Mid-Shore lawmakers back Hogan’s pro-business attitude
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Special from the Star Democrat
— State lawmakers from the Mid-Shore gave their annual legislative wrap-up at the Talbot County Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Thursday at the Tidewater Inn.
Sen. Addie Eckardt, Del. Johnny Mautz and Del. Chris Adams, all Republicans from the Mid-Shore, each hit on different aspects of the session — mostly business-related, some not — during the luncheon, which was sponsored by 1880 Bank.
But all three echoed a common theme while discussing the results of the 2016 Maryland General Assembly to a room full of businessmen and women — making Maryland open for business.
Making Maryland open for business is an theme commonly used by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan since his 2014 campaign and re-
currently ever since.
This past legislative session, Mautz said it seemed like it was Hogan versus Democratic leaders of the House and Senate. While they compromised and negotiated on several bills, many bills were being pushed through, or at least tried to be pushed through, that were not as a cohesive of an effort across party lines.
“The legislature is still working its will,” Mautz said. The Maryland legislature has long been dominated by Democrats, and Eastern Shore Republicans over the years often found themselves fighting to stop various proposals.
Mautz said Hogan introduced bills that aimed to improve Maryland’s economy. In his experience on the House Economic Matters Committee, which committee deals with the most business regulations, “a lot of the governor’s proposals were summarily dismissed.” Adams also is a member of that committee.
Two Democratic proposals targeting businesses that Republicans generally opposed however did not go through this past session — paid sick leave and predictive scheduling mandates.
Both were nationwide campaigns, and Mautz described the proposals in Annapolis as a “one-sizefits-all” bill that were “some of the most progressive and liberal proposals that were actually put forward throughout the country.”
“There may be a time and place for predictive scheduling. There may be a time and place for paid sick leave, but to come up and push for the one-sizefits-all, broadest, most expansive mandate is going to have an enormous impact in our economy and particularly our small businesses,” Mautz said.
The paid sick leave bill would have required busi- nesses with at least 15 employees to provide paid sick leave. The predictive scheduling bill would have required employers to set schedules three weeks in advance and provide payment for those employees called in to work within that three-week window.
Mautz said had those two proposals passed the legislature, businesses would likely just cut positions if the regulations were too onerous, and he doesn’t think “that’s the way to foster economic stability and it’s not a way to help people who need help the most.”
Those two proposals will likely come back next legislative session, Mautz said.
Eckardt said she has been working on an income tax modification, wherein retirees would be able to get their pensions excluded from the state’s income tax if they don’t belong to an employer-sponsored retirement plan.
the playing field for a lot of citizens, and for a little bit of investment, if we did that, I believe it would prevent those families, older citizens and families, who are borderline from dropping into poverty ... from dropping down to low income or no income,” Eckardt said.
But, Eckardt called the balanced $42 billion budget that passed this year good news. There were no major tax increases for the second year in a row, and Hogan has been reducing taxes and fees in various capacities, even after the legislative session has ended, although he didn’t have as good of results with Democratic leaders in regards to reducing taxes and fees during the legislative session.
“Having a balanced budget sets the framework for everyone in the legislature and in the executive office, the agencies, for cleaning up and budgeting their expenses to know what is available to work with as far as state financing,” Mautz said.
Adams said he’s starting to notice a rift between young Democrats and seasoned Democrats in the legislature. Young Democratic politicians this past session strongly pushed their progressive agendas, he said, creating a rift “against Democrats who understand that our state can’t move forward without the business community and what it takes to grow jobs and create economic development.”
But Hogan’s message and strong platform on businesses is working, Adams said. Maryland is leading the nation in job growth, he said, and “I believe it’s because the business community understands what’s happening.”
“The perception is reality that our governor is trying to make it easier to do business in the state,” Adams said.