Fact Check: O’Malley says Maryland is No. 1


Maryland's governor Martin O'Malley is welcomed by the Maryland general assembly as he arrives to deliver his speech during State of the State address in Annapolis Md. on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013. (Jose Luis Magana/AP)

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley — term-limited and weighing a possible 2016 presidential run — used his penultimate State of the State address on Wednesday to repeatedly boast of progress the state has made under his watch.

By at least nine measures, O’Malley (D) said Maryland is No. 1 among all states. In dozens of others, he claimed it is now much better than most.

Following an evolving trend in his speechcraft, O’Malley also omitted explanations for almost every claim, relegating those instead to footnotes. Shortly after O’Malley finished the 34-minute address, his staff released an annotated version explaining his claims.

It had an O’Malley record of 100 footnotes running a combined 6,000 words.

If O’Malley had explained his claims, it could have easily tripled the length of his speech. We’re working our way through all 100, but let’s unpack a couple of the biggest claims:

Maryland’s No. 1!!

O’Malley: “No other state can say at once, that they are No. 1 in education five years in a row. No. 1 in holding down the cost of college tuition. No. 1in innovation and entrepreneurship. No. 1 in human capital capacity. No. 1 in access to dental care for all children, regardless of income. No. 1 in PhD scientists and researchers. No. 1 in research and development. No. 1 in businesses owned by women. No. 1 in median family income. And we’re not done yet.”

Most of these claims are based on reports and surveys from groups ranging from Education Week magazine to the Milken Institute. Leaving those aside for a moment. A couple are pretty readily backed up by federal data:

Maryland has the most PhDs and engineers per capita, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

And while it’s not true for families of every size, averaged together, Maryland has the highest per family income of $83,823, according to U.S. Census estimates.

At $70,004, the state also had the nation’s highest median household income in 2011, though that represented a decline of 1.4 percent from 2010.

The year before O’Malley took office, the state was No. 2, behind New Jersey, which was more severely impacted by the economic downturn.

When it comes to the studies and reports that explain the remainder of O’Malley’s No. 1s, some are more clearly based on statistics, while others are graded more subjectively.

For the duration of O’Malley’s tenure, for example, figures compiled by The College Board show tuition at Maryland’s public four-year institutions increased about 2 percent, lower than any other state.

When it comes to the broader claim about “No. 1 in education.” That title comes from Maryland-based Education Week.

And much of the basis for that rank rests in a score of a B+, graded on a curve. By other measures, including raising test scores in failing schools, the state is in the middle of the pack. On a closely watched eighth-grade math score, Maryland ranks near the bottom among states.

(See footnotes at the bottom of page 2 of this document for O’Malley’s explanation on the remaining No. 1 rankings).

$8.3 billion in spending cuts

O’Malley: “The budget before you ... very nearly eliminates the structural deficit. And, it brings our total spending cuts to $8.3 billion dollars over the life of this administration.”

This figure is one of O’Malley’s most frequently cited and one that critics and commentators have frequently taken issue with.

The governor’s figure represents all of the automatic, formula-driven spending increases that would have happened to date during his tenure save the recession.

There is little question that O’Malley faced deep budget shortfalls for nearly every year he has been governor. Most were the result of the three worst years of the downturn, when the gap between expected spending increases and flailing revenue neared $2 billion annually.

O’Malley adds up all of the cuts and spending freezes from those years to reach the $8.3 billion figure. Critics contend he counts multiple times the savings from cuts or spending freezes, some of them as many as five times — one for each year the state held back the same programmed spending increase.

The governor’s $8.3 billion number also runs counter to this one: $7.4 billion. That’s how much bigger overall state spending ($37.4 billion) would be in the budget year beginning in July than the one approved during O’Malley’s first session with the legislature in 2007.

43,000 jobs

O’Malley: “This year’s budget is a jobs budget: it invests in 43,000 jobs rebuilding roads, bridges, tunnels, community colleges, affordable housing units, clean water infrastructure, and other forward-looking projects.”

This figure comes from O’Malley’s proposed $3.7 billion in borrowing for capital projects in the budget year beginning in July.

The jobs figure is a generic estimate based on that spending. Maryland assumes that every “$1 million in state construction spending supports 11.5 full-time equivalent jobs.” That’s both wages paid directly to construction workers and indirect jobs of employees supported by the money those construction workers spend at other state businesses. (It also assumes $1.2 billion in additional leveraged spending by local government and the private sector).

O’Malley’s proposed capital budget is $275 million bigger than the current fiscal year, so by the state’s formula, Maryland’s 8-percent increase in bond spending would support 3,163 more jobs than it does now. The state now has an unemployment rate of 6.6 percent with roughly 2.9 million people working, and 200,000 looking for jobs.

Aaron Davis covers D.C. government and politics for The Post and wants to hear your story about how D.C. works — or how it doesn’t.
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