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Gubernatorial hopefuls court business support

BETHESDA — The Democrats and Republicans seeking to be governor vied to convince a gathering of technology industry leaders Monday that they had the prescription to supercharge the state’s business climate.

Everything was on the table during a Tech Council of Maryland forum, from increasing tax incentives for manufacturing to increasing and reducing taxes on corporations in an attempt to sway voters roughly nine weeks before the June 24 primary.

“We will make this the Silicon Bay of the East Coast,” said Harford County Executive David Craig, a Republican.

Craig and Del. Ron George, who is also seeking the Republican nomination, said they favored a series of tax credits as incentives to retain or attract businesses to the state as well as reductions of the corporate tax rate.

“When you add corporate taxes to the business environment, we have a very unfavorable business climate in Maryland,” George said, adding that he would also favor working with local governments to reduce property tax rates.

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, two Democratic primary contenders, expressed a desire to attract and strengthen the life sciences, bio technology and cybersecurity fields in the state.

“We need an entrepreneurial spirit,” Gansler said, adding that he favors tax incentives to encourage business growth in the state.

Gansler also called for a “buy Maryland first” policy in state procurement.

“Look at all these tech companies,” Gansler said. “We have great tech companies here in Maryland. The company responsible for the Affordable Care Act rollout was in Fargo, North Dakota — not necessarily seen as a hub of technological innovation.”

Gansler, like many of the Republican candidates, has called for a reduction of the corporate income tax. Brown has repeatedly criticized that plan, saying it would cause the cost of college education to increase and would result in cuts to planned expansion of early childhood education meant to close the achievement gap.

Del. Heather R. Mizeur, a Democrat, took a different tact, telling technology business leaders that she wanted to address the “income inequality gap.”

“We’ll ask corporations and millionaires to pay their fair share as a way to generate enough revenue to give meaningful tax relief to 90 percent of our residents and small businesses,” Mizeur said.

The result would allow the state to eliminate the personal property tax businesses pay annually, she said.

Mizeur said she’d like to see Maryland move from a minimum wage that is scheduled to increase to $10.10 by 2018 to a state that requires businesses to pay a living wage.

“I don’t want to be the one who pits business versus workers,” said Mizeur. “We don’t have to have a zero sum strategy where some people win and some people lose. If we change the dialogue we can have a conversation about increasing the minimum wage to a living wage.”

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