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Hogan's economic policy resonates with voters

The time for campaign slogans and political rhetoric is over. The time to enact pro-economic growth policies to spark prosperity in Maryland is here.

Much of the gubernatorial debate in Maryland centered on economic growth and the business climate in Maryland. I teach economics at a local community college to students with earnest aspirations and enterprising dreams for high paying jobs. Many students hope to start a business someday, and they recognize the importance of earning credentials such as an associate's degree in the pursuit of their goals. Almost all of my students also work part-time to support their investment in human capital.

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The disgruntlement about their future job prospects is palpable and substantially different from past semesters. Students worry that Maryland doesn't offer them an opportunity to work at a job where they walk away with a large enough portion of the economic pie to make their education efforts worthwhile. We call that opportunity cost in economics. The best antidote for this anguish is economic growth to expand the economic pie. The question today is what will Governor-elect Larry Hogan do to invigorate Maryland's sluggish economy?

One of the first tenets of economics is that incentives matter and that people respond to incentives. Do students in Maryland still have an incentive to work hard and make sacrifices to achieve the American Dream? Will the result of their efforts earn them a decent paying job in a career they enjoy in their beloved home state? More and more of my hard working students are questioning their choice to make an investment in their education. They are anxious and distressed about the current economic malaise in Maryland.

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Maryland voters have echoed my students concerns. Voters sent a strong repudiation of the O'Malley/Brown administration's higher taxes, more fees, excessive government spending (and wasted spending, e.g., the health insurance exchange website roll-out) and the lack of business opportunities by electing Larry Hogan as the next governor. Maryland citizens sifted through the political rhetoric and campaign mudslinging to identify the political leader who best represents their economic point of view.

The mandate is clear. Larry Hogan's job now is to keep businesses in Maryland and bring more business activity to Maryland. Our state competes with every other state for business. Moreover, we compete with countries around the globe. It's time for Maryland to eliminate the barriers to economic growth. Reduce taxes. Reduce fees. Reduce onerous regulatory impediments to business development. We need regulatory efficiency, not needlessly burdensome obstacles to business start-ups. Follow Singapore's model where decisions are made quickly and predictably, resulting in businesses not feeling harassed. Demand that government's role be to facilitate business, not to stop it. The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in my classroom every day. Unleash it and let the millennial generation do the rest.

An early order of business for Governor-elect Hogan should be to revamp Maryland's tax and regulatory structure.

To encourage business activity in Maryland, initiate the goal and enact the policies to make Maryland the leader in the nation for business start-ups. Begin the climb from a ranking of 43rd in terms of business climate to No. 1. Enact regulatory procedures that facilitate transactions in Maryland's marketplace and, indeed, encourage the development of the private sector. Champion the positive qualities of our state to encourage the highly talented workforce to stay. Embrace and improve the educational system to prepare our graduates for the new jobs coming to Maryland.

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Reduce the high tax burden. Stop the walk away from our state by those who can. Maryland needs all the best and brightest income producers we can attract to make their lives and their livelihoods here.

Cut spending. Don't just cut the increases in state spending. While watching the gubernatorial race, I was reminded of Margaret Thatcher and her remark about governments that get too large and spend too much money "eventually run out of other people's money." Stewardship of taxpayer funds is serious business with important consequences. For certain, to keep our young people engaged in education, investments in human capital must be rewarded with good jobs in a vibrant economy. Governor-elect Hogan is responsible for that task now. He needs to focus on enacting policies that create a robust economy where residents have an opportunity to participate and to succeed. Keeping human capital in Maryland benefits all of us. Meanwhile, I will continue to further the cause of economic literacy and teach my students the role economics plays in public policy class by class.

Suzanne Bachur Watkins is an adjunct professor of economics at the Community College of Baltimore County and a former economist for the Maryland Public Service Commission. Her email is swatkins@ccbcmd.edu.

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