ANNAPOLIS – Reduce the personal income tax, lift regulations and improve the skills of the work force if you want to make Maryland more attractive to high-tech business, economic experts told lawmakers Friday.
The advice came during a briefing for members of the three House committees that deal most with fiscal policy and business issues: Appropriations, Economic Matters and Ways and Means.
“The Legislature needs to understand a great deal more about the role that technology plays in developing business throughout the state in order to keep Maryland economically strong,” said House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., D-Allegany, who sponsored the event.
Three panels of experts — representing high-tech industries, the Department of Business and Economic Development and higher education — told delegates what they would do to make the state more business-friendly.
The Maryland Economic Commission, an advisory body to state officials, identified 12 growth industry sectors, including bio- science, information technology, telecommunications and aerospace.
Its chairman, John Haskins, said members had met with almost 400 representatives from these 12 sectors to discuss Maryland’s efforts to attract and retain such businesses. Their recommendations will be included in a statewide plan to be published in February, he said.
Haskins found sympathetic ears among the delegates.
“It is vital that the high-tech industry replace the jobs we’ve lost in the manufacturing sector,” said Del. Kumar P. Barve, D-Montgomery.
Barve, who moderated Friday’s briefing, chairs the General Assembly’s new subcommittee on Science and Technology, set up by Taylor and House Economic Matters Committee Chairman Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel.
That subcommittee is drafting legislation to create a High Technology Ombudsman in the Department of Business and Economic Development, Barve said. The ombudsman will be a clearinghouse for information, a liaison among government, business and higher education, and will maintain a database of high-tech industries in Maryland.
James T. Brady, who as secretary of the Department of Business and Economic Development is the state’s top economic development officer, summed up the feelings of many at the session:
“There is a real commonality of concerns that the state must address to be competitive in attracting businesses,” Brady said.
“Technology has outstripped the educational system’s ability to keep pace with the needs of high tech industries. This is a national problem.”
The two-and-one-half hour briefing came on the heels of Taylor’s news conference to announce details of the tax plan that he hopes will rival Gov. Parris N. Glendening’s.
Taylor presented three bills that he says will reduce the annual personal income tax burden by $450 million, improve the business climate and stimulate job growth. His plan would:
* reduce the personal income tax rate by 10 percent over three years,
* increase the telecommunications gross receipts tax to 5 percent,
* and extend the insurance premium tax to Health Maintenance Organizations. “Only by reducing the tax rate can we maximize Maryland’s ability to create new jobs that would otherwise be created in another state,” Taylor said. -30-