By Karen anderson
COLLEGE PARK – Top Maryland Democrats praised President Obama’s speech Thursday at the University of Maryland, saying his national health care plan would save the state money and boost the economy.
Republicans disagreed, saying Obama’s plans are vague and too costly.
Minutes after the president spoke to a crowd of more than 12,000 at the Comcast Center, the state’s Democratic governor spoke directly about the positive impact Obama’s health reform would have on the state.
“Until we get a handle on health care, we’re not going to be able to create as many jobs as we should and we’re not going to be able to get our budgets and our deficits in line,” Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley said. “There’s all sorts of things that we could and should be doing with the dollars that instead we’re wasting on a very inefficient health care system.”
State leaders are on the lookout for anything that might aid the budget. Thursday in Annapolis the Board of Revenue Estimates predicted the state will have to cut an additional $233 million in order to balance its budget this fiscal year.
O’Malley identified health care as the biggest expense in the state budget and the one piece the state has the least control over, watching as costs rise 7 percent each year.
But Maryland Del. Anthony O’Donnell, R-Calvert and St. Mary’s, described O’Malley’s remarks as “platitudes.”
“The concepts that I’ve heard the president and [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi and [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid offer seem very, very destructive and may end up bankrupting this country,” O’Donnell said.
Though Obama did not delve into specifics during his speech, both O’Malley and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown lauded the president’s attempt to reach out to younger constituents as a strategy to rally support for health care legislation.
“There’s a lot of positive energy in the room,” Brown said. “When you’re talking about change, as the president is, and making a lot of bold steps on a lot of fronts, you need that positive energy. And students offer that.”
Other state Democrats also expressed strong support for the president’s health plan as a means to offer affordable insurance to all Americans.
“I think his message is we’re all in this together,” said U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington.