Economic growth and job creation must be 2012 General Assembly priority

State lawmakers convened January 11 for the 2012 General Assembly session, facing a familiar challenge of having to close a projected $1 billion deficit. But Maryland’s long-term future will be shaped by how lawmakers act, or defer action, on issues relating to what has to be their overriding priority this year — economic growth and job creation, said Donald C. Fry, president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee.

A core message the GBC is sending lawmakers this year is: ensure that policy actions relate directly to eight core pillars for a competitive state business environment that was published by the Greater Baltimore Committee in a report entitled Gaining a Competitive Edge.

“This year especially, our elected leaders in Annapolis must not allow themselves to settle for clever approaches to simply get through another year of fiscal challenges,” Fry said. “They must ensure that they enact policies that, above all, fundamentally nurture private-sector economic growth and job creation in our state.”

Responding to one of the core pillars – regulatory policies that are “streamlined, stable and predictable” – Gov. Martin O’Malley has said business regulation would be among the key issues related to jobs legislation he will seek during the 2012 session.

Other core pillars for competitiveness are: government that partners with business, a highly-educated workforce, a tax structure that is fair and competitive, competitive costs of doing business, superior and reliably-funded transportation infrastructure, strategic state investments in business growth, and a coordinated, long-term, and well-funded state business marketing strategy.

The GBC is urging lawmakers to use the core pillars as a guide for making policy decisions in Annapolis that will promote job creation and economic growth.

In addition to regulatory review, other issues related to these core pillars that are on the GBC’s 2012 legislative session agenda include:

• Business climate. The GBC supports retaining business tax credits as sound investments in spurring economic growth and creating jobs. Lawmakers must also ensure the funding levels and conditions of the tax credits and incentives remain competitive with surrounding states. The GBC opposes any measure that would increase or restructure corporate taxes.

• Transportation funding. The GBC and a statewide coalition of advocates – the Statewide Alliance to Restore the Trust (START) – is supporting increasing annual revenue to the state’s Transportation Trust Fund by at least $500 million and establishing a legally enforceable policy to protect the fund from being raided for non-transportation purposes.

• Education. Recognizing that a well-educated workforce is a key to Maryland fulfilling its substantial potential to be a leader in the post-recession new economy, the GBC supports continued investment in K-12 and higher education, including community colleges, and broadening availability of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) courses in secondary schools.

• Bioscience. The GBC supports increasing the highly-effective tax credits and other funding for bioscience industry development. The GBC supports policies that will facilitate the formation in Maryland of companies derived from research performed at our state’s world-class academic institutions.

• Healthcare. The healthcare industry is a top employer in Maryland. The GBC supports measures that will promote research and job creation in the healthcare field and opposes measures that, either directly or unintentionally, would unreasonably restrict growth in this key industry.

• Energy. The GBC supports energy regulatory policies that balance legitimate environmental concerns with the need to develop needed energy resources, including alternative sources, in a competitive and open manner. The GBC urges lawmakers to resist re-regulation.

• Growing Maryland’s economic base. The GBC supports increasing funding for the Department of Business and Economic Development as an essential investment in effective business development, enabling financing, resources for business expansion, and for marketing the state as a business location. The GBC also supports policies that nurture the development of minority and women-owned businesses.

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