Franchot Touts Bioscience Industry
Comptroller Peter Franchot (D), one of Maryland's most outspoken opponents of legalizing slot-machine gambling, spent a morning last week highlighting an alternate vision for bolstering the state's economy and its tax collections.
Franchot played host Thursday at the Maryland Life Sciences Summit, bringing together representatives of an industry that generates $29.billion in economic output, revenue, supports 120,000 jobs and contributes almost $600.million in state government taxes annually, according to a new study released at the event.
Later, Franchot noted for reporters that the amount of tax revenue produced by the industry is about the same as what legislative analysts project will be generated for the state by the slots bill approved by the General Assembly in last month's special session. A ballot question authorizing slots in the state would have to be approved by voters in November for the bill to take effect.
"If we simply double the life sciences industry in Maryland in the next five years, we'll achieve the same result and produce much better jobs," Franchot said.
Franchot said that his goal is "very achievable," citing figures in the new study by Sage Policy Group Inc.
The definition of life sciences remains a little squishy, but the report defines the industry as including those involved in the research, development or manufacture of biologically active molecules, devices that employ or affect biological processes, biological information resources and software designed specifically for biological applications.
By that definition, the report says Maryland is home to perhaps the greatest concentration of bioscience research facilities in the world. In addition to a rich stable of biotech firms, the state also benefits from the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, Johns Hopkins University and other institutions, the report says.
Franchot's summit, which consisted of a half-day of panel discussions and networking time at a Columbia hotel, drew grumbling from some in the O'Malley administration and the legislature, who questioned whether Franchot was, once again, stepping too far beyond his role as the state's chief tax collector.
This year, the legislature, at the request of Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), created a state advisory board on life sciences.
Franchot's office, which said it spent $12,000 on the summit, made no apologies. "He sees this as the most preferred way to advance Maryland's economy and expand the tax base," said spokesman Joseph Shapiro.
December 17, 2007; 10:39 AM ET
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