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O’Malley seeks fed. delegation help on jobs, wind power goals

Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) asked the state’s congressional delegation Monday to advocate for funds to create jobs and for an offshore wind project.

“There is no progress without jobs,” O’Malley told the lawmakers Monday afternoon during a presentation of his 2012 congressional priorities.

During fiscal 2011, more than 205,000 Marylanders sought services at one of the state’s 35 One Stop Employment Centers. About 65,000 workers got jobs through the centers, according to O’Malley’s office.

President Barack Obama (D) has requested $2.8 billion for the program in fiscal 2013, with $35 million to be directed to Maryland.

Still, Maryland created 30,000 new jobs in 2011, and the state’s unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in three years, O’Malley told the delegation.

Job recovery in the state has outpaced Virginia and the national average. In Maryland, 45.1 percent of jobs lost in the Great Recession have been recovered, compared with 30.3 percent nationally, O’Malley said.

The governor also asked the congressional delegation for support of his offshore wind initiative. He is sponsoring a bill in the General Assembly to provide an incentive for the development of a 310-megawatt installation off the coast of Ocean City.

O’Malley said he wants the congressional delegation to support an extension of a federal investment tax credit for offshore wind power generation that is set to expire at the end of 2012. The credit, currently sponsored by U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), would be available for the first 3,000 megawatts of offshore wind energy creation and would not have a deadline.

About 80,000 acres roughly 12 nautical miles from Ocean City has been designated for leasing.

Congressman Christopher Van Hollen Jr. (D-Md., 8th) said the credit is a top priority. If leases are issued this year and legislation is approved adding offshore wind credits to the renewable energy portfolio Maryland requires of utilities, wind farms could begin operating off Maryland’s coast in 2017, according to the O’Malley administration.

The offshore wind initiative could generate 1,200 jobs during five years of construction and 250 operating and maintenance jobs, the administration said.

Other priorities discussed during the meeting included cybersecurity preparedness, education funding, Chesapeake Bay cleanup, expansion of health care programs and curbing crime.

Absent from the meeting were U.S. Reps. Andy Harris (R-Md., 1st), Donna Edwards (D-Md., 4th), Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md., 5th) and Roscoe G. Bartlett (R-Md., 6th).

Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D) said the governor’s list of priorities was ambitious, but realistic. Cardin said the governor’s request for transit funding, which would include money for the Red Line, Purple Line and Corridor Cities Transitway, is one proposal that is likely to go through this year.

“Thank you for really concentrating on what we can get done in this Congress,” Cardin said. “We know this is going to be a very challenging year for many reasons, not just because it’s an election year for the presidency, it’s also a Congress that’s been divided.”