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Marylanders Keep Close Eye On Debt Negotiations

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Derek Valcourt began working at WJZ in September 2002. His first major...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — People in Maryland are keeping a close eye on what’s happening in Washington.

Derek Valcourt shows the impact the debt crisis will have on the state.

Maryland has a lot to lose in this deficit debate.  As a stalemate in Washington over the debt ceiling and spending cuts reaches critical levels, Marylanders of all walks are getting nervous.

“We can settle all this other policy stuff later, but don’t hold the economy, don’t hold the country hostage,” said Cindy Barocca.

Marylanders on fixed incomes are especially worried.

“If Medicare costs and benefits go down and costs go up for me, I can’t meet my basic living expenses,” said Rosemary Peternill.

Also on edge are Marylanders who work for the government.  But economists say slashes to federal spending under debate could mean big trouble for all of Maryland.

“One could argue that Maryland is more vulnerable to federal government downsizing that any state in the country,” said Anirban Basu, economist.

That’s because in 2009 alone, Maryland benefitted from $52.4 billion in federal procurements, wages and grants.  There are 250,000 federal jobs located in Maryland.  In all, federal agencies employ nine percent of Maryland’s workforce, even more than nearby Virginia.  That doesn’t even include the tens of thousands of Maryland contractors working with the federal government.

Basu says if Congress makes cuts to entitlement programs, it would spread the pain evenly throughout the country.

“If instead they cut agency employment, cut defense procurement and other forms of procurement, cut NIH grants, including the Johns Hopkins and other institutions throughout the state, that would disproportionately fall about Marylanders and that’s probably the greatest fear,” Basu said.

Either way, he predicts nationwide economic trouble if Congress doesn’t raise the debt ceiling by next week.

“It’s really unfair for the federal policymakers, be they Republican or Democrat, to put the American people in such jeopardy,” Basu said.

Economists say Maryland would need to attract significant private sector investment to offset the losses associated with federal government downsizing.

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