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Job creation legislation may be part of special session

ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Martin O’Malley said Wednesday he may push for job creation legislation during the special General Assembly session in October.

Speaking after the Board of Public Works meeting, O’Malley said his administration is “considering” adding jobs measures to the agenda.

“We don’t have any details yet on exactly what these initiatives might be,” O’Malley spokeswoman Takirra Winfield said later.

While once considered a possible venue for debating transportation revenue increases and a host of other big-ticket issues, the special session’s scope has been narrowed in recent months to redrawing congressional districts and a handful of small issues.

Last week, Senate Budget and Taxation Committee chairman Edward J. Kasemeyer, D-Howard and Baltimore, said large tax and fee proposals would not be on the table in October.

Just Monday, Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Garagiola, D-Montgomery, said the special session would focus on redistricting and “a few minor, minor issues.”

Alexandra Hughes, spokeswoman for House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, said Busch had not spoken to the governor about jobs legislation.

“I think everyone is focused on the trajectory of the economy and stimulating job growth in the state, but we’re focused on our constitutional duty to pass a congressional redistricting map,” she said.

Business leaders said they had not heard about the governor’s plan and offered mixed assessments.

“This certainly is an appropriate time to see if there’s a way to stimulate job growth,” said Donald C. Fry, president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee. “Of course one way to stimulate job growth is in transportation. We would certainly support that.”

Fry said the state could look at other infrastructure spending, such as school construction, and consider tax credits and regulatory reforms to make hiring and expansion more attractive to businesses.

His counterpart at the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, however, said those discussions should wait until January, when the General Assembly will return for its three-month 2012 session. The special session, scheduled for the week of Oct. 17, could be wrapped up in just a few days.

The chamber wants lawmakers to wait “so that there’s full public discourse on some of these issues like transportation funding, like the tax issue to balance the budget,” said Kathleen T. Snyder, president and CEO of the advocacy organization. “It’s worrisome for us when several legislators have talked about raising businesses taxes during that time. The special session moves so fast, anything could happen.”

Job creation has been a focal point for the governor, particularly in recent years. His mantra on the campaign trail in 2010 was “jobs, jobs, jobs,” and his legislative agenda before and after the election held tax credits and other programs to spur hiring.

In 2010, O’Malley shifted $10 million to a small business credit program and called for a tax credit for companies that hire unemployed workers. The credit program has provided $2 million in loan guarantees so far to help leverage $8.5 million in borrowing and create or retain 480 jobs, according to the Department of Business and Economic Development.

Through Wednesday, 1,994 tax credits of the 4,000 available in the $20 million program had been claimed, according to the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

And earlier this year, O’Malley called for the creation of InvestMaryland, a state-funded venture capital program that will raise at least $70 million to invest in small, high-tech companies. The first investments could start flowing as early as June.