Harford County Executive David Craig was the featured speaker at The Sun Newsmaker Forum on March 12, 2014.

Republican Harford County Executive David R. Craig said that if elected governor, he would roll back Maryland's strict gun-control laws and push a sales tax exemption for goods manufactured in the state.

Craig identified at least six taxes he would like to reduce or repeal during an hourlong discussion Wednesday at a Baltimore Sun Newsmaker Forum, starting with his plan to eliminate the state income tax. Levies on estates, inheritances, stormwater runoff, septic systems and products manufactured in Maryland would be targeted for repeal later in his administration, he said in an interview afterward.

"If something is manufactured and sold in Maryland, there should be no sales tax," Craig said, adding that the proposal would pay for itself by promoting jobs in the state. He said Maryland needs to focus on reviving Baltimore's manufacturing industry.

Craig would look to immediately undo sweeping gun laws passed last year that bar the sale of assault-type weapons, limit magazines to 10 rounds and require fingerprints and a license to buy a handgun in Maryland.

"Not just those, there are ones from before that we should look at," Craig said, pointing to long-standing gun laws, including one that requires background checks for private sales that often occur at gun shows.

The two-term county executive, who has held a variety of public offices since he was first elected to the Havre de Grace City Council in 1979 at the age of 29, pointed to his lengthy experience as a public official as a prime reason that Republicans should support him in the June 24 primary election.

"Running for governor, being governor, is not an entry-level position," he said.

Craig, 64, said he has balanced 19 budgets in his career in public office and that experience has taught him he could trim state spending as well. His phased-in plan to eliminate the state's income tax, he said, would call for reducing state spending by 3 percent each year.

"Can you live off 3 percent less than you did yesterday? I think we can," Craig said.

During the forum, the fourth in a series with gubernatorial candidates from both parties, Craig also called the new Common Core education standards "a bribe" offered by President Barack Obama in exchange for federal Race to the Top education grants. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have signed on to teach those curriculum standards.

Controversy arose in Maryland this year over how to implement them along with new testing requirements and teaching evaluations based in part on those test scores. Craig, who spent three decades as a middle-school teacher and later principal, said he thought the state should give local teachers and school districts greater control over curriculum.

He criticized spending to build mass-transit projects such as the Red Line in Baltimore when money from the gas tax could be used first to repair infrastructure.

Craig's opponents for the Republican nomination include Del. Ron George of Anne Arundel County, businessman Charles Lollar of Charles County, and Larry Hogan, a former Ehrlich administration Cabinet secretary who lives in Annapolis.

The GOP nominee will face a challenging election in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-to-1 in registered voters.

Craig offered no specifics on how he would appeal to independent and Democratic voters, but said he's a veteran of 20 campaigns and has a good team and a good plan in place.

"We know it's going to be a difficult race," he said. "It's always a difficult race."

ecox@baltsun.com

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