Plan would use gasoline tax to aid minority businesses

January 30, 1991|By David Conn | David Conn,Annapolis Bureau of The Sun

ANNAPOLIS -- If the General Assembly passes the governor's proposed additional 5 percent tax on gasoline, some of the $1.5 billion in new revenues expected to be raised over five years would go to financing minority businesses under a plan being negotiated by two state agencies.

The plan would have the Department of Transportation set aside $38 million over three years to finance minority businesses seeking transportation contracts, said Stanley Tucker, executive director of the Maryland Small Business Development Financing Authority, an agency of the Department of Economic and Employment Development.

Mr. Tucker said the proposal also would have the Transportation Department set aside $50 million for the three years to guarantee performance bonds for those minority contractors. The idea, he told a group of black business people at a legislative briefing yesterday, is to help small, minority businesses make the difficult transition from subcontractors to primary contractors.

Mr. Tucker said transportation officials are receptive to the idea but that because the department has a new secretary, O. James Lightizer, no final word has come on the plan.

"We think [the funds] would be a substantial increase" in the contracts minority businesses have been receiving from the Transportation Department so far, Mr. Tucker said. Last year the department awarded $102.8 million in contracts to companies certified under the Minority Business Enterprise program, according to the state Office of Minority Affairs. Not all of those recipients were from Maryland.

The department has no program for guaranteeing performance bonds, Mr. Tucker told the audience of about 40 black executives.

The conference, convened by Sen. Larry Young, D-Baltimore, also heard from former U.S. Representative Parren J. Mitchell, who urged the business people to form a "brain trust" of Maryland black executives like the nationwide group Mr. Mitchell said he has led quietly since he first joined Congress.

The group, he said, would meet to advance the economic interests of black business people by sharing information, lobbying and, ideally, getting advance word about such things as government contracts.

"Unless and until we develop a viable Maryland minority brain trust," Mr. Mitchell said, "we'll always be lagging behind."

Mr. Tucker's plan, which is backed by J. Randall Evans, secretary of economic and employment development, calls for the Transportation Department to provide the money, either for financing or for performance bonds, and for Mr. Evans' department to "underwrite" the program by screening contractors and managing the money as it passes from the state to the businesses.

"We were able to show DOT that if these businesses were able to get access to bonding and financing, the costs of those projects would go down," Mr. Tucker told the business leaders.

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