Marta H. Mossburg is a visiting fellow at The Maryland Public Policy Institute.
Gov. Larry Hogan’s decisive win over Democrat Ben Jealous made him only the second Republican to win reelection as governor of Maryland.
In an election marked nationally and locally by the ascendancies of progressive candidates such as Jealous, it was particularly noteworthy that Hogan won by double digits in a state that proudly waves its progressive flag on most issues.
Given that Democrats still hold supermajorities in both houses of the state’s General Assembly , however, Hogan won’t be able to count on a warm reception for his second-term proposals. But he canuse his last four years in Annapolis to advance a pro-growth agenda that the people of Maryland have heartily endorsed with their lopsided support of him in this deeply Democratic state.
That he has only four years left should make him bolder, as his success hasn’t carried over to his party. His limited time in office does not mean he should take a radical turn to the right, as Hogan claims he won’t do, but that he should make Maryland “Open for Business” — a slogan he put on state welcome signs but has yet to deliver on in tangible ways.
One need only remember that online megaretailer Amazon rejected Baltimore’s proposal to put the company’s proposed second headquarters in the city with the help of billions in state subsidies promised by the Hogan administration. [Amazon’s founder and chief executive, Jeffrey P. Bezos, owns The Post.] Maryland lost Discovery Communications, leaving the state with two Fortune 500 companies. And in case no one noticed, Baltimore’s highest-profile company, Under Armour, is struggling to grow. Founder and chief executiveKevin Plankjust stopped work on his megamansion in Baltimore County and has no plans to restart.
Anyone who regularly drives into Maryland from Dulles International Airport in Virginia can see the difference in the two states’ business climates. The Dulles Technology Corridor is lined with corporate offices for Volkswagen, Deltek, Booz Allen Hamilton, Northrop Grumman and, soon, Amazon, to name a few, along with a lot of construction. On Maryland’s side? A damaged sign that says “I-270 Tech Corridor” and empty space.
Hogan’s top priority should be overhauling Maryland’s tax structure to attract new headquarters to our side of the Potomac and encourage entrepreneurs with the means and drive to start businesses.
It is past time to ask why Virginia keeps winning big headquarters — global construction giant Bechtel Corp. is another new one — while Maryland doesn’t. Virginia’s top income tax rate is 5.75 percent. So is Maryland’s, but when you add local piggyback income taxes, people end up paying a lot more. Corporate income taxes are significantly higher, too: Maryland’s is 8.25 percent, while Virginia’s is 6 percent. And don’t forget Maryland is the only state that levies with an inheritance tax and an estate tax. Location being equal, which state is more inviting for corporations and business owners?
Lower taxes will make the state truly open for business —like booming Tennessee and Texas, both of which have no income taxand have seen a massive influx of residents in the past decade. Hogan shouldn’t try to convince the General Assembly of this, as too many lawmakers will reflexively reject any proposal to cut taxes.
He needs to take his case to the people with stories of why businesses and people left Maryland, making it personal about why children, parents or grandparents moved away. Do this right, and legislative support will follow.
In the same way, he should take arguments for redistricting to the people, pushing against the legacy of gerrymandering left by former governor Martin O’Malley (D). Thanks to a recent federal court decision, Maryland must redraw its 6th Congressional District because of its outlandish boundaries designed to elect a Democrat. [Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) is appealing the ruling.] But the entire state should better reflect geographical boundaries, not political aspirations. Hogan needs Marylanders on his side to force the legislature to do the right thing when it comes time to approve a new map. There’s not a lot of time; the court ordered a new one by March.
Together, these items would make Maryland more economically and politically competitive. Lowering tolls was a good thing, but Hogan has more to do. He can tell a story of the economic power that Maryland could bewhile blocking bad legislation that would further sap the state’s strength outside the Interstate 95 corridor.