Unemployment insurance plan would hurt businesses

Stabilizing Maryland's unemployment system is crucial to the state's economy and business community. The Maryland Chamber of Commerce appreciates the O'Malley administration's focus on this important issue. While the administration's proposal has some merit, the Maryland Chamber disagrees with The Sun's recent editorial ("Expanding benefits is worth the price," Dec. 21).

Deferring more than $80 million in unemployment insurance tax increases and expanding benefits to access $126.8 million from the federal government sounds appealing. But in the long run, this proposal would weaken the current system, socialize costs and ultimately ensure that Maryland employers pay higher, more inequitable rates for a longer period of time.

The administration's proposal to develop payment plan agreements with employers makes a lot of sense. Because of how rates are calculated, employers pay the majority of taxes in the first quarter. This plan will allow them to spread their payments over time, while still collecting funds needed to replenish the trust fund faster. The Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation can do this without legislation.

The proposed reduction of the monthly interest rate from 1.5 percent to 1 percent - a change in the annualized rate from 18 percent to 12 percent - is also a step in the right direction. However, the Maryland Chamber encourages the state to drop the rate to 0.5 percent - a more reasonable annualized rate of only 6 percent.

A short-term fix that adds permanent, long-term costs is not the solution that we need. There are a lot of moving parts to this debate. We should proceed with caution, keeping the long-term consequences of our actions in mind. Creating and retaining jobs will help us resolve this problem. We are committed to working with the governor and General Assembly to ensure that happens.

Kathy Snyder, AnnapolisThe writer is president and chief executive officer of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce.

Dixon should stay

In my over 14 years serving on the Baltimore City Council, this is the first time I have availed myself of the opportunity to respond to a Sun editorial ("Dixon should step aside," Dec. 13). I feel very strongly that the events of the last week show that the mayor has her talented team at all levels of government firmly in control. It turns out that the mayor's "staying focused" message is more than just a paper statement.

On Friday, The Sun reported that Baltimore public works crews replaced an eight-foot section of a large water main less than 24 hours after a major break flooded a section of Argonne Drive that bordered my district. Meanwhile, city Housing Department staff provided residents affected by a nearby gas main rupture with heaters and blankets. All services were restored by Monday. I was at the scene several times during this emergency and was impressed with the effort of our city employees.

And then on Sunday, less than 12 hours after a major snow storm dumped 18 or more inches of snow on Baltimore streets, all major roads were cleared and city crews were well into plowing secondary streets.

These two events are a reminder of the importance of good management. Along with the violent crime rate falling, this councilman feels secure with Mayor Dixon in City Hall. She is a great mayor who should remain in office until all legal options have been exhausted.

Robert W. Curran, BaltimoreThe writer is a city councilman representing the 3rd District.

GOP improved health bill

There's several things wrong with Jack Kinstlinger's letter "GOP digs its political grave" (Readers respond, Dec. 22).

I'm sure it's convenient for Mr. Kinstlinger to assume that a bill that is now wildly unpopular will one day be wildly popular. That's within his rights.

Rewriting history, however, is not. In fact, the 1935 Social Security bill was supported by the vast majority of Republicans in both the House and the Senate, which is a far cry from the unanimous Republican opposition to the current bill.

I would also point out that the current bill has been drastically downsized from the original proposal, and it now appears that neither the public option nor federally financed abortions will make their way into the final bill.

Lastly, Republicans have supported health care reform all along and printed an 800-plus page first-step solution to the problem. The Republican plan dealt primarily with the component Americans care most about - bringing down the cost of health care. This is a far cry from the Democrats' plan, which many suspect will increase the cost of health care, raise taxes, infuse the government into personal decisions and, like Social Security, eventually go bankrupt. All that, and it was passed on the backs of special favors and kickbacks to dissenting Democrats. One may ask the question: Why, if this program is so good, did Sen. Harry Reid have to all but exempt Louisiana and Nebraska from the mandates in order to get their senators in line? If it's good enough for the rest of us, why not Nebraska?

I guess we'll find out in the 2010 elections if Mr. Kinstlinger's prophecy of American acceptance is correct or not. Regardless, this bill is a far cry from the disaster House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Reid first tried to roll out, and for that we have the Republican Party and the American people to thank.

Michael P. DeCicco, Severn

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