Owings to reveal future with Jan. 6 announcement
Former state delegate, veterans secretary likely will make run for governor
Former delegate George W. Owings III is expected to formally enter the race for governor at a Jan. 6 news conference in Prince Frederick.
Owings, a Democrat who represented Calvert County at the State House for 16 years and served as majority whip for 10 years before accepting an appointment in 2004 as veterans affairs secretary under former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., declined to elaborate on the announcement, saying only that it regards his political future.
However, Owings, 64, of Chesapeake Beach, a Vietnam veteran and motorcycle aficionado, has openly criticized Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) for his handling of the state budget deficit and has been mulling entering the race for months. During that time, he has spoken to groups across the state and taken stock of voters' attitudes.
"I'm hearing desperation. I'm hearing fear. I'm hearing grave concern over what's going on," he said.
Although the latest state revenue projections have improved, giving state officials reason for hope, Owings said that "the bleeding continues unabated."
Specifically, Owings blamed O'Malley for not doing enough to support the business community and to promote job creation. He said the governor's recent proposals for a $3,000 tax credit to businesses that hire unemployed workers and a small business loan program fail to compensate for a more than 300 percent increase in the cost of unemployment insurance that businesses will now pay to help replenish a depleted trust fund.
"That's like handing someone a shovel and asking them to dig their own grave," Owings said.
However, O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese said the governor last week announced an $83 million package that will provide immediate rate relief for Maryland employers and a proposal to modify the state's unemployment insurance laws that would provide access to an additional $126.8 million in federal aid to reinforce the trust fund.
He noted O'Malley has been entirely focused on putting stimulus dollars into action and creating jobs, pointing to the recent 50-year lease agreement at the Seagirt Marine Terminal in Baltimore expected to create as many as 5,700 jobs and yield up to $1.8 billion in total investment as one example.
"Rhetoric aside, I think the people of Maryland understand that Governor O'Malley is focused on getting Maryland through this national recession, creating jobs and helping families that have been hardest hit," Abbruzzese said.