Maryland gubernatorial hopeful Anthony G. Brown on Thursday proposed a nine-point “compact” with the private sector to boost the state’s business climate and sought to steer clear of questions about his rival’s controversial June appearance at a raucous beach-house party for recent high school graduates.
Brown (D), the state’s lieutenant governor for the past seven years, said his plan includes pledges to reform Maryland’s tax code and streamline regulations, as well as steps such as investing in skills training programs and curbing energy costs.
His presentation at a business event in Baltimore was largely overshadowed by the brouhaha over reports of fellow Democratic contender Douglas F. Gansler’s visit to the party at a beach house where his 19-year-old son was staying.
Based on photographs and interviews with teens who attended the party, the Baltimore Sun reported that teenagers below the legal drinking age were drinking beer at the event. Gansler, Maryland’s attorney general, initially said he was at the gathering only briefly and had no moral obligation to stop teens other than his son from drinking. But he acknowledged Thursday that he could have done more to curb any illegal behavior.
Brown, when asked whether he would have handled the situation any differently, did not answer directly. “What the attorney general encountered, that’s a matter for him,” Brown said.
Brown also rebuffed suggestions by Gansler that the Brown campaign had been fueling recent controversies about Gansler. Those include a Washington Post article last week , citing written allegations by the Maryland State Police, which said Gansler often ordered troopers assigned to drive him to speed and run red lights even on the way to routine appointments.
Asked whether his campaign had anything to do with the leaked beach house party photo, Brown said that he first learned of it when he picked up the newspaper Thursday.
“Ken and I have been very clear with our staff,” Brown said. “We are running a positive campaign.”
Brown’s business climate plan was short on specifics. But he and his running mate, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman (D), said it was the starting point for a dialogue with business leaders about creating more favorable conditions to spur job creation. The ticket also announced Thursday the creation of a Business Advisory Group to help guide its efforts.
“Over the last seven years, we’ve made a lot of progress, but there’s always more that we can do to make Maryland better for more Marylanders,” Brown said at an event at staged at MTC Logistics in Baltimore. He was joined by an array of business leaders and Kathleen T. Snyder, president of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce.
At an event this month hosted by a manufacturing association, Gansler said that the state has an anti-business climate “in reality and in perception” and that a series of tax increases enacted under the current administration is partly to blame for companies “fleeing our state.”
Gansler had proposed cutting the corporate income tax rate in Maryland from 8.25 percent to 6 percent, to match that of Virginia. He has been pounding the current administration for failing to match Virginia’s efforts to lure employers. At gubernatorial forums, Gansler regularly asserts that Maryland is “getting our clock cleaned” by the commonwealth.
Brown, in his nine-point compact, noted that “while Maryland’s economy ranks #1 in innovation and entrepreneurship, we rank only 43rd in business climate in at least one survey.”
The lieutenant governor said he wanted to focus on what could be done better. “Instead of debating whether Maryland has a so-called ‘business friendly’ climate or is hostile to business, Ken Ulman and I believe the more productive approach is to forge a stronger partnership between the public and private sectors,” he said.
The third candidate running for governor in the June Democratic primary is Del. Heather R. Mizeur (D-Montgomery).