State House

The bills with bipartisan support address issues including veterans' scholarships, identity theft from children, promotion of social studies in the public schools, helping high-tech workers with the cost of security clearances and protecting family farms from estate taxes. (Barbara Haddock Taylor / The Baltimore Sun / December 22, 2011)

Republicans competing for their party’s nomination faced each other Thursday night in the first formal debate in the race to succeed Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Four candidates discussed the state’s economy, its budget, education, decriminalizing marijuana and the state’s storm water fees in an hour-long debate organized by WBFF Fox 45, the Baltimore affiliate.

Harford County Executive David Craig, Del. Ron George, Charles Lollar and Brian Vaeth largely agreed on most issues  - lowering the state’s taxes, paring back the size of government and rolling back Common Core, a new curriculum standard that has been the source of controversy in Maryland.

Lollar, a businessman from Charles County, proposed eliminating the income tax entirely.  Craig told voters he would bring to the state the same policies he used in Harford County.  George proposed a 10 percent cut to the income tax. Vaeth suggested legalizing marijuana to offset property taxes.

All the candidates backed drilling for natural gas in Maryland, a process known as fracking, except for Vaeth. All four agreed the state’s storm water fee,  frequently derided by critics as the “rain tax,” should be repealed.

The debate moderator said Larry Hogan, former state cabinet secretary who plans to announce his campaign for governor next week, declined repeated invitations to participate.