The confidence of area business executives slipped slightly in September, reflecting concerns about higher taxes and proposed health care reforms, according to an index compiled by the Washington/Baltimore Regional Association.
"It's ambivalent, but that's the way the economy is," the association chairman, Hal Donofrio, said of the index released yesterday.
The survey, compiled every six months, summarized responses from 552 executives -- 236 of them from the Baltimore area.
The association is a joint economic development effort of the Greater Washington Board of Trade and Maryland Economic Growth Associates.
Using a scale with 100 being the most confident and 0 the least confident, the September index was 59.1, a 3.7-point drop from March.
The index was pushed up in March by optimism surrounding the Clinton administration, said Robert T. Grow, executive director of the association.
The September downturn reflects worries about tax law changes and proposed health care changes, and wasn't influenced by any specific local developments, he added.
The association also found:
* About half the executives said their businesses improved during the past six months -- down slightly since the March survey. The number of executives who said things were worse was the same -- about 14 percent.
* Twenty-two percent of the executives plan to hire in the next six months, nearly the same response as in the last survey. But 12.9 percent said they planned to cut workers in the next six months, a substantial jump from 8.6 percent in March.
* Forty-eight percent of the executives said they expect business conditions to improve in the next six months, compared with 60 percent in the last survey. Ten percent expect conditions to get worse, up from 6 percent in March.