Morning Brief: Governors Face Hard Choices

Hampered by projected shortfalls that top $1 billion in both states, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine are being forced to retool their agendas. As staff writers Tim Craig and John Wagner report today: "The two begin their General Assembly sessions today with their spending priorities in tatters."

The election of Kaine in 2005 and O'Malley's the next year ushered in what was supposed to be a progressive era in the Washington region, one in which residents would shoulder more taxes to help ease congestion and improve the quality of life.

O'Malley and Kaine both entered office with ambitious goals to boost spending on public education, transportation, the environment and health care.

But the collapse of the housing market and the national recession could delay or derails some of those ambitions.

"It can be enormously frustrating because you can't blame anybody," said former Virginia governor L. Douglas Wilder, another Democrat, who was forced to scrap many of his spending priorities when a recession hit in the early 1990s. "But it can be a wake-up call, and it does present opportunities to do things in a different way."

In other news, the Washington-based American Institute of Architects is pushing its own stimulus plan, detailing recommendations for President-elect Barack Obama's economic recovery plan. The institute is forecasting an 11 percent decline in the design and construction sectors this year.

To stimulate the building and design industry, the group is pushing spending on schools, green building, historic preservation projects, transit projects and tax relief for businesses.

By Alejandro Lazo  |  January 14, 2009; 7:24 AM ET  | Category:  Economy Watch , Morning Brief
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