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DBED’s Johansson talking up $100M venture fund

Economic Development Secretary Christian Johansson was working the State House lobby between the House and Senate chambers Thursday morning, cornering lawmakers after they wrapped up their quick floor sessions.

“I’m making sure the General Assembly understands the opportunities Invest Maryland offers,” he said in between quick chats with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Thomas M. “Mac” Middleton and Sen. James E. DeGrange Sr., who chairs a pair of budget subcommittees.

“This is the governor’s signature economic legislation,” Johansson said.

The Invest Maryland proposal would fill a $100 million venture fund targeted at high-tech, early stage start-ups by selling tax credits to insurance companies. Essentially, the insurance companies would pay their taxes ahead of time at a discount and the state would use that revenue to fill the fund.

A similar measure was pushed late in the 2010 session, but the Department of Business and Economic Development and legislators disagreed over control of the fund. DBED wanted a 50-50 split, with half of the fund controlled by the department and half by private firms. Lawmakers wanted to put more in the hands of the private investors, who would return principal and some of their earnings to the state.

Invest Maryland will be part of the governor’s legislative agenda expected to be introduced next week.

“We’ve had some good conversations,” Johansson said when asked how his lobbying effort was faring.