- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Getting more funds for transportation projects is a big priority for many of the business executives who attended the Maryland Chamber of Commerce’s annual Business Day in Annapolis this week.
“It’s really important for the state to invest more to build and maintain bridges, roads and other transportation infrastructure,” said Georgette Godwin, president and CEO of the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce.
Protecting the transportation trust fund so the money is not sifted out for other uses is of utmost importance, said Michael Myers, operations manager of Sparks engineering firm KCI Technologies.
Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin (R-Dist. 36) of Elkton supported the idea of forming regional transit financing authorities, as well as separating funding sources that support mass transit from those for roads.
“We need structural change,” Pipkin said.
Among the 400 or so attending Business Day were about 30 legislators, along with Gov. Martin O’Malley (D).
“We want to see more interaction between businesspeople and lawmakers,” said William Burns, a spokesman for the Maryland chamber. “We hope to arrange more smaller meetings between them next year.”
O’Malley discussed the administration’s Maryland Made Easy program, designed to streamline permits and help get businesses through state processes faster. This week, officials unveiled a central business licensing system with license applications to register a business on a one-stop portal.
O’Malley’s proposed fiscal 2014 budget released this week includes several items of significance to Maryland businesses, including increasing the budget for the state Department of Business and Economic Development by 11 percent from 2013 to $137.3 million.
O’Malley also wants to raise the fund for biotechnology investment tax credits to $10 million from $8 million, and the research and development tax credit to $8 million from $6 million. Efforts to increase funding for those programs have failed in recent sessions.
His proposal seeks a major boost in the state’s film and television tax credit to $25 million from $7.5 million. And it would add a new $3 million tax credit to entice cybersecurity companies to move to the state or expand.
Business leaders are gearing up to oppose a bill planned by some Maryland legislators that would require employers to allow workers one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked.
The Maryland Chamber of Commerce will review the legislation once it is introduced, said Deriece Pate Bennett, vice president of government affairs for the chamber.
“Generally, we oppose workplace mandates as one size does not fit all, especially for small businesses,” Bennett said.
Patrick Donoho, president of the Maryland Retailers Association, and Ellen Valentino, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said they will lobby against the sick-leave proposal.
Del. Heather R. Mizeur (D-Dist. 20) of Takoma Park appeared Monday at a forum on the legislation at Busboys and Poets in Hyattsville. Mizeur plans to be a lead sponsor with Del. John Olszewski (D-Dist. 6) of Dundalk of the legislation.
The legislators plan to work on getting more cosponsors before filing the bill, said Moira Moynihan, a legislative aide to Mizeur. It had not been filed as of Thursday afternoon.
The issue is one that has gotten more attention in light of flu outbreaks. About 40 percent of private-sector employees nationwide do not get paid sick days, and more than 80 percent of low-wage workers lack access to paid sick days, according to the Job Opportunities Task Force in Baltimore. Fewer than one-quarter of food preparation and serving workers have paid sick days.
Connecticut became the first state in the nation last year to mandate a paid sick leave policy, but only for service workers at employers with 50 or more employees. Those workers get one hour of sick leave for each 40 hours worked.