Now Larry Ho­gan can ad­vance a pro-busi­ness agenda

The Washington Post Sunday - - LOCAL OPINIONS - BY MARTA H. MOSSBURG The writer is a vis­it­ing fel­low at The Mary­land Pub­lic Pol­icy In­sti­tute.

Gov. Larry Ho­gan’s de­ci­sive win over Demo­crat Ben Jeal­ous made him only the sec­ond Repub­li­can to win re­elec­tion as gov­er­nor of Mary­land. In an elec­tion marked na­tion­ally and lo­cally by the as­cen­dan­cies of pro­gres­sive can­di­dates such as Jeal­ous, it was par­tic­u­larly note­wor­thy that Ho­gan won by dou­ble dig­its in a state that proudly waves its pro­gres­sive flag on most is­sues.

Given that Democrats still hold su­per­ma­jori­ties in both houses of the state’s Gen­eral As­sem­bly, how­ever, Ho­gan won’t be able to count on a warm re­cep­tion for his sec­ond-term pro­pos­als. But he canuse his last four years in An­napo­lis to ad­vance a pro-growth agenda that the peo­ple of Mary­land have heartily en­dorsed with their lop­sided sup­port of him in this deeply Demo­cratic state.

That he has only four years left should make him bolder, as his suc­cess hasn’t car­ried over to his party. His lim­ited time in of­fice does not mean he should take a rad­i­cal turn to the right, as Ho­gan claims he won’t do, but that he should make Mary­land “Open for Busi­ness” — a slo­gan he put on state wel­come signs but has yet to de­liver on in tan­gi­ble ways.

One need only re­mem­ber that on­line megare­tailer Ama­zon re­jected Bal­ti­more’s pro­posal to put the com­pany’s pro­posed sec­ond head­quar­ters in the city with the help of bil­lions in state sub­si­dies promised by the Ho­gan ad­min­is­tra­tion. [Ama­zon’s founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive, Jef­frey P. Be­zos, owns The Post.] Mary­land lost Dis­cov­ery Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, leav­ing the state with two For­tune 500 com­pa­nies. And in case no one no­ticed, Bal­ti­more’s high­est-pro­file com­pany, Un­der Ar­mour, is strug­gling to grow. Founder and chief ex­ec­u­tiveKevin Plankjust stopped work on his mega­man­sion in Bal­ti­more County and has no plans to restart.

Any­one who reg­u­larly drives into Mary­land from Dulles In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Vir­ginia can see the dif­fer­ence in the two states’ busi­ness cli­mates. The Dulles Tech­nol­ogy Cor­ri­dor is lined with cor­po­rate of­fices for Volk­swa­gen, Del­tek, Booz Allen Hamil­ton, Northrop Grum­man and, soon, Ama­zon, to name a few, along with a lot of con­struc­tion. On Mary­land’s side? A dam­aged sign that says “I-270 Tech Cor­ri­dor” and empty space.

Ho­gan’s top pri­or­ity should be over­haul­ing Mary­land’s tax struc­ture to at­tract new head­quar­ters to our side of the Po­tomac and en­cour­age en­trepreneurs with the means and drive to start busi­nesses.

It is past time to ask why Vir­ginia keeps win­ning big head­quar­ters — global con­struc­tion gi­ant Bech­tel Corp. is an­other new one — while Mary­land doesn’t. Vir­ginia’s top in­come tax rate is 5.75 per­cent. So is Mary­land’s, but when you add lo­cal pig­gy­back in­come taxes, peo­ple end up pay­ing a lot more. Cor­po­rate in­come taxes are sig­nif­i­cantly higher, too: Mary­land’s is 8.25 per­cent, while Vir­ginia’s is 6 per­cent. And don’t for­get Mary­land is the only state that levies with an in­her­i­tance tax and an es­tate tax. Lo­ca­tion be­ing equal, which state is more invit­ing for corporations and busi­ness own­ers?

Lower taxes will make the state truly open for busi­ness —like boom­ing Ten­nessee and Texas, both of which have no in­come taxand have seen a mas­sive in­flux of res­i­dents in the past decade. Ho­gan shouldn’t try to con­vince the Gen­eral As­sem­bly of this, as too many law­mak­ers will re­flex­ively re­ject any pro­posal to cut taxes.

He needs to take his case to the peo­ple with sto­ries of why busi­nesses and peo­ple left Mary­land, mak­ing it per­sonal about why chil­dren, par­ents or grand­par­ents moved away. Do this right, and leg­isla­tive sup­port will fol­low.

In the same way, he should take ar­gu­ments for re­dis­trict­ing to the peo­ple, push­ing against the legacy of ger­ry­man­der­ing left by for­mer gov­er­nor Martin O’Mal­ley (D). Thanks to a re­cent fed­eral court de­ci­sion, Mary­land must re­draw its 6th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict be­cause of its out­landish bound­aries de­signed to elect a Demo­crat. [Mary­land At­tor­ney Gen­eral Brian E. Frosh (D) is ap­peal­ing the rul­ing.] But the en­tire state should bet­ter re­flect ge­o­graph­i­cal bound­aries, not po­lit­i­cal as­pi­ra­tions. Ho­gan needs Mary­lan­ders on his side to force the leg­is­la­ture to do the right thing when it comes time to ap­prove a new map. There’s not a lot of time; the court or­dered a new one by March.

To­gether, th­ese items would make Mary­land more eco­nom­i­cally and po­lit­i­cally com­pet­i­tive. Low­er­ing tolls was a good thing, but Ho­gan has more to do. He can tell a story of the eco­nomic power that Mary­land could be­while block­ing bad leg­is­la­tion that would fur­ther sap the state’s strength out­side the In­ter­state 95 cor­ri­dor.

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