Differing agendas

April 26, 2006

In what has become an annual rite, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is back to hectoring certain business leaders for not adequately boosting his political agenda. Speaking at a luncheon last week sponsored by Maryland Business for Responsive Government, he specifically chided the Maryland Chamber of Commerce for not strongly supporting the proposed state takeover of 11 Baltimore public schools. Apparently, these advocates for business had the temerity to see the takeover as primarily a partisan issue. Mr. Ehrlich believes this kind of rational thinking makes them irrelevant in Annapolis.

This is not the first time Mr. Ehrlich has lost patience with moderate business leaders. Two years ago, he suggested local business interests suffered from a "Patty Hearst syndrome" and challenged them to get "dangerous." The governor has consistently portrayed himself as the last line of defense against the legislature's anti-business leanings. And he sees Maryland's business climate as locked in an Ice Age.

The governor's real beef is that the chamber isn't sufficiently pro-Ehrlich. While it's fine for business to advocate for quality public education - there's an obvious self-interest in training future employees - the now-deferred state takeover of city schools was a dubious way to achieve that end.

Maryland's unemployment rate in March dropped to a six-year low of 3.4 percent. Jobs are plentiful. This is not a state that is now, or has ever been, hostile to business. But it's not an economy built on having the nation's lowest taxes. Mr. Ehrlich can demonize his opposition - real or imagined - all he wants, but the chamber doesn't deserve a self-serving diatribe every time a bad idea dies.

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