Each of the Republicans offered his own tax formula. George called for a gradual rollback of the corporate tax to 5.75 percent and the top income tax rate to 5 percent. Lollar wants 5 percent applied across the board — corporate, income and sales tax.
Maryland's top corporate income tax rate is now 8.25 percent, and the sales tax is 6 percent.
Craig promised simply to cut "all of them," including the corporate tax and personal income tax. He repeated a promise to repeal the stormwater remediation fee derided by conservatives as a "rain tax."
None of the candidates who proposed tax cuts offered specific proposals on how to make up for the likely revenue reductions, at least in the near term.
Craig said the state would "receive more taxes in the long run if we would lower them."
Lollar said he could achieve the tax cuts he proposes by lowering the rates gradually, without drastic cuts in state spending.
The Republican candidates said Maryland should move forward with hydraulic fracturing, saying the method of injecting water and chemicals under pressure to extract natural gas from rock layers has been proved safe in other states. The audience appeared sympathetic to that view.
The state has put the controversial method, known as "fracking," on hold in Western Maryland, where some believe it could be the foundation of a lucrative industry, in order to study such reported effects as contamination of water supplies.
"We've been studying this thing to death," Lollar said. "It's time to open up the door."
Mizeur, among the leading skeptics of fracking in the General Assembly, warned that Maryland could put industries such as tourism at risk if it permits fracking without ensuring that it's safe.
"I don't think that anybody here is saying, 'Let's drill first and not worry about our water supply,'" she said.
Mike Galiazzo, president of the manufacturing institute, said the candidate turnout was heartening after many years of political leaders ignoring the sector because they thought it was dying.
"I see it as, 'We are making manufacturing a campaign issue.' It's as simple as that," he said. "We've never had Maryland manufacturing as a campaign issue, and these guys are saying, 'This is important.'"
The point of the event is not to pick a preferred candidate for governor — the institute does not issue endorsements — but for candidates to suggest ideas to help the sector grow.
"Manufacturing in Maryland deserves a level of attention that we haven't seen before," Galiazzo said. "My intent is, give us some ideas for improving the climate of manufacturing. And fundamentally, it becomes a strategy for us to be promoting."
Baltimore Sun reporter Jamie Smith Hopkins contributed to this article.