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Chamber report urges tax cuts, curbs on unions Group also recommends easing environment laws


The Howard County Chamber of Commerce urged local and state legislators yesterday to lower taxes, slacken environmental protection standards and curb the influence of unions.

The recommendations were among those included in a chamber "white paper" for legislative action presented at chamber headquarters in Columbia. Its highlights:

* Revise a state law requiring counties to spend at least as much on classroom instruction in the coming year as in the present one. At times, schools have a "one-time-only extraordinary expense" that can skew the formula, the chamber said.

* Increase state aid to community colleges.

* Raise the state property tax exemption on research and development equipment from 50 percent to 75 percent.

* Charge county residents a trash collection fee based on the amount of trash they generate and institute and enforce strong sanctions against cheaters. Such a fee is under consideration by the county.

* Support a one-time-only waiver of the county road funding formula that requires the county to put $2 into a roads fund for every $1 it collects in excise tax from developers.

* To be competitive with other jurisdictions, the state needs a "right to work" law that would allow employees at a unionized company not to join the union, chamber officials also said. Such a law is important when luring manufacturing companies, they ++ said.

* Reduce the amount employers spend on unemployment insurance, now $40 per employee.

* Pass state legislation that would stop environment officials from developing regulations to carry out federal policies before those policies are mandated.

* Modify the federal Clean Air Act that requires employees at large companies to car-pool or find other ways of getting to work.

* Lower Maryland's state income taxes, which the chamber said put the state "at a competitive disadvantage with surrounding states." Also, remove the link between local income taxes and state income taxes, a tie that makes Maryland appear to have the nation's fourth-highest personal income tax ranking.

The chamber did not take positions on most local bills the county's state delegation is considering. Republican state Sen. Christopher J. McCabe of Ellicott City wants a bill that would make it a crime for anyone under 18 to get tattoos in Howard and Montgomery counties. Democratic Del. Frank S. Turner of Columbia wants weekday curfews of 11 p.m. and weekend curfews of midnight for youths under 17.

The chamber did endorse a legislative proposal by County Executive Charles I. Ecker. Mr. Ecker wants to add one-eighth to one-fourth of a percent to the interest charged to businesses seeking industrial revenue bonds, which offer a better rate than commercial loans. The county surcharge would be put into a revolving loan fund for economic development.

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