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Maryland committee presses for debt ceiling deal

Maryland lawmakers urged their federal counterparts Thursday to raise the country’s debt limit without hashing out a deal to reduce the long-term debt and deficit.

Del. Tom Hucker and Sen. Jennie M. Forehand, both Montgomery County Democrats and co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Federal Relations, pressed the state’s congressional delegation to “do the right thing for Maryland and vote to raise the debt ceiling without preconditions.”

A U.S. default on its debt and long-term cost cutting would both hurt Maryland more than most other states, fiscal analysts say. Moody’s Investor Service is reviewing the credit rating of Maryland and four other states heavily dependent on government spending. And the legislature’s top fiscal analyst, Warren Deschenaux, told senators on Tuesday they should increase the state’s cash cushion to ease painful federal spending retrenchment or default.

The statement from Hucker and Forehand warns the “political brinkmanship” threatens Marylanders and the “millions of dollars in critical federal support” for schools, roads, bridges, mass transit (Montgomery and the Baltimore region are both looking for big federal bucks for light rail lines) and the Chesapeake Bay.

“Like every state, if the federal government defaults on its obligations, our senior citizens may not receive their Social Security checks, our medical providers may not receive their Medicare and Medicaid payments, and our military personnel may not receive the checks they need to support themselves and their families,” wrote Forehand.

Hucker said members of both political parties have worked to preserve the state’s triple-A bond rating, and the debt debate could undermine those efforts.

“Only six other states maintain an equivalent rating,” he said. “Failure to raise the debt ceiling would undermine decades of fiscal discipline and unjustly punish all Marylanders.”

If you’re wondering how long we have until we bump our collective heads on the debt ceiling, check out the countdown on the homepage of the Washington Post.

(As I write this, the clock is just above a big picture of former Redskins defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth. And as a long-time ‘Skins fan and tax-paying U.S. citizen, I’m really not sure which is more aggravating — Haynesworth’s time with my team or the impending doom by debt ceiling.)