ANNAPOLIS — In his first State of the State address nearly two months ago, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan repeatedly referred to small businesses as a barometer for Maryland’s health, advocating for a focus on business-friendly policies to boost the state’s economy.
The state Senate agreed Tuesday, passing a bill that would create a small-business advisory panel in the Department of Business and Economic Development and advancing a tax-relief measure Hogan has said will benefit more than 70,000 small-business owners.
The advisory panel echoes Hogan’s promise to consider how each decision he makes will affect small businesses. The six-member council, which would include small-business owners, would review bills and help inform lawmakers about the legislation’s potential consequences for businesses.
“It gives the small-business community a voice in the regulatory process that they haven’t had before,” said Senator Thomas Middleton, D-Charles, the chair of the Finance Committee.
Meanwhile, the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee on Friday approved Hogan’s Small Business Personal Property Tax Relief Act of 2015. The bill would excuse a business from paying a tax on $10,000 or less in personal property, which includes work-related property such as office equipment.
The bill should save eligible businesses an average of $72 in taxes per year, according to the bill’s fiscal note.
The two measures advanced with strong support in the Senate chamber, though a few senators were concerned the advisory panel was a “feel-good bill” that would not make state regulations more business-friendly.
The proposed panel “makes the regulatory process in the state so bureaucratic as to slow down any effort to help improve working conditions,” said Senator Richard Madaleno Jr., D-Montgomery, vice-chair of the Budget and Taxation Committee.
But Madaleno described himself as the “floor leader” in the discussion of Hogan’s tax-relief bill.
“It’s more of a headache elimination for the smallest businesses,” he said. “To me, that had a real impact on reducing a burden on small businesses.”