ANNAPOLIS – Gov. Parris N. Glendening’s tax credit for employers who hire individuals with disabilities is all but certain to reach the House and the Senate floors, given that a majority of lawmakers on the committees to which it is assigned are co-sponsors.
Business groups, disabled citizens and members of the governor’s staff were among those who testified in favor of the legislation Wednesday before the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee and Thursday before the House Ways and Means Committee. The proposal drew no opposition.
The bill sets up a two-year program allowing for credits of up to $1,200 per employee per year. It also permits a $600 credit per employee for child care expenses during the first year and $500 in the second.
Deborah Grubb, president of the American Council of the Blind of Maryland, noted that Glendening has said that the unemployment level of the disabled should be no greater than that of the general population. Grubb, who is blind, said this legislation is a step in the right direction.
“We want to work. We need to work,” Grubb said. “We need you to help us work. To quote the old adage, `we don’t want a hand out, we just want a hand.'”
Another advocate of the legislation, Mike DiPaula, a 27- year-old Baltimore man with Down syndrome, testified that he has a job he likes and that he is friends with the people he works with.
“I like to make money. I use the money to buy things,” DiPaula said. “I want you to pass the bill so that my friends can have good jobs too.”
Another Baltimore man, who obtained his job because of a federal tax credit program, shyly spoke of his entrance into the working community.
“I work at the Sheraton for five years,” said Carl Reeder, 52, who has developmental disabilities. “I go to the store to buy clothes. Friends want jobs too.”
Lobbyist Paul Tiburzi represents 25 employers who have cashed in on previous tax credits for hiring the disabled.
“We will use this tax credit,” Tiburzi said of the Glendening proposal. “We think this will work.”
The plan is designed to help disabled individuals of working age and who want to work, Beatrice Rodgers, director of the Governor’s Office for Individuals with Disabilities, testified. The proposed credit also helps employers become aware that these individuals are a “valuable resource,” she said.
And Mary Piett, a direct service worker at St. Luke’s House Inc., a psychiatric rehab center in Bethesda, told lawmakers that emotionally disabled individuals can and want to work.
“All my clients are young adults, 18 to 20 years old who have been diagnosed as severely emotionally disabled,” Piett said. “All of them are unskilled workers who show success through on-the-job training. I need as many tools as necessary that are available to convince employers to hire individuals with disabilities.”
If passed, the tax credit bill would take effect in October. -30-