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Franchot speaks to Catonsville business leaders

Franchot talks to Catonsville business leaders at economic forum

The day after being sworn into his third term as Maryland's comptroller, Peter Franchot spoke to a group of Catonsville business leaders about initiatives to move the state's economy forward.

"There are some very meaningful, important economic reforms that need to be implemented immediately," said Franchot, who promised to work in cooperation with Gov. Larry Hogan, an Anne Arundel County Republican to improve the state's economy.

The two politicians have appeared publicly together since Hogan was elected in November, including shopping locally together at different spots across the state to encourage local spending.

"I plan to win a lot of 2 to 1 votes over the next four years," the Democrat said on Jan. 27 to the group of 30 people, who met as part of the Southwest Baltimore Economic Forum, formed in 2013 by Catonsville real estate broker George Brookhart.

Franchot, who often disagreed with former Gov. Martin O'Malley on the Board of Public Works, said he hopes to work cooperatively with the new governor.

He and Hogan support a multi-year moratorium on new taxes and fees, Franchot said.

"We need a [multi-year] moratorium that we can truly abide by for small businesses and families out there," Franchot said.

Franchot listed other priorities as procurement reform and a financial literacy requirement for students.

"A major priority for me is procurement reform," he said.

For example, many times state bids for contracts are answered by a single bidder, who is also an incumbent, which means the state doesn't get competitive bids, Franchot explained.

"We're going to clean up the procurement process without any cost to the taxpayers and without any need for statutory changes," Franchot said.

He also floated the idea of mandating a financial literacy course for students in the state.

That idea received the support of Sue Medicus, the owner of two Liberty Tax Service stores in Catonsville and Arbutus, who attended the forum.

"I think it's necessary," said Medicus, who teaches accounting and auditing classes at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. "We see it with our clients — they don't pay attention to their finances."

First District Councilman Tom Quirk, who represents Catonsville and Arbutus, said he would also support such a measure.

"I'm a strong believer in financial literacy. It should be part of the core curriculum in our schools," said Quirk, who owns a financial planning company in Catonsville.

Franchot told the group that his focus will be improving the economy for Marylanders and small businesses.

Maryland's proximity to Washington, D.C., means many residents are employed by federal agencies and impacted by the federal government shutdown of 2013, Franchot explained.

"It's caused us significant stalling of the economy. For example, last year we had zero percent [gross domestic product] GDP growth," Franchot said to the group in a banquet hall at the Overhills Mansion in Catonsville. "In Maryland, that is just unheard of."

Brookhart, who has owned three businesses, said that as a small business owner he's looking for friendlier business regulations in the state.

"That whole philosophy that they're going to become more business friendly is what I'm looking for," Brookhart said. "We tend to be overregulated."

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