Indecisiveness and timidity sometimes have been perceived as attributes of Baltimore's business community. Neither is present in the Greater Baltimore Committee's endorsement of the Linowes commission's extensive tax restructuring. By taking a strong stand in support of this explosive political proposal, the 1,000-member business organization has become a leader in efforts to bring about much-needed tax reform in Maryland.
The GBC report is more than a city booster group's parochial view. True, it concentrates on ways to make the city stronger. But the 12-page document repeatedly emphasizes how the fates of Baltimore City and the rest of Maryland are intertwined. The very name of the report underscores that linkage -- "The Strength of Maryland Depends on the State of Baltimore."
According to the GBC report, the taxing structures currently in effect work against the city's efforts to attain fiscal independence. To correct that, the business group wants to see the Linowes reforms implemented. But it goes further. It suggests that part of the local income tax be redistributed in a new way so that it would shift tax revenue from wealthier to poorer subdivisions.
"The failure to act decisively to meet the challenges facing Baltimore City presents grave consequences for the entire region and state. To do nothing -- or to do too little -- inevitably sentences the city to further decline, a downward spiral which will grow ever more difficult to remedy," the GBC report says. (Excerpts appear on the next page.)
Any remedy must include determined measures to improve the city school public system, including more education spending to give it a chance to succeed. "The failure to provide educational opportunities that help everyone reach their fullest potential will act as an anchor inexorably weighing down the rest of the region," the GBC report writes.
In devising solutions, GBC becomes the first public body to go on record as suggesting that "an extraordinary state assumption of the management and funding of city schools should be considered." This may sound radical. But, then, putting the city on par with education spending in Baltimore County would require an extra expenditure of $150 million annually. That is money the city simply does not -- and will not -- have.
The Greater Baltimore Committee is more than a traditional chamber of commerce. Over the years, this group has played a significant role in Baltimore's downtown face-lift, a revitalization process that has been good for businesses throughout the metropolitan area and Maryland. This record of accomplishment is a sounding board against which its intriguing ideas should be debated.