Agency seeking to sell its services State's DEED hopes fees will balance budget.

December 20, 1991|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Evening Sun Staff

Looking for ways to balance its budget, the Maryland Department of Economic and Employment Development is devising a plan that would require businesses to pay for some of the services they get from the department.

Proposals to increase revenues include:

* Charging businesses that accompany the governor on foreign trade missions.

* Seeking a portion of the profits a company realizes from state-sponsored trade shows.

* Receiving a portion of business revenues from companies that accept the state's technology development grants.

* Selling display space in highway information centers.

* Selling publications produced by the Maryland International Division (MID), the state's trade promotion agency.

* Charging a fee for productivity/quality assessments.

DEED Secretary Mark L. Wasserman says he will seek approval from the General Assembly at its coming session to allow the department to charge businesses fees for services.

"All of us have been forced to re-evaluate how we can do business more effectively," Wasserman says.

Like other state departments, DEED repeatedly has had to lower its budget proposals in the wake of revenue shortfalls. The department's original budget called for $43.8 million in general funds from the state. The department sliced $2.8 million from its budget a couple of months ago and most recently has proposed cutting an additional $500,000.

The department will be seeking $30 million in general funds for fiscal year 1993.

Wasserman says a fee schedule has not been established yet, but the department is considering charging $1,000 to each company going with Gov. William Donald Schaefer on a trade mission to Mexico.

The department has estimated that it can generate as much as $171,500 in fiscal year 1993 by charging fees for company participation in MID-sponsored trade fairs and the sale of publications. The department has projected annual revenues of approximately $150,000 for the sale of space where companies can display their brochures in highway information centers.

Sen. Laurence Levitan, D-Montgomery, chairman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, says he expects the General Assembly will approve of DEED's plan to charge fees for its services, especially within its international division.

"The business community is the one that benefits from it and they should contribute to it," he says. "If they set up a trade fair in South America and charge for it, I see nothing wrong with it."

Warren Hartenstine, chairman of MID's Private Sector Advisory Council and president of Kannegiesser USA Inc., agrees that businesses should pay something for state services, but says care must be taken to avoid competing with private-sector consultants.

"Certain areas seem to have a solid justification for it," he says. If a company receives state assistance to participate in a trade show, and then realizes sales from that participation, the business ought to repay the state something. "The other point is, where do you compete with the private sector?" Hartenstine asks.

Wasserman's answer is that DEED should avoid duplicating services that can be provided by private-sector consultants. "Our job is to fill the gaps," he says.

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