Charles Lollar, who is running for the Republican nomination for governor, says he wants to audit the state's tax laws and force state agency heads to "justify every penny they intend to spend."
The Charles County businessman told about a dozen attendees at a Baltimore Sun Newsmaker Forum on Tuesday evening that he would phase out Maryland's income tax over five years to make the state friendlier to taxpayers and businesses.
Lollar, who is from Washington state, said he got interested in Maryland politics when he was working as a senior executive for a Prince George's County business and realized a competitor in Richmond, Va., was turning higher profits.
Perplexed, Lollar called the man and asked to compare the companies' numbers.
"We went down our [profits and losses], line by line," he said, and found that the two companies were spending and bringing in about the same amounts in every category.
"I was paying $32,000 in property taxes more than he was every cycle," Lollar said. "If that condition doesn't change, there's no way I could compete with him."
The Emory University graduate said his nearly two decades in business and his experience as an officer in the Marine Corps have prepared him for the governor's office.
He sought to cast himself as a candidate with a distaste for partisanship and repeatedly stressed his commitment to the people of the state. He said he had visited Morgan State University five times during the campaign and attended several forums that his opponents had not.
"Getting out of your comfort zone in Annapolis" and having a closeness with the citizenry, Lollar said, is crucial to solving many of the state's issues.
He used a story about solving a problem in a clothing factory simply by asking the worker who operated the machine to illustrate how he would deal with environmental regulation.
"I'm not going to let the industry be regulated by non-industry members," he said. Overregulated fishermen care about the Chesapeake Bay, he said, and their experience working there for generations means they know its challenges better than lawmakers.
"I've seen lifelong watermen who have had to give it up because fees have tripled in this administration," he said.
Lollar said he learned his conservative values from his parents: His father never allowed him to sleep past 7 a.m., and taught them the value of money and hard work, he said.
He doesn't support the legalization of marijuana but said he hadn't researched the state's new decriminalization law enough to take a position on it.
He said fixing the state's drug and education problems start with closer families.
He believes marriage is only the union of a man and a woman, but said he would not involve himself in the issue. Maryland voters have upheld same-sex marriage in the state.
"We need to get government out of the marriage business completely," he said, referring to tax credits for married couples. "People don't care until you start talking about benefits."
Lollar said he would not immediately repeal state legislation on abortion rights, which he opposes, but as governor would ensure "taxpayers' money does not go to affording abortions."
He said the central issues facing the state are economic.
Lollar called for a "Taxpayers' Bill of Rights" that would require greater accountability for legislators and government agencies.
"If they spend more than your cost of living has increased," he said, "they're robbing you."