Lower taxes, flexible rules called key to Md. growth

June 15, 1994|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Sun Staff Writer

Maryland needs to lower taxes and temper its regulations to keep and attract businesses, five gubernatorial candidates told a statewide group of economic development workers yesterday in Marriottsville.

No matter what measure is used, the state fares poorly in its ability to attract and keep companies, the candidates said. The state ranks 46th among the 50 states in economic growth in one survey and 50th in another, members of the Maryland Industrial Development Association were told.

Despite those grim statistics, the candidates -- Democrats Mary H. Boergers, Lawrence K. Freeman and American Joe Miedusiewski, and Republicans Ellen R. Sauerbrey and William S. Shepard -- remained optimistic.

"We have what it takes to be a national and international powerhouse, but we need a plan," Ms. Boergers said. "We're going to have to be a leader in helping businesses relate to new economic realities."

Three other gubernatorial candidates -- Republican Helen Delich Bentley and Democrats Parris N. Glendening and Melvin A. "Mickey" Steinberg -- were invited but sent regrets, association members were told.

Ms. Boergers said education at all levels would be a top priority in her administration and that she would offer the resources of community colleges to existing businesses as well as those contemplating coming to Maryland.

"I guarantee you will have a [community college] curriculum that businesses need to come here and stay here," she said.

Regulations that are not working would be eliminated, she said. Every department in her administration would have a deputy secretary who would serve as an ombudsman to assure that everything works, she said.

Mr. Freeman, a supporter of Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr., said Maryland could become "the workshop for the world" if it returns to a manufacturing economy and dredges the port of Baltimore to a depth able to accommodate supertankers and freighters.

Mr. Miedusiewski said that he believes Maryland can attain a No. 1 ranking in economic growth, but does not know if that can happen in his lifetime. Regardless, he promised, if elected, to market Maryland in a "unique and novel way."

Baltimore's unemployed are not a negative, but a positive, he said, "a natural resource that we can market" along with many of Baltimore's empty buildings. Mr. Miedusiewski said that he would link businesses with community colleges, which he called the "epicenter" of economic development.

"I want our natural resources of people and our natural resource of buildings" to attract businesses, he said.

Mr. Miedusiewski said that he favors tax incentives and other inducements to bring businesses to Maryland.

"If a company employees 300 to 350 people in a neighborhood, we could give them the building," he said.

Ms. Sauerbrey said that her belief in free enterprise means that government "should not regulate our lives or tax us to death."

Her goal would be to "cut taxes, restrain spending and rein in regulations," she said.

Companies looking at Maryland see disproportionately high state income taxes, settlement costs and insurance rates in addition to street crime, she said.

"Maryland is not competitive anymore," she said. "Employers flock to other states because they feel their investments are more secure there. . . . Public safety has to be dealt with. People will not stay where they are not safe."

Environmental regulations have to be balanced with the needs of economic development, and public education needs to be overhauled, she said.

Mr. Shepard, who was the GOP's gubernatorial candidate in 1990, said that Maryland has to do more in international competition. "Many more things can be done if we have a can-do attitude," he said.

The state has gone from "tax and spend to borrow and spend to gamble and spend," he said.

Taxes must be reduced, Mr. Shepard said.

"If you can't keep the jobs you've already got, look at the message that sends to companies that might come in" to the state, he said.

Mr. Shepard said that he would make better use of community colleges and would seek to bring new businesses to have-not areas of the state.

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