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Dangerous Talk

The two leading Democrats seeking to replace Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. yesterday sought to turn on its head the Republican incumbent's well-known exhortation to the business community to "be dangerous."

Ehrlich (R) has used the phrase to encourage business leaders to hold Democratic lawmakers accountable for legislation unfriendly to business -- and to direct and withhold their campaign contributions accordingly.

Yesterday, appearing before the Maryland Chamber of Commerce and the Tech Council of Maryland, both Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan and Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley borrowed the phrase to call for a more collaborative working relationship between business and government.

"What horrible advice," Duncan said of Ehrlich's phrase. "Let's pick a fight instead of solving problems."

"I am not here today to ask you or anyone else in our state to be dangerous," O'Malley later told a luncheon crowd of about 200. "As your neighbor, I want you to be successful. ... I don't believe that political volatility, political instability, that lines in the sand and polarization are good for business."

Sponsors of the candidates' forum had sought to put Duncan and O'Malley on stage together. Duncan agreed, but the O'Malley camp balked, arguing that consecutive appearances would offer more substantive answers to the group's questions. A coin toss determined the speaking order.

John Wagner

By Phyllis Jordan  |  May 17, 2006; 10:18 AM ET
 
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Comments

I'd be interested to know both O'Malley and Duncan's view on businesses in Maryland. I'm hoping that they can craft policy that doesn't give businesses a free pass at the public's expense (a la' Ehrlich), but is also not overbearing as the MGA can be at times. There is a happy balance between business and the public out there somewhere...

Posted by: Mr. K | May 17, 2006 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Good points, Mr. K. I think that Duncan and O'Malley would both do a great job being able to balance the public interest and the need to create a favorable business climate. Duncan as County Executive and O'Malley as Mayor have both had to work with businesses to revitalize parts of their jurisdictions, and have been open to easing regulations and really partnering with them to make improvements. They both also look at the public interest when they talk about, for example, closing corporate tax loopholes. I always like telling my friends that they pay more in taxes than Victoria's Secret. If only we all had holding company accounts in Delaware...

Posted by: Kenneth | May 17, 2006 11:24 AM | Report abuse

It's ridiculous that any businessman would give to a Democrat in Maryland. This state's tax and regulatory climate discourage business development and drive economic growth to Delaware and Virginia. The Democrats in this state don't seem to understand that businesses, not government, create jobs and move people out of poverty. It's ridiculous how Ehrlich's common-sense reforms have been opposed so vigorously by the General Assembly.

Posted by: MK | May 17, 2006 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Um, Kenneth, what are you talking about? After Comptroller Schaefer worked for years to bring the Delaware holding companies to heel, Governor Ehrlich's administration introduced a bill to bring the practice to an end; the bill passed. Open a "holding company account in Delaware" if you like, but make sure you pay Maryland taxes on that income.

And remember that that loophole was closed by Governor Ehrlich.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 17, 2006 11:02 PM | Report abuse

Gov. Ehrlich introduced a loophole closing bill? You mean, Gov. Ehrlich VETOED a loophole closing bill. The following year a watered down loophole closing bill become law without his signature.

You aren't entitled to your own facts. Gov. Ehrlich closed no loopholes (he's the guy telling businesses to get dangerous; he's not closing any loopholes).

Posted by: Anonymous | May 17, 2006 11:13 PM | Report abuse

No, I'm not entitled to my own facts. Nor are you. These are _the_ facts. An administration bill--HB 297 from 2004--closed the DE holding company loophole. Governor Ehrlich closed the loopholes.

Here's the summary of the bill from the nonpartisan Department of Legislative Services:

"This Administration bill includes several measures designed to prevent corporations from avoiding the Maryland corporate income tax by shifting income away from the State through the use of Delaware Holding Companies (DHCs) and other State tax avoidance techniques."

Ehrlich vetoed a similar bill the year before, but the Delaware holding company loophole was without a doubt closed by the Ehrlich administration in 2004.

This bill was watered down? How so?

Posted by: Anon #1 | May 17, 2006 11:28 PM | Report abuse

1. In 2003, the legislature passed House Bill 753 that closed a couple of corporate tax loopholes. Gov. Ehrlich vetoed the bill.

2. In 2004, Gov. Ehrlich introduced a much more modest loophole closing bill. This was an attempt to stop the legislature from doing something more comprehensive.

3. The legislature amended the bill before passing it. The bill became law without the governor's signature.

4. Giving the governor credit for closing loopholes is revisionist history. It doesn't even pass the laugh test.

Posted by: You are not telling the whole truth | May 17, 2006 11:55 PM | Report abuse

Hey, if the governor (and his campaign staffer posting here) want to take credit for closing loopholes they are welcome to it. There are about a million more loopholes that let the fat cats dodge their taxes while us working stiffs pay not only our fair share but theirs too.

Maybe during the campaign, while touting his record on closing loopholes, the governor will promise to go further and close more.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 18, 2006 12:00 AM | Report abuse

Was the bill introduced by the Administration? Did it cut off the holding company loophole?

The amendments can be seen here: http://mlis.state.md.us/pdf-documents/2004rs/bills/hb/hb0297e.pdf

Hardly revisionist history. Again, ""This Administration bill includes several measures designed to prevent corporations from avoiding the Maryland corporate income tax by shifting income away from the State through the use of Delaware Holding Companies (DHCs) and other State tax avoidance techniques."

An Administration bill. To prevent corporations from avoiding Maryland income tax.

HB 753 of 2003 also imposed the insurance premium tax on all HMOs, increasing the health care costs of millions of Marylanders, and imposed a 10% corporate income tax surcharge along with a number of corporate income tax "loophole" closings. Plenty of reasons for the Governor to veto the bill.

But in a more focused bill in 2004, introduced by the Administration, the holding company loophole was closed. The only laughing is in your own head.

Posted by: Anon #1 | May 18, 2006 12:08 AM | Report abuse

And, come, now, the history is all at the General Assembly's web site.

Nothing is being hidden--the whole truth is there.

The Ehrlich Administration closed the Delaware holding company "loophole."

Posted by: Anon #1 | May 18, 2006 12:09 AM | Report abuse

I don't know much about loopholes. I do know that the governor is the one running around telling the business community to "get dangerous" and that he is tired of being their backstop by killing legislation.

So here is a question for the other 8 people who post on this blog:

Do you really think that the governor gets credit for closing loopholes?

Like "you are not telling the whole truth" says, I have a hard time believing that the governor is going to run around telling people that he closed corporate tax loopholes as part of his campaign rhetoric.

Posted by: Survey says... | May 18, 2006 12:16 AM | Report abuse

Aw, shucks...don't know nuthin bout nuthin...

Posted by: Anonymous | May 18, 2006 12:26 AM | Report abuse

This is funny to listen to Doug-the-regulator-Duncan talk about promoting business or Martin-tax-em-to-hell-and-back-O'Malley talking about it.

Ehrlich's done more for MD business in 4 years than the previous 5 Governor's combined.

The legislature has also done more to try to reverse this than the previous legislatures.

So Ehrlich needs people to vote him an override-proof house of delegates and senate.

Posted by: Bryan | May 18, 2006 1:09 AM | Report abuse

If you want to know Doug Duncan's position on the role of business in Maryland, just look at the economic boom in Montgomery County that he has overseen. Not only did Duncan smartly realize that the key to growing his county was growing jobs, but he concentrated his efforts on high quality jobs in high tech industries like biotech and information technology, creating incentives for businesses to locate in Montgomery County and helping to form bridges between those businesses and the federal government, among others. Imagine if this model could be expanded to other counties in Maryland. O'Malley has accomplished NOTHING that compares to this level of success during his time as mayor of Balitimore.

Posted by: Paul | May 18, 2006 9:25 AM | Report abuse

Paul, your post is PATHETIC (see, I can use ALL CAPS too!)

Duncan inherited a prosperous, affluent county and years later it remains, what a shock, a prosperous affluent county regardless of Duncan's efforts or if he ever showed up to work. Doug taking credit for MoCo's success is like taking credit for the sun rising each morning.

Martin O'Malley stepped up to assume one of the most challenging jobs in American politics---the helm of big city. Six years later, a major biotech park is under construction in East Baltimore and construction cranes are visible throughout the downtown area. Is there still more work to be done in Baltimore? Of course there is and Gov. O'Malley will make sure that the state will once again serve as a strong partner to see it all through. Oh..and don't worry, MoCo will remain prosperous.

Posted by: Baltimore voter | May 18, 2006 9:43 AM | Report abuse

It is interesting, Florida and Maryland are "life imitating life." We have a Republican Governor, also, who did magnifiscent favors for big business. And as the reader discussed, "Business not government fuels growth." But what kind of jobs?

In Florida, we have employment, but they are low wage. We are endandgered, (because of the Jeb laissez faire business climate he created with hand picked Tallahassee dept heads) of becoming a "walmart" nation, where everyone will be on medicaid soon. But big business prevails. Ehrlich has spent so long, like our Governor, in the business creation climate, he forgot what stewardship is!

The only thing different between our two states? You have a Majority Democat(ic) state congress that provides for the people. In Florida, our State legislators know Jeb's brother is still president. And they act like they are buying "political lottery tickets" and forgetting what fiduciary menas.

Posted by: peggy arvanitas | May 18, 2006 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Peggy, in MD we enjoy very high average wages, low unemployment, the lowest unemployment numbers since 1962, and we're doing it all under Ehrlich. I don't think he's lost track of Stewardship with those sort of accomplishments.

Posted by: Bryan | May 18, 2006 7:17 PM | Report abuse

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