O'Malley touts stimulus benefits, saying rewards go beyond jobs saved or created

Gov. Martin O'Malley, speaking at a Baltimore asphalt company, said that the
Gov. Martin O'Malley, speaking at a Baltimore asphalt company, said that the "economy is doing much better than it was eight months ago, and it is going to be doing much better eight months from now." (Aaron Davis/the Washington Post)
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By Aaron C. Davis
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 30, 2009

Maryland has saved or created 4,462 jobs with federal stimulus money and spent 6 percent of its share of the funds since Congress approved the record-size recovery plan in February, Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) said Thursday.

The governor, an ardent supporter of the stimulus effort, stressed that he thinks that the indirect benefit from the first trickle of stimulus money is much greater than the number of "direct" jobs saved or created.

O'Malley said economic models commissioned by his office that also take into account "indirect" jobs and those brought about by road construction, as well as additional stimulus funding for schools and health care, show that Maryland has created or retained the equivalent of 14,082 jobs in the last eight months.

The state's overall share of the economic stimulus package is about $4.2 billion. Between February and Sept. 30, it received just over $2 billion, or nearly half of the funds. In that time, it spent roughly $229.2 million.

In making the announcement -- and raising the possibility of intangible benefits and job retentions -- O'Malley stepped out in front of the rollout Friday by the White House of the first national quarterly jobs report, detailing the effects of stimulus spending on employment. O'Malley has been invited to appear alongside Vice President Biden when the numbers are released.

"I cannot emphasize enough just what an importantly decisive turning point was exercised seven, eight months ago when [President Obama] pushed these recovery dollars through," O'Malley said Thursday at a news conference at a Baltimore asphalt company that the state counts as having retained 128 jobs that might have disappeared without $45 million in stimulus contracts.

"We can all debate about how quickly it is happening, how much more needs to be done," O'Malley said, "but the fact of the matter is our economy is doing much better than it was eight months ago, and it is going to be doing much better eight months from now."

O'Malley noted the positive economic news Thursday that the national gross domestic product rose at a 3.5 percent annual rate. Michael Enright, an O'Malley senior adviser heading stimulus efforts, also stressed that, like other states, Maryland has yet to see the biggest wave of stimulus spending.

"The big numbers are still coming," Enright said. "Next quarter is when you are going to see a lot more job creation, dollars out the door."

For all of the O'Malley administration's optimism, either of the two figures it put forward Thursday amounted to a fraction of the 32,000 jobs the state has shed since passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in February.

Among so-called direct jobs, which are those counted under federal guidelines set by the Obama administration and in statutes governing accounting provisions of the recovery bill, Maryland counts about 1,809 jobs in education.

Those are mostly teachers and other school staffers who the administration says would have been laid off by local districts had the state not been able to use nearly $161 million to fully fund education. The state says it has budget estimates from last spring from schools showing that they could not have afforded to keep the employees without the stimulus money.

Similarly, another 700 direct jobs are state employees who Enright said would have otherwise been let go to close this year's budget gap.

Beth Blauer, Maryland's director of StateStat, which tracks administration goals, said the Obama administration simplified direct job calculations during the reporting period because trying to delineate saved from created jobs "became extremely confusing because the definition of a saved job was sort of a moving target."

Nearly 800 of the jobs are a little easier to document because they are in construction. And like those at the asphalt company, P. Flanigan and Sons, the O'Malley administration says it can prove with payroll records that the employees have remained on the job.

Included in the larger 14,082 figure preferred by O'Malley are jobs more difficult to pin down. The state counts 5,629 jobs in health care as having been "induced" at hospitals, billing departments and elsewhere by increased federal matching of Medicaid spending. The theoretical job holders manage the state's surge of about 100,000 unemployed residents onto Medicaid rolls in the past year.

Induced jobs also include "the construction worker purchasing a car, or going to a restaurant, resulting in those companies increasing employment due to sustained or increased business," according to a news release Thursday from the governor's office.

States must continue reporting jobs figures quarterly. The next reports are due in January.

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