Prince George County business leaders are betting that Gov.-elect Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) can bring some fiscal stability to the state and keep higher taxes away.

Many business groups in the state, including the Prince George's Chamber of Commerce, were neutral in the race between Ehrlich and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (D).

"The state government cannot spend more than the money it is taking in, and on that point we agree with the governor-elect," said Kathleen T. Snyder, president of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, which did not endorse a candidate for governor. "We can't allow partisan politics to get in the way of improving Maryland's economy," she said.

Legusta Floyd Jr., senior operations manager at the Landover-based commercial cleaning company Centennial One Inc., said fear of increased taxes made him favor a change of leadership in Annapolis.

"I'm paying more [taxes] than I want to pay now," said Floyd, a member of the Prince George's Chamber of Commerce and the national Business Leadership Network. "My number-one issue is fiscal responsibility."

Art Eisenstein, owner of Time Piece Jewelers in Bowie and president of the Bowie Chamber of Commerce, said he, too, wanted change, specifically in the state's smart-growth policy aimed at focusing development around public transportation and older, densely populated areas. He said new developments weaken older business communities, such as the one in Old Bowie, that have survived despite their relatively long distances from the Metrorail system.

The lack of affordable health-care plans for small-business owners was also a major issue.

"For small business in Maryland, it has become more and more expensive to provide health insurance for their employees," Snyder said.

H. Walter Townshend, president of the Baltimore-Washington Corridor Chamber of Commerce, said the new governor and legislators will likely have a steep learning curve.

"Anything that could be cut out of the budget has largely already been done. At this point you're really having to look outside the box," Townshend said. "The 't' word comes up."

Thinking outside of the box might mean legalizing slot machines, which Ehrlich supported during his campaign.

"We do support slots," Snyder said of the state chamber. "We'll be in front of that if they are heavily state regulated and in limited locations. We're not talking about full casinos. We're not talking about anywhere in the state. Marylanders are spending hundreds of millions of dollars outside the state. Let's keep them here and help improve our schools."

Oxon Hill resident Bonnie Bick, who lives near a horse track in Prince George's -- a possible location for slots -- said arguments for boosting state revenues do not factor in the social costs of legalizing slots.

"Prince George's County needs to keep our eye on the social costs because we've already suffered quite a bit for not having our priorities straight," said Bick, a leader of the Campaign to Reinvest in the Heart of Oxon Hill and of the Sierra Club.

Bick, who opposed the National Harbor development planned near Oxon Hill, said slots lead to "crime, the breakup of families and suck money from other investments like small businesses and more healthy economic projects."

-- Krissah Williams

Business leaders say Maryland Gov.-elect Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has his work cut out for him.