The decision by Montgomery County and Maryland to give Marriott Corp. $31.68 million in tax breaks and financing to keep its headquarters in the county can be seen as a sort of penance for Montgomery County's anti-business, anti-roads and pro-regulation environment.
In theory, I agree with state Sen. Paul Pinsky [Close to Home, Sept. 26] that government should not use taxpayer-supported financial incentives to entice firms to stay or move to a particular region.
However, the only reason Maryland and Montgomery County concocted their "incentive package" for Marriott was to prevent Marriott from relocating to Virginia, even though Virginia did not offer any financial incentives other than road construction.
Marriott was interested in moving to Northern Virginia because that region has a much more favorable stance toward business, taxation and regulation than exists in Montgomery County. Virginia also is willing to pay for new roads to accommodate economic expansion.
The Marriott deal, however, is just one example of Maryland and the county trying to mitigate anti-business policies with taxpayer-supported projects. The redevelopment of downtown Silver Spring, the construction of the White Flint Metro conference center (a Marriott project that will put the county in the hotel-convention business) as well as tax breaks already given to some companies to stay in the county would not have been necessary if Montgomery had a better environment for business.
Montgomery County's planning and zoning bureaucracy, its high property taxes and its unwillingness to build new roads give businesses the willies when they consider where to set up shop. Marriott exploited this situation to its advantage, and so will other companies until politicians realize that they need to make changes.
Pinsky is from Prince George's County, so I don't blame him for Montgomery's anti-business culture. However, instead of complaining about the Marriott package -- or making illogical comparisons to Maryland's deal to bring the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore -- why doesn't he use his position in the state Senate to promote lower taxes and fewer regulations so that Maryland counties do not become what he dubbed "enablers for anti-social corporate greed"?
Montgomery County's Sen. Brian Frosh and Del. Leon Billings can do their part too. I agree with Frosh's statements in a Sept. 18 Metro story that the Marriott package is "an invitation for every other Maryland business to say, `Stick 'em up.' " But Frosh, who has a reputation of being anti-development and against new roads, should look at his part in fostering an anti-business climate, which makes such corporate hold-ups possible.
And Billings, who at least supports new roads, should stop using rhetoric such as "Marriott only supports capitalism when corporate socialism isn't more profitable." Instead, he should team up with county and state officials to foster free enterprise in Maryland rather than handouts to businesses that threaten to relocate elsewhere.
-- Ken Reid