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Pro-business bills signed by O’Malley

Legislative leaders applauded the signing of a package of bills meant to improve business and economic development in Maryland.

The bills signed Thursday by Gov. Martin J. O’Malley were part of a joint legislative package backed by House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr.

Miller, in a statement, said the bills are meant to complement the state’s available workforce, public and higher education systems and proximity to federal agencies.

“These bills are about building on those assets to compete globally in the innovation economy of the future,” Miller said.

But one of the bills in the package that recouples Maryland’s estate tax with the federal rate drew criticism from Kate Planco Waybright, executive director of Progressive Maryland, who called the new law “misguided.”

Included in the package of bills signed are:

-The creation of Regional Institution Strategic Enterprise zones that will offer enhanced property and income tax credits for universities and nonprofits economic development and community revitalization.

-Recoupling Maryland’s estate tax with the federal rate over a five-year period.

-A cyber seed investment fund that would make investments of up to $100,000 into early-stage cyber security and privacy companies.

-The Maryland E-nnovation initiative, which allows colleges and universities to join with private companies to co-fund endowed chairs in targeted areas of science and technology research.

“As we emerge from the global recession, we want to give the private sector the confidence to invest and grow in our economy, capitalize on the strong assets and institutions that we have all across the State, and build a diverse economy for the future,” Busch said in a statement. “I want to thank President Miller and all of the legislative leaders who helped pass this legislation into law.”

Planco Waybright said she was disappointed that O’Malley signed a bill recoupling the state’s estate tax rate with the federal rate.

She called the bill, which phases in over five years, “a misguided bill to grant a tax break to the wealthiest 2 percent of Maryland estates. While 594,000 Marylanders — including countless children — live in poverty, while working families struggle to make ends meet, and while the vast majority of Marylanders will experience no significant tax break this year, the richest of the rich have hit the jackpot.”