State needs tax cut, group says Chamber of Commerce also seeks less red tape

January 12, 1996|By Peter Jensen | Peter Jensen,SUN STAFF

If Maryland wants to attract new businesses and jobs, the General Assembly needs to reduce the personal income tax and cut regulatory red tape, Maryland Chamber of Commerce officials said yesterday.

The chamber officials, meeting in Annapolis, renewed their call for a personal income tax reduction of 15 percent over three years as their top priority of the 1996 legislative session. But they also said streamlining the rules and regulations that affect private companies could greatly enhance the state's business climate.

"In 25 words or less, we want a reduction in the income tax and regulatory reform," said Robert Neall, a chamber lobbyist.

Specifically, the business group is seeking legislation to require the state Department of Environment to consider permit requests within 60 days of application, prohibit that agency from adopting regulations before corresponding federal requirements become final and maintain the confidentiality of information companies reveal through self-audits.

The chamber also is backing measures to treat state employees more like private employees, with incentives like merit pay, and to give university scientists the right to profit from commercialization of their research.

The group's legislative wish list was supported by a recent survey of 250 Maryland companies. The survey showed that the top two complaints of private industry are high taxes and a poor business environment.

House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., an Allegany County Democrat, told the audience of about 200 business leaders he agreed that the state needs to cut its income tax rate, but warned that legislators will have to look at taxes on a broad basis.

That means, he said, that the state's lower-than-average sales tax and corporate income tax might be raised to help pay for an income tax cut.

The speaker also warned chamber officials that criticizing the state's business climate can be counter-productive.

Dennis J. Donovan, a New Jersey-based consultant who advises companies on relocation, said Maryland could take nearly a dozen steps to improve its business climate, but he disputed the notion that it's dramatically more expensive to do business in the state.

"Maryland is a moderate-cost state," Mr. Donovan said.

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