Lip service won't improve the business climate

April 11, 1996|By Casper R. Taylor Jr.

THE STADIUM initiatives proved how goals are achieved when everyone works together. But there was a great deal more at stake this session than the two football stadiums.

I believe there is a big difference between passing legislation that creates a business-friendly environment and pie-in-the-sky campaign promises about the need to bring jobs into Maryland. Our bottom line should be what actually gets accomplished.

The House of Delegates worked hard this session to distinguish itself as a leader in creating, retaining and attracting jobs. Despite our best efforts, we were thwarted by mixed messages and lukewarm support from the administration.

The survival of Maryland families is based on the creation of private-sector jobs. Attracting these well-paying jobs to our state requires a commitment to hard work and a willingness to pass laws that create an environment in which business can thrive.

Early in 1994, the business community told the General Assembly and then-Governor William Donald Schaefer that if Maryland was serious about creating private-sector jobs for Maryland citizens, it would have to enact legislation to improve the state's business climate. The ''jobs'' issue struck such TC unanimous chord across the state that it became a central platform issue for both Republicans and Democrats during the gubernatorial and legislative campaigns that year.

Last July, I and Senate President Mike Miller announced the formation of the Joint Committee on State Economic Development Initiatives. Our goal was to review and make recommendations on the kind of legislation we needed to create an environment favorable for business. We considered strategies to improve the state's policies, programs and tools.

During one of the committee hearings, the secretary of the Department of Business and Economic Development, James T. Brady, highlighted several key areas where he thought the state needed to take the initiative. He advised us to reduce the state personal income tax and reform the state's regulatory environment. These recommendations were echoed by the Maryland Chamber of Commerce.

The governor created the Maryland Economic Development Commission. It, too, recommended improving the business environment through streamlining the regulatory process and eliminating red tape.

I took these recommendations seriously. This year the House leadership responded with a package of comprehensive regulatory proposals. Among the most important parts of the package were new rules to ease the regulatory burden on business. These proposals were strongly endorsed by the Maryland Chamber of Commerce.

Weak executive order

Despite the recommendations of the governor's own commission, however, the administration opposed the elimination of many unnecessary regulations on business. Instead, the governor issued a weak executive order that lacked the bill's most crucial provisions and allowed state agencies to conduct business as usual.

Creating a business-friendly environment isn't accomplished by lip service. Enacting laws that get the job done is what counts. The 1996 legislative session was supposed to be the definitive session for the administration. Instead, it was inconclusive and left undone many things we hoped to accomplish.

We were poised to work together on reforms that could have made a big difference in whether companies decide to stay, leave or come to Maryland. The General Assembly can't do it alone. We need support from both the business community and the executive branch. If we don't do more to jump-start Maryland's private-sector engine, the state is headed for truly tough times.

Casper R. Taylor Jr. is speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates.

Pub Date: 4/11/96

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