Mike Beland: Democrats are for Economic Growth—and Need to Say So

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By: Mike Beland

Governor Hogan used last week’s State of the State address to paint a bleak portrait of where Maryland stands. Although his win in November was likely the result of many factors, he appears to be claiming that his victory is a mandate to make Maryland more business friendly. Maryland Democrats need to help voters understand that some of the Hogan Administration’s proposals will hamper private sector activity and proudly assert that their principles are the ones that actually promote economic growth.

True, our governor and lawmakers in Annapolis are faced with a $700 million budget shortfall, and Democrats will undoubtedly need to compromise in order to address it. In taking on this challenge, however, Democrats should responsibly defend their commitment to education, transportation, the environment, and health care in a manner that emphasizes how they encourage job growth in Maryland. To frame it differently plays into the narrative that the Hogan Administration is trying to construct—that Democrats oppose business—and, more problematically, will harm Maryland’s competitiveness for years to come.

Maryland Democrats need to help voters understand that some of the Hogan Administration’s proposals will actually hamper private sector activity and hurt business—the same constituency for which he claims to be fighting. As an example, the Governor seeks to cut a key attraction for private sector investment: transportation. He proposes scrapping provisions that index the per-gallon gas tax to inflation. According to the Washington Post, this transportation proposal will take approximately $15 million annually from Maryland while providing very little relief to drivers already seeing cheaper gas due to global markets. The needless cutting of transportation funding, as the Governor proposes, hurts our ability to attract investment without any meaningful benefit. Democrats should defend against these cuts as undermining economic growth.

Another example of a proposal contradicting his alleged pro-business support is his recommended cuts to education. According to the Baltimore Sun, his budget caps the growth of education aid at less than the rate of enrollment growth for not only next year but in the years following. In her response to Governor Hogan’s State of the State response last week, House Majority Leader Anne R. Kaiser (D-Montgomery) applauded our State’s commitment to and success in educating our children, and she rightfully recognized that now is not the time to stop making this investment—especially due to the competitive demands of today’s global marketplace. Business investment flows to educated, adaptable workforces. Democrats should rightfully defend against Governor Hogan’s cuts as creating a self-inflicted wound that imperils our future economic potential.  

As important as it is for Democrats to use the opportunity of Governor Hogan’s budget and State of the State address to show that their agenda will help enhance Maryland’s prosperity, they must be willing to work towards compromise and show a desire for modifying current programs. Looking at our tax structure to see where it can be made more inviting to business while not selling out principle is a start. How we educate tomorrow’s workforce always deserves further examination. Likewise, forcing the State’s regulatory agencies to more reliably engage the regulatory community without diluting effective regulations should be an area of common ground. Tax relief, where we can afford it as our economy improves, should target the pocketbooks of low- and middle-income workers. All of these should be potential areas for compromise that Democrats can express in pro-business and pro-family terms.

Maryland Democrats now have the chance to show citizens who may have voted for Governor Hogan that theirs is actually the agenda that will help Maryland’s economy prosper, and that they believe tomorrow will be better than today. Compromise where possible and honest opposition in terms that speak to the centrality of economic growth are necessary for the future of the State we all love and the Democratic Party.

Mike Beland lives in Montgomery County with his wife and daughter. Follow him @beland_mike

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