Q&A: James Brady

May 17, 1998|By Jay Hancock | Jay Hancock,SUN STAFF

James T. Brady, appointed Maryland's secretary of the Department of Business and Economic Development three years ago, resigned recently after a series of disagreements with Gov. Parris N. Glendening. Former managing partner with the Baltimore office of Arthur Andersen, Brady was widely respected as the voice of business in the governor's Cabinet.

Staff writer Jay Hancock interviewed Brady last week about his differences with Glendening and his assessment of Maryland's business climate.

Maryland's economy is doing well these days. Who gets the credit?

Economic development is generated in the private sector. Too often government and politicians think that they are the ones who make things happen. We are in a very interesting period right now with the economic growth that has taken place and the budget surpluses that have been generated. Amazingly, I think there are some people in government who think they are responsible for that.

Including the governor?

The governor seems to say that on more than one occasion.

The budget surplus that we're dealing with in the state of Maryland now comes from the private sector. It comes from the extraordinary economic activity that is taking place across the country, and Maryland is finally participating in all of that. Some of the things that we have done in the last three years have been helpful in making this happen, but the greatest driver is the fact that we have an incredibly strong national economy right now.

How attractive is Maryland for business?

My strong belief is that one of the mistakes we are very capable of making now is to assume that because the economy is going well that we've solved all our problems. The fact of the matter is that the quality of a business climate needs to be measured in the down times, not in the up times. And if you look at Maryland's history, we have suffered disproportionately in the down times in the past.

How well prepared are we for the next slump?

We're better prepared than we've been. But we're not as well prepared as we ought to be. We've done some good things, but there's still not the sense of urgency that we need to have to get this stuff done and prepare ourselves. Maryland likes to operate in minor, incremental change, and I think we need to do something more dramatic than that.

The tax cut and some of the things we've done in the work force area, I think, will be helpful to us. We didn't make as much progress in taxes as I would have liked, but it certainly is progress.

The General Assembly and Glendening cut personal income taxes by 10 percent. What would you like?

I think the analysis that was done in '95 was the right analysis, which was, to really provide the kind of jump start we needed, 15 percent tax cut over three years was the way to go.

How important is the work force issue -- the supply of competent employees?

That has become something that is just huge. This is an issue that is troubling companies large and small at this point. And in a certain sense, potentially it puts Maryland in an incredibly positive position. We have a state that is quite affluent. We have a high level of highly educated people. We have institutions in this state that really have the potential to be leaders in this whole area. We have the infrastructure in place. If we can uptick it a little bit and become more passionate about insisting on excellence from all those institutions.

Some people believe the state needs slot machines and casinos to fund educational institutions and generate the excellence.

I am quite amazed at what's happened with the [Baltimore] mayor [Kurt L. Schmoke] and with [gubernatorial candidate and Harford County Executive] Eileen M. Rehrmann on this issue of gambling. I'm amazed on several levels, but the one that is most difficult for me is that they have taken the position basically that if we are going to educate our children properly in the state of Maryland, we have to have gambling. As a Marylander, to be honest, I am insulted by that. In order to educate our children we have to have slot machines?

Forget what you think about slot machines. That's a different issue. The issue that we ought to be making is that there is no choice but to educate our children the best way we can.

Education aside, you think slots are a bad idea?

I do. When you talk about gambling, you talk about different levels. Casinos, to me, are a dreadful answer. I can't think of one positive thing about having casinos in Maryland. Not one. And don't give me the jobs thing. These are terrible jobs.

When you get to slot machines, one can make an intellectual argument: How can you have trouble with slot machines at Pimlico when there's paramutuel betting going on at Pimlico? I have never been convinced, anywhere you go, that gambling has had the salutary impact on a community that some people would suggest it has.

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