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Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate

OWINGS MILLS — The Democratic candidates for governor of Maryland met for debate Monday at the studios of Maryland Public Television.

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown faced more questions about his role in Maryland’s badly flawed health exchange website Monday night during a Democratic primary debate, and Brown said for the first time he would not have supported easing the estate tax that was approved by lawmakers this year.

On health care, Brown was asked about his role in what happened during a televised debate on Maryland Public Television. Brown said his focus was on a broad array of matters, and he wasn’t in charge of the technological aspects. While he noted that other states and the federal government had technology problems, too, he said the state made leadership changes and addressed shortcomings with vendors. In the end, Brown said, the state exceeded its goal of insuring 260,000. That’s due to a larger number of Medicaid enrollments than expected, even when signups through the website fell far short of goals.

“Marylanders want to see leaders who did the hard work, took on the problems — even the problems that arose — and got the job done,” Brown said.

But Attorney General Doug Gansler continued to criticize his primary opponent. He said the health exchange is the most prominent enterprise Brown took a leading role on implementing. Gansler also disagreed with the state’s decision to use technology from Connecticut to replace Maryland’s faulty equipment, saying the state should have moved to the federal exchange website instead.

“The problem with Connecticut is that, once again, they went into a closed room, no transparency, no competition, and are chasing good money after bad, and even people in Connecticut say that this won’t work,” Gansler said.

Del. Heather Mizeur, who also is running in the Democratic primary, said leaders need to follow through with making laws work, not just pushing for them to be approved.

“Our ideas and our vision matter in this election, but our track record of implementing laws successfully matters more,” Mizeur said, promising if elected to “make sure we get this right.”

Discussions about taxes also were a highlight of the hour-long debate at MPT studios. Maryland Republicans have been focusing on a variety of tax increases approved during Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration.

Brown took aim at estate tax relief passed by the Maryland General Assembly and signed into law by O’Malley.

“That tax relief for the estate tax never would have made it to Gov. Brown’s desk,” Brown said. “I would have said to the General Assembly: ‘Don’t send me tax relief for the 1,000 wealthiest Marylanders until we look at tax reform for all Marylanders, both individuals and companies.”

The measure will raise the exemption on Maryland’s estate tax from $1 million to $1.5 million next year and $2 million in 2016. It will rise to $3 million in 2017 and $4 million in 2018 before being recoupled with the federal exemption in 2019, when it is projected to be $5.9 million.

Brown says he would form a task force to study tax reform in his first 100 days in office.

Mizeur supports bringing back a tax on people who make more than $1 million a year, a tax that lapsed at the end of 2010.

“Tax policy is misaligned in Annapolis right now,” Mizeur said. “What you see are corporations and milllionaires getting a lot of tax relief.”

Gansler supports reducing the state’s corporate income tax from 8.25 percent to 6 percent to help make Maryland more attractive to businesses to bring jobs to Maryland.

“There’s not a Marylander I come across that doesn’t talk about the tax structure or how we’re not competitive with other states,” Gansler said.

Maryland’s primary is June 24.