In May, I started a tour of Carroll County businesses and farms. As I've met with small business owners and employees, they've been telling me how Maryland's business climate is affecting them.
It's been very insightful to hear their thoughts and ideas for improving our local and state economy.
Two issues in particular continue to come up over and over — Maryland's high business tax rates and high unemployment insurance rates. With our economy stagnant, the time is now for our state to get serious about improving its business climate.
Recently, Gov. Martin O'Malley traveled to Asia to recruit foreign investments to our state.
That's not a bad thing, but what are we doing to improve things for businesses that are already here? They're struggling to stay afloat and create jobs. In addition, Maryland's economy is too reliant on federal government jobs and contracts — which are likely to be reduced in the coming years.
As one business owner on the tour recounted several problems he was facing, I recalled that during the last session, there was almost no discussion about the plight of private sector businesses and their employees.
Instead, the General Assembly passed a $100 million government fund to distribute to "high risk venture capital firms" in the hopes of picking a winner and seeing a return.
From watching things closely in my first year, I've observed that Gov. O'Malley and many of his allies in the General Assembly are constantly looking for the quick economic fix — the newest high-tech wave that will bring acclaim and fiscal salvation to our state.
While it's good to be forward thinking, we should not ignore the needs of the industries and businesses that are already operating here, creating jobs, and contributing to Maryland's tax base.
Instead of spending $100 million in taxpayer dollars to help venture capitalists, why not simply reduce the state's corporate tax rate by 1 percentage point? Doing that would pump $100 million back into the economy, and I think we can find $100 million in reductions to our state's $34 billion budget.
A reduction like that would be a welcome relief for our job creators and would help in efforts to bring businesses to our state.
I'm considering legislation to do just that, and looking for ways to help businesses struggling with unemployment insurance costs as well. By addressing these two issues, we can go a long way toward making our state a destination for entrepreneurs and job creators rather than an exit.
As always, I would love to hear from anyone who has questions, ideas, or concerns.
The author represents District 5A in the Maryland House of Delegates