process for months, she said, and has several wastewater and drinking water projects ready to go.
“We’ve already gotten a good jump on this,” she said. “We’re going to be really busy, but we’re excited about it.”
Pat Shorb also attended the contractor’s briefing. Shorb drove down from Pennsylvania to represent L.S. Lee, a York-based company that installs highway guardrails.
Like Tate’s company, ongoing contracts have helped L.S. Lee weather the economy, Shorb said.
“Some years are bad, some years are good, but we’re doing OK now,” he said. “The only thing that we’re concerned about is having enough people with this flood of work.”
Capital News Service reporter Dylan Waugh contributed to this report.