Put the brakes on increase

It’s more than a little ironic that Maryland lawmakers are wrangling over whether to raise the state’s minimum wage even as they are set to see a hefty increase in their pay. A salary commission recommended a 15.7 percent pay increase for lawmakers, already the 13th highest paid in the nation for their part-time gig. Lawmakers could kill the increase, but resolutions in the House and Senate to eliminate the increase aren’t going anywhere. (Carr. Co. Times)

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March 24 // Miller & Busch: A plan for building Maryland's economy

Earlier this General Assembly session, we joined together to announce a transformational economic development commission, a part of a joint economic development agenda that builds on the strategic investments Gov. Martin O'Malley and the legislature have made over the past seven years. The vision that we announced looks to the future. We must give the business community the confidence to continue to invest and expand in our state's economy. We need to build on the assets and anchor institutions that we have in our borders to create new job opportunities for Marylanders. (Balt. Sun)

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The $431 million payoff

The number of jobs in Maryland decreased by 9,800 in January. The statewide unemployment rate remains high at around 6 percent, and projected state tax revenues have recently been adjusted downward by $238 million. Balancing next year's budget has required some "creative" accounting in Annapolis, including dipping into money that was supposed to be set aside for state pensions. Under those circumstances, a tax break might even be in order, but surely lawmakers would want it focused on creating new jobs, particularly for communities like Baltimore or the lower Eastern Shore where the unemployment rates still hover near the double-digit mark. Yet what have the distinguished men and women of Annapolis produced? A tax break that applies only the wealthiest of Maryland residents — and benefits them only after they are dead, to boot. (Balt. Sun)

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Montgomery Co. is poised to spend money on schools that it will regret

The fiscal wounds inflicted on local governments during the Great Recession have barely begun to heal, but already politicians in Montgomery County seem intent on taking a stroll down memory-impaired lane. They are poised to pump up per capita spending on public schools even though state law all but ensures that any such increase will be irrevocable — in perpetuity. That state law, enacted in 2012 at the behest of the teachers union, means that any good budgetary deed by the county will be punished in the next economic downturn. How soon county officials forget. (Wash. Post)

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A better box ban

A proposal in the Baltimore City Council to prohibit employers from asking about the criminal history of prospective employees until late in the hiring process has produced a strong backlash from the business community, and in particular the Greater Baltimore Committee. We certainly agree that doing business in the city can be needlessly frustrating for business owners because of a bureaucracy that is often poorly coordinated and seemingly arbitrary, not to mention the much higher tax rates here. Alongside Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's goal of increasing the city's population by 10,000 families during the next decade must be a goal of increasing the number of businesses and jobs here. Anything that would detract from that aim must be viewed with great caution. (Balt. Sun)

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Jim Perez: No to transportation authority

If the model of Howard County’s proposed Regional Transportation Agency sounds familiar, it is because such an organization already exists. Central Maryland Regional Transit, a public, non-profit company based in Laurel, has managed inter-county public transportation in our region for 25 years. With 15 routes and more than 1.6 million annual passengers, CMRT has already built the economies of scale that Howard County claims it will create through its proposed RTA. CMRT has an ongoing mission to serve the public. As a non-profit organization, CMRT delivers tens of thousands of dollars back to taxpayers by delivering services under budget. The proposed RTA would be managed and operated by a private company whose primary mission is to deliver profits to shareholders. The corporation award the contract is slated to make over $500,000 in profits through the RTA. (Capital)

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Finishing for free

Fewer than one in 10 students at the University of Baltimore graduates within four years of being admitted as a freshman. That's why UB has embarked on an innovative experiment designed to encourage students to graduate on time. This fall the school is offering to let students attend classes for free during their final semester if they can finish their degree in four years. University President Robert L. Bogomolny says the initiative could pay for itself if it ends up allowing the school to spend less keeping students beyond the traditional four years and also encourages more young people to apply for admission. Moreover, if the program works as intended, it could serve as a model for other public colleges and universities in the state that are also seeking to boost their graduation rates and enrollments. (Balt. Sun)

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Dan Rodricks: 'Ban the box' feels good but won't achieve much

That "ban the box" bill before the Baltimore City Council is classic feel-good legislation, based on instinct rather than evidence that it will make a difference. I doubt "ban the box" will achieve much. The proposal — which would prohibit employers from asking job applicants about criminal histories with a check-off box on a job application — might even make matters worse for the many paroled criminals who seek a job in Baltimore and a second chance in life. (Balt. Sun)

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