We all have a right to expect that our government is working for our benefit, and we don't abandon this expectation when its separate branches are controlled by different parties. However, some of Baltimore City's elected Democrats feel they must perpetually ignore opportunities for economic development in order to sustain the myth that "Larry Hogan doesn't care about us."
The latest episode in this ongoing saga occurred when the governor traveled to Fells Point to meet with newly elected members of the Baltimore City Council. As part of the conversation, Governor Hogan reportedly encouraged the incoming council members to support efforts to bring manufacturing jobs to Baltimore. After which, local elected officials took to social media to claim that the governor was being disingenuous about the facts. On Facebook, Del. Brooke Lierman, a Democrat, accused the governor of being ignorant or a liar. Sen. Bill Ferguson tweeted that the governor was pushing "bad policy" and blaming the legislature — "insanity" on the governor's part.
But their protests willfully avoid the fact that the governor's plan to incentivize manufacturing jobs in Baltimore City is almost identical to the plan proposed by Democrats, including Sen. Ferguson and four other senators from the Baltimore City delegation. The only material difference between the governor's plan and the one co-sponsored by Sen. Ferguson is that the governor wanted tax incentives focused on those areas in Maryland with the greatest need for economic development, those that are on existing commuter rail infrastructure, or those that are adjacent to military installations.
What the governor's version of the bill was not going to do was support additional manufacturing activities in places where the economic lift was unnecessary. Nor was the governor's bill going to result in commitments to build new roads and infrastructure when Maryland has existing infrastructure that can be utilized or upgraded. By limiting the potential loss of state revenue from a more narrow tax credit program, and by containing excess spending on new infrastructure, the governor's bill is a more fiscally sound approach than the one offered up by Sen. Ferguson.
Baltimore City would benefit tremendously from the governor's plan, more even than it would under Sen. Ferguson's. The governor's restrictions on the location of manufacturing zones naturally elevates Baltimore City over the rest of the state. With our port, our connections to the Northeast corridor, our large number of low-cost commercial properties and our available labor force, this is the perfect destination for manufacturers looking to relocate from Pennsylvania, New Jersey or North Carolina.
Sen. Ferguson and his allies were happy to put their names on a bill that would incentivize greenfield buildout of manufacturing facilities in exurban Howard County. However, they now refuse to support a bill that would promote brownfield redevelopment in the very city whose interests they are supposed to represent. What's more, in doing so they are undermining the governor's efforts to accomplish the same economic development agenda they proposed with the backing of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the Greater Baltimore Committee, Tradepoint Atlantic (Sparrows Point), the Baltimore Washington Corridor Committee, the Maryland Association of Counties, the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, the Manufacturer's Alliance of Maryland, the Maryland State and Washington D.C. AFL-CIO and many others. This is what's insane.
Promoting manufacturing in Maryland is good policy. Both the governor and the legislature should agree on this. According to a Moody's Analytics report prepared for the state and presented to Sen. Ferguson and the rest of the Senate Budget Committee "since 1990, manufacturing employment in Maryland has fallen by about 40 percent, compared with a 30 percent decline nationally," and "the ability to bring back more mid-wage jobs and reinvigorate key private sector industries, independent of the federal government, with relatively low skill or education requirements will be key to Maryland being able to outperform in the years ahead."
I've invited Mayor Pugh to join me in Europe for conversations with global streetcar and lighting manufacturers who are interested in Baltimore. With the right coordination, incentives and push, there are thousands of jobs ready to come here right now.
Those elected to represent Baltimore City have a duty to act on these opportunities and to do what is good for their constituents. Supporting renewed manufacturing is very good for us. And if it's only good until the governor supports it, Baltimore Democrats are proving him right when he says they don't "want a Republican governor to do something good for people in Baltimore City."
Kelly Cross (email@example.com) was a candidate for the City Council 12th District race in the April 2016 Democratic Primary.