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Brown proposes additional investments, review of business taxes in new jobs plan

Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown. (Photo by Astrid Riecken For The Washington Post)

Maryland Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Anthony G. Brown on Tuesday proposed a four-year, $112 million package of initiatives intended to boost jobs, saying he is determined to “ensure that Maryland is a great state to do business.”

Brown’s plan was the latest in a series of policy proposals that he and his rivals have put forward as they jockey for the Democratic nomination in June. Several of the proposals are directed at improving Maryland’s business climate. Both Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) and Del. Heather R. Mizeur (D-Montgomery) have also offered jobs plans.

Brown said he would seek to bolster the state’s infrastructure, provide more training for in-demand jobs and overhaul the state’s regulatory and tax structures to encourage more business.

His plan includes the creation, within his first 100 days in office, of a Blue Ribbon Commission on Tax Reform, which Brown says will develop a plan to overhaul the state’s tax structure by the 2016 legislative session. Maryland’s tax structure has been cited in a string of studies as an impediment to business growth in a state with many other strengths.

“This work will not be easy, but together, we will align our tax system to our values and create greater opportunities for Marylanders now and in the future,” the plan says.

The commission proposal was criticized by the campaign of Republican gubernatorial hopeful Larry Hogan. In a fundraising letter to supporters Tuesday afternoon, Hogan campaign manager Steve Crim said there was no reason to wait to make changes.

“Maryland’s next governor must act on day one to begin reversing the job-killing tax and spend policies of the last eight years,” Crim said.

Brown’s plan also steers additional state money into an array of new and existing programs aimed at spurring business growth.

For example, he proposes spending an additional $25 million over the next four years on the Maryland Economic Development Assistance Fund, which provides capital and incentives to small and mid-sized businesses, including grant funding to assist companies moving from development to product launch.

And Brown would spend $20 million over four years on a new Maryland Small Manufacturing Tax Credit that businesses could use to establish, expand or purchase new manufacturing equipment.

Brown also promises to overhaul the state’s Department of Business and Economic Development, the agency responsible for fostering business growth in the state. Among other steps, he says he will provide “the flexibility in salary to recruit the most competitive candidates with knowledge and experience in the business community.”

Several other parts of jobs Brown’s plan were previously proposed in other policy initiatives he has offered, including ideas to expand the use of public-private partnerships to build and finance state infrastructure projects.

To address infrastructure needs, he also proposes an “infrastructure bank” that would extend low-cost loans to local governments at more favorable rates than they could get on the market; and a “green bank,” modeled on a Connecticut initiative, that would allow the government to invest in energy efficiency and “green technology projects” with the private sector.

John Wagner is a political reporter covering the race for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.

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