There are now only 12 days left for Congress to reach an agreement to avert the so-called "fiscal cliff," yet Republicans are still insisting on a plan that will harm our economy and risks our ability to compete in the 21st century.
Speaker Boehner's latest gambit is a 'Plan B' that would continue massive tax cuts for the wealthy while eliminating critical investments in research and development. This plan would harm America's ability to compete and create jobs while threatening the important achievements that our private sector employers have made to help us recover from the Great Recession.
Marylanders have made tremendous progress during this past year. We are recovering the jobs lost during the Bush recession at the 7th fastest rate in the nation and have driven our unemployment rate down to 6.7 percent -- that's 15 percent lower than the national average. All of this has been possible because of the strength of Maryland's private sector. In fact, over the past 12 months, our businesses created 35,500 new jobs.
We know that we need every police officer, firefighter and teacher we have, but averting this looming fiscal disaster is also about protecting jobs in our private sector -- particularly in the 21st century fields of bio and life sciences, aerospace, clean tech and green tech. These innovation sectors are critical to Maryland's growing economy -- in fact, nearly half of all new jobs created in Maryland this past year came from those fields tied to our core innovation sectors. Taken together, these sectors have put more than 16,500 more Marylanders to work in the last 12 months alone.
That progress has been possible because Marylanders came together, even in some difficult economic times, and made smart investments in 21st century jobs through programs like our Biotechnology Tax Credit and the Research & Development Tax Credit, both of which have helped hundreds of innovative Maryland businesses grow, thrive and generate new jobs. These investments create the very same jobs that our children are depending on to be winners in a highly competitive, global economy.
But all of the progress that Marylanders have made is at risk unless leaders in Congress can come together and find common ground. Right now, President Obama and Speaker Boehner are trying to reach a deal to avert the fiscal cliff, but Republicans continue to put forward unbalanced plans that protect the wealthy while threatening middle class families.
Marylanders have led the nation in adopting a balanced approach to revenues and investments because we know that in order to maintain and build the #1 public schools in the nation, we had to ask everyone to pay their fair share. We need Congress to do the same.
Putting middle class families in jeopardy in order to protect the wealthiest among us isn't consistent with the values and priorities that most Americans share. And underinvesting in the most innovative and growing piece of our economy -- the businesses that are enabling us to compete in a global economy -- isn't the right direction for Maryland, or for America.
We need this Congress to get to work today to pass the balanced plan that President Obama successfully put forward to the American people. It's a plan that reduces our federal deficit; protects the jobs of police, firefighters, and teachers; and makes the strategic investments that will help our private sector create more future lab technicians, engineers and computer programmers.
President Obama is leading on this issue. I urge leaders in Congress to work with him and reach a deal.