Reporters notebook -- Gazette.Net


Shutdown is over; now show us the money

With the federal government shutdown fresh in many people’s memory, it’s clear a lot of businesses still want to get in on the federal funding action.

More than 200 business reps got inside access to key people with government agencies to learn how to win those lucrative contracts Tuesday during the annual U.S. General Services Administration Procurement Forum in Silver Spring.

Among the officials the business reps could meet was William Sisk, deputy commissioner of the GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service.

The forum was hosted by the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce and Montgomery County Department of Economic Development.

In 2010, federal spending in Montgomery County totaled more than $20 billion, with almost half of that procurement spending, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett said. That $9 billion in procurement spending was up from $7.8 billion in 2006.

The shutdown cost the economy more than $20 billion and hundreds of thousands of jobs, according to a report released Thursday by Democratic senators, including Ben Cardin of Maryland.

— Kevin James Shay

Don’t listen in

Tom Ridge, the nation’s first Homeland Security secretary, made it clear he doesn’t care too much for the scandal involving the Maryland-based National Security Administration concerning monitoring of private citizens’ phone and email records.

During the second annual induction ceremony of honorees into the Montgomery County Business Hall of Fame this week, Ridge decried the lack of trust between the public and private sectors and called for stronger cyber standards. “The government shouldn’t be reading my email and listening to private citizens’ calls,” he said.

More than 250 people attended the event, which recognized Sol Graham, chairman of Quality Biological; John S. Hendricks, executive chairman of Discovery Communications; Carmen Ortiz Larsen, CEO of Aquas Inc.; Ray Schoenke, founder of Schoenke & Associates; and James A. Soltesz, CEO of Soltesz Inc.

Accounting and consulting firm Grossberg Co. LLP and Monument Bank co-founded the program, which raises money for student scholarships.

— Kevin James Shay

State pension system short

A study by the Maryland Public Policy Institute found the state’s pension system faces a long-term shortfall of more than $19 billion, a 72 percent increase in its liabilities since 2008. The long-term shortfall for state retiree health care is estimated to be $9.4 billion.

The study by the nonpartisan state policy research organization shows acute fiscal challenges facing pension funds of state and local governments in Maryland.

According to the report, Maryland’s pension fund assets only cover 63.47 percent of the fund’s obligations, well below the recommended level of 80 percent.

As to how Maryland’s pension system ended up facing such a shortfall, the report cites: an unwillingness by state policymakers to consistently allocate required funding each year, unrealistic assumptions of investment returns, increases in benefits that did not accompany an increase in contributions, and an overreliance on alternative, higher-risk investments.

— Kate S. Alexander