- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Calvert County Chamber of Commerce members had the opportunity to hear opposing views from state delegates regarding upcoming bills and legislation Tuesday morning at the annual State Legislative Breakfast at the Rod‘N’Reel Restaurant in Chesapeake Beach.
Maryland Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller Jr. (D-Calvert, Prince George’s), Del. Anthony J. O’Donnell (R-Calvert, St. Mary’s) and Del. Mark Fisher (R-Calvert) were in attendance to answer questions posed by the chamber members. After each legislator addressed the audience about what to expect in the upcoming year, each answered questions ranging in scope, from the proposed Dominion project to minimum wage to marijuana legalization and even Super Bowl predictions.
When asked what legislators would tell citizens about the Dominion Cove Point Liquefied Natural Gas proposed exportation project and what steps would be taken this session regarding it, Miller stressed the importance of the project and his support for it, though he addressed the present Dominion leaders at the breakfast, pointing his finger toward them.
“Guess what, Dominion? You’ve got to do your job and make sure the people of Calvert County are not adversely affected by the expansion of Dominion,” Miller said from the podium. “You do your job, and we’ll do our job and see that the plan goes forward.”
Fisher said he supported the project for the cheaper and cleaner energy Dominion would provide, as well as the jobs.
“The fact that we’re even having a debate as to whether such a project should move forward baffles me in the face of this high unemployment rate we have here in Maryland, which remains in the double digits,” Fisher said.
O’Donnell said he supported the Dominion project, as well, but steered the question toward the budget deficit.
“Everyone wants to fund a lot of good things in government. But you can do it too much,” O’Donnell said. “In the worst economy in 80 years, our budget has grown by $9.5 billion over the last seven years. It’s too much. It’s out of control, and our kids are gonna pay for it.”
The next questions asked legislators about the “rain tax,” passed by the General Assembly in 2013 to help fund cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay. A repeal of the law sits atop the agenda of Republicans.
“There is no rain tax in Calvert County. There’s not going to be any,” Miller said to the audience, referring to the stormwater management fee as a way to protect the Chesapeake Bay “that we all love so much.”
When it came to opposing additional taxes such as the “rain tax” and personal property tax, opposed by Republicans, Miller said he turns to the county commissioners.
“If the county commissioners say they need it because there’s no revenue coming into the county through businesses, then I’m not going to vote to abolish it,” Miller said.
Fisher called the tax “an insult to the intelligence of the people of Southern Maryland” because prior to the tax, he said, Maryland already had some of the strictest stormwater management laws in the country.
“To make sure that Senator Miller is corrected in this particular situation, by all means, let’s pass the rain tax repeal bill to make sure it doesn’t apply to Calvert County,” Fisher said. “It’s just an additional tax to try to run you out of the state and try to create more spending in Annapolis.”
O’Donnell said the tax applies to every county in the state but is currently only active in 10 because it does not go into effect until the county reaches 100,000 residents.
“At our current growth rate, it may take a while,” O’Donnell said.
When asked about raising the minimum wage in Maryland, Miller and Fisher again had opposing views.
Miller supported raising the minimum wage “at a reasonable rate” to help those struggling financially, while finding a way to give breaks to business owners.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, Fisher said raising the minimum wage would “devalue work in America and demonize success.”
“The solution,” he said, “is to make Maryland more business friendly, so we can create more companies … and, therefore, will [create] pressure on wages, which will cause wages to go up.”
When asked about their views on Common Core, all three were at a loss about what the state-mandated change to education really was.
“A lot of us are trying to figure out what it really means,” O’Donnell said from the podium, to which Miller replied from his seat, “I have no idea,” yet Miller also addressed the audience saying Common Core was positive for students.
“I don’t really know what Common Core is, and I would like anyone who knows what it is to define it,” Fisher said addressing the audience. “The trend we’re seeing is more mandates like Common Core where no one can really tell you what it is. … I think we need to stop the mandates.”
Finally, when asked about their Super Bowl predictions, Miller had a few choice words:
“My two teams are the Washington Redskins and the Baltimore Ravens, and beyond that, I don’t give a damn.”