Members of the Perry Hall White Marsh Business Association listened intently to reports from state legislators at the association’s meeting Tuesday at The Twisted Harp restaurant.
Democratic Sen. Katherine A. Klausmeier was joined by a representative for Republican Sen. J.B. Jennings, who is on active duty with the Air National Guard. Republican delegates Patrick L. McDonough, John W.E. Cluster Jr., Joseph C. Boteler III and Richard K. Impallaria also attended.
Each representative recapped legislation that impacted local business. About 14 business association members, as well as County Councilman David Marks, attended the meeting, which included a brief question-and-answer period.
“We appreciate our representatives taking the time to come out and tell us what they’ve been up to,” association President Lynn Richardson said.
The proposed 10-cents-a-gallon gas tax was a major concern for legislators, who did not believe it was dead, even though it didn’t pass in the regular session. It could be introduced at an upcoming special redistricting session this fall.
“I’m not so sure that’s a dead deal,” Boteler said, adding that he predicts a gas sales tax will be proposed.
“This could be a million-dollar tax bomb special session,” McDonough said.
Cluster noted that businesses can’t afford another 10 cents when gas is already $4 a gallon, especially businesses with small profit margins. “To be competitive, you can’t raise your prices,” he said.
McDonough said the $3 billion proposed for the red and blue line light rail system “is eating most of the budget” and he is drafting a moratorium on those lines.
Boteler decried the practice of borrowing money from the transportation fund and other funds in order to balance the budget and noted he feared the bond bills “are becoming a borrowing mechanism to back-fill some of these funds.”
Impallaria also expressed concern about funding for mass transit.
“It’s appalling the money we spend on public transportation,” he said. “It’s a very small segment of the population—why are we funding it?”
Immigration was another hot-button issue.
McDonough is the honorary chair of a petition drive against the bill that passed which allows the children of illegal immigrants who graduate from Maryland high schools to attend state colleges at in-state tuition rates.
Impallaria drew laughs as he voiced concerns that Maryland is anti-business.
“I went to Pennsylvania and they thanked me. I went to Delaware and they were so happy on how we dragged our feet on slots … Maryland is very pro business—only the business is in other states. Maryland is a pro-business driver— they’re driving the businesses out of the state of Maryland.”
The legislators reported success for business as well.
Klausmeier said she sponsored legislation that expedites the permitting process for aquaculture.
“One of the things we hear often is permitting is very difficult,” she said. “We hope to make it more efficient.”
Several of the legislators also saw the defeat of the wind farm bill as a positive for businesses, and felt that the legislation allowing wineries to ship up to 18 cases of wine benefits the wine industry and consumers alike. A commission on cyber security was another plus for businesses, they said, as was a task force on industrial job creation and the defeat of a tax on bags.