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Gubernatorial candidate Charles Lollar swung by St. Mary’s College of Maryland last week to talk about how he wants to promote business opportunities to help offset increases in taxes in the state.

“We’re pushing businesses out of this state at an alarming rate,” Lollar said to a small gathering of college students and others from the community at the Oct. 24 event on campus.

And, the Republican candidate said, the government is substituting potential tax revenue from businesses with “crazy taxes,” like the “rain tax” — a stormwater utility fee — and the “flush tax” — a fee on sewer bills and septic tank users.

Lollar, who lost a 2010 race against Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md., 5th) and is hoping for better results with his run for governor in next year’s election, said the state budget should start out with “what you have,” not “what you want,” as he said the current governor and Democratic-controlled General Assembly has done year after year.

“That policy is terrible,” he said, adding that the state budget is growing faster than Maryland residents’ paychecks.

If elected governor, Lollar said he would demand that each department in state government subtract 3 percent from last year’s budget, and then make a case for any increases.

A college student asked Lollar whether he supported the expansion of nearby Dominion Cove Point liquefied natural gas facility in Calvert County. The plant has requested permits so it can begin exporting gas from its plant along the Chesapeake Bay shoreline (it is currently licensed as an import-only plant). Some of that gas could come from hydraulic fracturing operations, and the expansion of the plant could produce more carbon dioxide emissions once in service.

A government study completed last year identified several areas in Southern Maryland that have the potential for hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, to mine natural gas.

The practice has been under way for years in parts of Pennsylvania known as the Marcellus Shale, which also extends into some of Western Maryland. Mining companies drill wells into the shale and inject them with sand and water containing chemicals to essentially crack the rock and release recoverable natural gas or oil.

Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) has a standing executive order not to issue any permits for fracking in Maryland, but that could be lifted.

Lollar said the state could quickly come out of its perennial deficit if it allowed fracking in Maryland. Lollar emphasized the practice would have to be well regulated, but not so much so as to stop businesses from existing.

Critics cite a variety of environmental problems and public health issues linked to fracking in other areas, including contamination of drinking and surface water by the chemicals used in the process, migration of the methane gas itself into drinking water and the dilemma of how to dispose of the used fracking solution.

“For me, social issues are the most important,” Kira Schwartz, a St. Mary’s College senior from Bethesda, said.

She asked about Lollar’s stance on abortion. “As your governor, I’m not going to legislate what women do with their bodies,” Lollar said. “But I’m also not going to pay for it” using tax dollars, he said.

He said he would make sure groups like Planned Parenthood could not use any tax dollars to pay for abortions, although they could still receive and use public money for other women’s health services. Lollar said his personal beliefs on abortion are, “Whether it’s legal or not, it doesn’t make it right.”

He said he is frustrated with “the Republican brand,” but chose to run as a Republican because his character and ideals most align with that party, he said.

Professor Michael Cain, head of the Center for the Study of Democracy at the college, thanked Lollar for his repeated visits to the college. He asked whether Lollar would support opening up primary elections to voters registered as independents. Lollar said that while he likes that idea in theory, he believes each party has a right to select its own candidates and voters who want to be part of that selection need to be bold enough to identify with the party.

“You’ve got to leave that thing alone,” he said. “I firmly believe in the Republican Party, I just don’t like [some of] the people.”

Harford County Executive David R. Craig and Del. Ronald A. George (R-Anne Arundel) have also announced their intentions to seek the Republican nomination for governor in the June 24, 2014, primary.

jyeatman@somdnews.com