Lt. Governor candidates participate in Harford County business forum

Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, the running mate of Democrat Lt. Governor Anthony Brown, and Boyd Rutherford, the running mate of Republican Larry Hogan, participated in a business forum hosted by the GBC in Harford County on Oct. 2.

The candidates for lieutenant governor explained why Harford County business leaders should vote for them.

Ulman said he and Brown “share the same vision.”

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“That is to make sure every child throughout the state of Maryland has access to a world-class education. It starts with universal voluntary pre-K,” Ulman said. “That includes making sure that higher education is as affordable as possible for more and more Marylanders. At the same time we need to make sure we have an incredibly competitive business climate that creates jobs and opportunities so every Marylander has an opportunity at a great family supporting job.”

If elected, Ulman said “the number one strategic goal of the Brown-Ulman administration will be to create the most competitive business climate of any state in the nation. It won’t happen on day one but it starts on day one.”

Rutherford said he and Hogan want to “change the direction of the state.”

“For the first time in many decades our unemployment rate is higher than the national average,” he said, “which generally doesn’t make sense when you consider our proximity to Washington, D.C., and the federal presence throughout the state. Our economic development last year was zero growth and we were ranked 49th out of 50 states. We have young people, families, as well as retirees that are either moving or looking to leave the state because the  opportunities just aren’t here the way they used to be.”

If elected, Rutherford said the Hogan-Rutherford administration would “get a hold of the spending issues in Annapolis.”

“We’ve taken so much money out of the businesses and taxpayers pockets that it’s strangling the economy,” he said. “Comptroller Franchot pointed out that businesses are just not making the money, their profits are squeezed. Families are not spending money the way they were.”

“We need to turn the spending around and then start rolling back some of these taxes, improve the business climate,” Rutherford said. “We need to be customer friendly.”

Moderated by GBC President and CEO Donald C. Fry, the forum included both men answering questions from nearly 50 Harford business owners and executives. Questions included the role community colleges can play in workforce development and job creation, their vision for the public library system and how they would ensure Harford County and its elected officials are represented in Annapolis.

Ulman described the community college system as “our anchor of higher education.”

“It is affordable,” he said. “Our community colleges are the most nimble, most flexible, most easy to work with as the economy changes to make sure that we are providing the workforce solutions for the future. You will see a significant partnership, a significant investment in our community college system.”

“We must be smart about continuing to invest in education,” Ulman said. “I do not believe you can view competitive business climate in isolation from your education system. They are absolutely intertwined.”

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Rutherford, who teaches at Howard Community College, said community college is less expensive than traditional four-year institutions and a good option for students who haven’t selected a career or for those who want to make a career change.

“That’s our future – the community colleges,” he said. “Community colleges provide an economic entry.”

Ulman said in Howard County, the library budget is part of the education budget.

Ulman said he wants to ensure “the library system is embedded as part of the educational spectrum.”

Similarly, Rutherford wants schools and libraries to collaborate. He said one way to do that is to locate them near one another.

“We could do a lot more of co-location when it comes to planning but also to provide transportation to kids to go to libraries after school when their parents are working.”

Both candidates said Harford County would have a voice in Annapolis.

Ulman said developing a close, collaborative relationship is how he would ensure Harford County and its elected officials are heard.

“Annapolis could use a renewed focus on collaboration, bubbling up solutions from a local level,” he said. “Our role is to declare big goals and the direction for the state and then work with our partners locally to figure out what the solutions are in each area of the county. What’s going to revitalize Cumberland … what’s going to work there may be different than what’s going to work in Harford County or on the Eastern Shore. You know those solutions.”

Rutherford said a Hogan-Rutherford administration would listen to “all stakeholders.”

“We’ll make sure that we listen to everyone,” he said. “Harford County will have a seat at the table, just like any other jurisdiction.”

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