The ICC is ahead of schedule, and, thanks to the bipartisan transportation law enacted last year, dozens of long-delayed roads and transit projects are off the drawing board and under construction. Further, our FY 2006 budget proposes a $50 million repayment to the Transportation Trust Fund.
This year, we have an opportunity to keep this momentum going by enacting targeted incentives that will stimulate three growth sectors of Maryland's economy.
The first is Maryland's film industry.
Over the past decade, filmmaking in Maryland has had a total economic impact of more than $750 million.
In FY 2004, Maryland hosted 307 days of filming for 2 feature films, 5 independent films, 5 "short" films and 8 television productions. An additional 87 productions were completed on commercial, industrial, music video, documentary and "other" projects.
The film industry provides 1,650 full-time equivalent jobs in our State.
Our bill encourages future Maryland-based filmmaking by offering film companies a rebate on the first $25,000 of wages paid to production employees on locations across the State.
The second is Maryland's high tech/bioscience sector. Two important tax credits will keep Maryland at the forefront of the new economy by stimulating creation of -- and investment in -- early stage bioscience and advanced technology businesses.
First, we should extend our research and development tax credit to 2011, increase the limit of each to $6 million, and add to our new arsenal an "Entrepreneurial Investment Technology Tax Credit" which investors in biotechnology or venture capital firms may apply towards their state income or insurance premium tax bill.
The third is Maryland's population of retired military personnel.
These former soldiers are valuable citizens who contribute to the intellectual, economic, and patriotic foundation of communities.
Pennsylvania and New Jersey have enacted their own exemptions, boosting their economies by attracting many talented military retirees to their states.
The Free State should demonstrate its thanks by phasing in an exemption from state income tax for military retirement income earned by those with two decades of service. Not only is it the patriotic thing to do
it is the smart thing. This is an idea whose time has come!
Last year, I concluded my remarks by reaffirming the philosophy that guides my style of governance and my service to the citizens of Maryland: "I assure you that I will always advocate for my positions in a straightforward manner, negotiate in good faith, maintain flexibility, and seek common ground. However, I will not hesitate to hold firm on the promises I made to the citizens of Maryland when they elected me governor."
You responded by passing an historic series of policy initiatives. Indeed, here are some examples of things that can happen when good policy takes preference over politics: the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund;
nutrient management reforms;
public charter schools;
new roads and transit projects;
mental health assessments for juvenile offenders;
the Maryland Department of Disabilities;
the Heritage Tax Credit; and
a revitalized brownfields law.
These ideas do not carry a Republican or Democratic label.
Indeed, when I think about our accomplishments during the past two years -- even against a backdrop of divided government -- I am reminded of a sign which sat on President Ronald Reagan's desk which read: "There is no limit to what you can accomplish if you don't care who gets the credit."
These successes illustrate what is possible when we put the people's business above partisan gamesmanship. Such is our job -- indeed, our obligation, to our citizens.
This year, we can do better. We can set the bar higher.
So, let's get back to work.
And, as we begin ask God to bless our State, our country, our troops, our law enforcement professionals and first responders, and everyone who defends our hard-won freedoms.
Thank you and Godspeed.