Delegates from Washington County talked to the folks in Annapolis – and the big takeaway is the reset from the COVID money drying up

January 25 – On Tuesday, a number of folks from Washington County, MD, headed to the state capital to meet with key legislative people so their voices could be heard. 

The group spoke with Adrienne Jones, speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates, as well as the Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson.  

Paul Frey, president of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce said, “It was a very good day. We were really pressing hard, mainly on I-81, to get that money back into the budget and get that project started. Every single person we talked to said, we’re resetting things. This is normal now because all the money that was coming in with the ARPA money and the federal money from COVID, that’s gone. So we’re back to normal now where there’s not a lot of money in the budget and we have to make some tough decisions. So the good news is, everyone we talked to about I-81, they said we’re going to get it done. They didn’t say when. They’ve got to figure out some transportation money.”

The day ended with a reception at the Governor Calvert House. 

Frey said, “We had over 60 of the delegates come in from the different parts of the state. We had a fair amount of Senators come in to visit with us and just to showcase Washington County, our projects, and what we’re trying to accomplish. We showed them what we’ve done with the investment they’ve made in Washington County over the years.”

This is the 19th year that delegates have been going from Washington County. 

Frey said, “This year in particular, they said hey, we know what you’re doing. We know about the stadium. We know about the revitalization of downtown. They recognize Washington County and the good work we’re doing and what made it really good this year is we didn’t hear yes, but we didn’t hear a lot of no’s. They were cordial. They recognized us and so what makes this a really good year is we need to stand above the crowd with our needs and our investments. We haven’t gotten in these 19 years the same day the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate talk before us, so that was a really good get. Plus, I met the governor Tuesday evening. I was downtown with some other delegates, he came in and he just oozes charisma. Very friendly. And when I said I’m from Washington County, he said, yes, I know I missed the reception. I said we dropped off the gift for you, he said I got it. I said Governor , I have two words for you: I-81. He said we’re going to get it done. Now again, he didn’t say when but he said we’re going to get it done. So that really capped off a great day to talk with the governor for a few minutes and just to bend his ear.”

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM pointed out, “It is a huge problem. It’s a problem everywhere in this country. It was this candy infusion of cash that came along with COVID. Why does it seem like everybody just thought that party was never going to end? I mean they’re recognizing it now, we don’t have that money, but so many places and Maryland I know isn’t any different than other places I’m seeing where they’re still trying to keep funding these things that they started up and really juiced during COVID. The money just can’t keep flowing that way, no matter how hard anybody wishes it so. Why were our lawmakers so irresponsible to almost use that money in a way that begged for these problems as they’ve come up?” 

Frey said, “I think it’s the human condition. We have the money, let’s invest it, let’s spend it but once you start programs with some of this money that doesn’t stay around, it’s hard to say no again. Once you start a program and make commitments and now you have to tell your constituents, you know what? We can’t do it again. No one wants to say now. I think it’s just human nature unfortunately and planning ahead.”