Enactment of more aggressive tax credit programs and other funding to nurture the growth of life sciences and technology businesses are among the Greater Baltimore Committee’s top legislative priorities for the 2006 General Assembly session.
The GBC will also work to oppose legislation that could inhibit the state’s use of eminent domain to acquire land for economic development purposes.
The region’s most prominent organization of business and civic leaders, the GBC will support strengthening two existing tax credit programs — for biotechnology investment and for research and development — and creating a new tax credit for businesses locating at research parks that are connected to one of Maryland’s higher education institutions.
The GBC will urge legislators to dedicate $20 million in the state budget to a biotechnology tax credit that the General Assembly enacted last year, but provided no predictable funding mechanism. The GBC will also support doubling an existing $6 million cap on tax credits for research and development and will work toward enactment of state funding for stem cell research and for continuing funding support for biopark development in the Baltimore region.
The GBC will also support new state funding for nano-biotechnology research. Advocates are currently seeking $25 million in state funding over the next three years to leverage private sector investment to create an integrated initiative that would foster teamwork among the state’s universities on nano-biotechnology research. The initiative would also spur significant economic development related to the emerging field, which involves the creation and use of biotechnology devices and systems through the control of very small molecular matter whose size is measured in billionths of an inch.
“We must do all we can to leverage our region and state’s tremendous life sciences research strengths and its expanding resources into the kind of business development that will be a major driver of Central Maryland’s future economy and sustain a high quality of life for its citizens,” said GBC president Donald C. Fry. “With the assets that we have, we can’t let this opportunity pass.”
Meanwhile, the GBC will oppose efforts to limit the state’s use of eminent domain to acquire property for economic development purposes. Many innovative projects in the Baltimore region, including key development projects associated with Baltimore City’s acclaimed downtown “renaissance,” would not have occurred without a policy to use “eminent domain” for economic development, the GBC contends.
To address the critical need for a more extensive pool of qualified teachers, the GBC will propose enactment of a tax credit for math, science, technology and special education teachers and for teachers who commit to assignments in “challenged” schools.
On the issue of health care, the GBC will support legislation that would apply an income tax surcharge on individuals who don’t have health care insurance but who earn more than $55,900 a year. Such legislation could reduce the number of uninsured Marylanders by as much as 33 percent, according to some estimates.
Other legislative priorities of the GBC include support for:
• removing restrictive caps on the tax credit for commercial renovation of historic structures that unfairly limit qualified projects in Baltimore City from using available credits;
• significant increases in state funding for higher education;
• ensuring continuing state investment in transit resources and system development;
• accelerating state repayment of the $315 million borrowed from the Transportation Trust Fund in 2003.
• continuing to increase state funding for drug treatment as a crime reduction strategy;
• programs to assist ex-offenders with their transitions back to communities and in gaining job training and employment;
• legislation fostering economic growth for minority and women-owned businesses;
• funding to maintain the operational excellence of the Shock Trauma Institute at the University of Maryland Medical Systems;
• creating a commission to develop strategies to address Maryland’s increasing health care workforce needs.
GBC advocates in Annapolis are Fry, whose eight years in the General Assembly included tenures as a delegate and a senator representing Harford County, and GBC vice president Devon Dodson, a former counsel to the Maryland Speaker of the House and former counsel to the Maryland Senate Economic and Environmental Affairs Committee.