Carroll delegation offers insight into 2014 legislative session

Members of the Carroll County Delegation criticized the state's tax policies under Gov. Martin O'Malley Monday while promising to support any efforts to decrease taxes in the upcoming legislative session.

"We are losing wealth in our state because of our tax policies," Del. Susan Krebs said at the annual Carroll County Chamber of Commerce Legislative Breakfast.

Members of the all-Republican delegation spoke to about 75 people at the event held at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor. The 2014 legislative session convenes in Annapolis Wednesday.

Topics of discussion included the possibility of raising the state's minimum wage, the implementation of the state healthcare exchange, and the ever-popular stormwater remediation fee, dubbed the rain tax by its opponents.

Del. Nancy Stocksdale said the discussion on raising the state's minimum wage will be a "hot and heavy" issue this year, adding that it is "high on the list" for O'Malley.

Stocksdale voiced her opposition to raising the minimum wage, citing that it was never meant to be a livable wage and was designed to give less skilled workers an entrance way into the job market.

"I personally feel you should let the market determine the wage," she said.

Krebs described Maryland's implementation of its healthcare exchange program through the Affordable Care Act as a "disaster" and a "huge mess."

Krebs said that of the 700,000 who have shopped on the state's health care exchange website, only 11,000 have bought a healthcare plan, but they're not required to pay until Jan. 15.

"The amount of money that has been spent in Maryland to design and develop a website for 11,000 people that haven't even paid yet is atrocious," she said.

Although members of the delegation acknowledged comments made by leaders of the House and Senate that the stormwater fee would not be repealed during the session, Sen. Joe Getty predicted there will be changes.

"It might not be wholesale elimination," he said.

Getty, who has served in the Senate since 2011, will begin serving as minority whip this legislative session.

Del. Justin Ready said he believes more Democrats in the legislature are "recognizing the need to bring down taxes," but added he is concerned there will be a lot of "environmental populism" in the upcoming session.

Ready said there has been a surge in environmental bills proposed in recent years that add more regulations on business owners and local governments while having little to no environmental benefit.

"We almost have anti-science environmental policies that get introduced," he said.

In response to a question on the county's proposed casino night fundraising bill, Krebs said the delegation "absolutely wants to pass that bill."

The bill, which has been proposed in each of the last six years, would enable charitable organizations to host card game or casino night fundraisers.

"The Speaker of the House [Del. Michael Busch] assures us that this year we will see something come out that will be favorable to what we want," Krebs said, referring to a statewide bill covering gambling requests from jurisdictions across the state.

Senators David Brinkley and Allan Kittleman did not attend the event Monday.

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