West County business are worried that state lawmakers may try to improve the state's worsening balance sheet by raising business taxes this year.
West Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce members got a preview yesterday of proposals the Maryland Chamber of Commerce will support.
Charles "Chick" Krautler, the state group's executive vice president, told the county chamber's Governmental Affairs Committee he expects new tax structures and legislative redistricting to be among the biggest issues affecting businesses.
While state budget cuts last year amounted to some $900 million, "the governor and the legislaturehave done a responsible job and withstood pressures from some special interest groups to raise taxes," Krautler said.
But he warned oftax increases lawmakers might turn to as they wrestle with the statebudget crisis, such as an increased sales tax or one that will applyto additional items or services.
"We don't want the legislature to solve this problem on the backs of the business community," he said.
"If you can tax businesses and not people, it makes it easier for legislators when it comes time for re-election."
Some measures the state chamber would like passed this session include:
* A bill to overturn the prevailing wage law, which requires an average wage rate -- determined by labor unions -- in publicly financed construction projects. Contractors support abolishing the law, because they say it dramatically inflates the rate of public construction, Krautler said.
* A bill restricting punitive damages in the cases when an employee sues an employer.
The bill would waive employers' responsibility in cases where an employee used alcohol.
Now, "An employer could be held liable for just about anything that happens on an employer's time," Krautler said.
* A bill to revise the unemployment insurance tax structure. Under the bill, employers would pay more during economically healthy times to offset high costs during times when employers lay off workers.
The state chamber has not taken a positionon an environmental bill requiring cars to produce less carbon monoxide. Petroleum suppliers, auto dealers and manufacturers oppose the bill, but other industries, such as utilities and chemical companies, support it.
Marcia Hall, the West Anne Arundel County Chamber's executive director, said the Governmental Affairs Committee will meet next week with the board of directors to take votes on supporting or proposing bills.