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Federal stimulus money expected

January 15, 2009|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

ANNAPOLIS -- Roads and building projects have been stalled across Maryland because of a lack of money, and Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr. said officials are considering using federal stimulus money to jump-start projects that are ready to go.

President-elect Barack Obama has said he will push Congress to approve an $850 billion stimulus package.

However, Maryland lawmakers do not know how much they will receive, or when they will find out, leaving some uncertainty in approving the state's budget. Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley will present his proposed budget next week.

Local representatives say that if Maryland receives federal money they hope the money will be spread equally among the counties.

Myers said there is a possibility that each county could have several projects receive federal money.

The county's Division of Public Works has a list of seven "shovel ready" projects that would be good candidates for the first wave of federal stimulus money. An additional 13 projects are not shovel ready, but could be ready to put out for bid in six months, and 13 that could be completed within two years.

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Roadwork, construction and other projects are included on the list.

Warren G. Deschenaux, director of the state's Office of Policy Analysis, told the Senate's budget and taxation committee Thursday that state officials are expecting some level of federal stimulus money.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washingtion, sits on the Senate committee that received Deschenaux's budget briefing Thursday. He said it was unclear what Maryland could expect from the stimulus package.

"It's still up in the air," Munson said.

State officials could learn about how much federal money has been allocated for Maryland after budget discussions are under way.

"It has the potential to be a confusing mess," Deschenaux said.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, said he has concerns about the talk of federal stimulus money.

"I have some concerns as a taxpayer ... that the stimulus is going to be yet additional federal deficit spending in a time when there's already been a huge amount of federal spending that no one has figured out how to pay for," he said. "As an American, as a taxpayer, as the father of two small children who will someday inherit this debt, I'm already concerned about that."

However, when the economy is going downhill, capital projects - especially roads projects - can help stimulate the economy, Shank said.

"If there's going to be spending, I certainly want to make sure that Washington County is poised to get our fair share," he said.

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