Bill would form commission to deal with declining military budgets -- Gazette.Net


Maryland would form a commission to develop strategies to deal with declining federal military budgets, under a bill heard on Feb. 18 in Annapolis.

The proposal — filed by Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Dist.18) of Kensington and co-sponsored by 15 other senators — would require the commission to conduct at least three public hearings and report recommendations to the governor and the General Assembly by June 1, 2015.

The commission would specifically focus on strategies noted as effective by the Office of Economic Adjustment of the U.S. Department of Defense, which include boosting clean-energy industries.

In a hearing on before the Senate Finance Committee, representatives from the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, unions, Progressive Maryland, NAACP and others supported the legislation.

Jean Athey — steering committee chair for a coalition of political, religious, labor and other groups called Fund Our Communities — noted that Maryland is particularly dependent on military spending, which will continue to decline.

“As the wars abroad wind down and defense downsizing begins in earnest, we want to ensure that Maryland workers and communities are protected,” she said. “To do that, the state of Maryland needs to begin planning now.”

Bob Stewart, executive director of UFCW Local 1994, MCGEO, which represents employees in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, said Maryland now ranks as the fourth highest state in Pentagon spending.

“Our state receives more than $36 billion annually from military spending,” he said. “We may have put more of our proverbial eggs into this one basket than is wise. ... Our work force is in a vulnerable position.”

The state Department of Legislative Services can staff the commission with its budgeted resources, according to a legislative analysis.

A companion bill filed in the House of Delegates is slated for a hearing Wednesday before the House Economic Matters Committee.