In a recent virtual meeting with business leaders, Senate President Bill Ferguson and House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones said addressing public health and the economic effects of the pandemic would be a top priority during the 90-day session.
The crisis has placed unprecedented economic pressures on businesses across Maryland, especially small and minority businesses, which often lack the resources or capital to sustain a significant loss of revenue over a long period. The pandemic also highlighted the challenges for access to child care and the magnitude of the digital divide.
The Greater Baltimore Committee plans to advocate for financing policies and solutions to accelerate economic recovery, with an emphasis on supporting small and minority businesses. Some specific principles that the GBC will urge lawmakers to follow include:
- Providing recovery resources that target the most impacted sectors, including restaurants, hotels, retail, tourism and non-profit organizations.
- Approve policies or programs to increase access to capital for small and minority companies, including traditional and non-traditional sources of capital (CDFIs, PPP, venture capital, etc.).
- Invest state dollars to help efforts to reduce the digital divide, including expanding broadband access and connectivity.
While addressing the effects of the pandemic is the main focus, there are other important political priorities that the GBC will focus on to ensure that the Baltimore and Maryland region remains competitive. These are:
The creation of a strong and competitive business climate is among the most important functions of the government. Job creation, an important result of a strong business climate, not only provides additional tax revenue, but new opportunities for citizens at all levels of the employment scale. Some specific measures that the GBC will urge lawmakers to consider include:
- Policies that ensure that the cost of doing business in Maryland is competitive with other states, including regulatory policies that are simplified, stable and predictable.
- An ecosystem of strong and inclusive economic development that improves the business climate, creates jobs and cultivates entrepreneurship.
- Maintain state investment in Maryland’s most innovative industries, including bioscience, cybersecurity, healthcare, information technology, educational technology, medical devices and other cutting-edge industrial sectors.
Violent crime and public safety concerns threaten the health, well-being and economic prosperity of communities. The persistent rates of violent crime in Baltimore require strategic action by state and local officials. Policymakers must come together in a coordinated approach that reduces violent crime while addressing the roots of crime. Some of the specific measures that the GBC will recommend that lawmakers consider include:
- Strengthen the laws and coordination of criminal justice agencies to prioritize the focus on the recurrence of violent offenders.
- Increase funding for programs that address traumas, addictions and mental health and provide access to rehabilitation treatment, education and labor training.
- Support evidence-based policies and programs to promote the successful re-entry of incarceration and remove barriers to employment, including restrictions on access to education, training grants, scholarships, occupational and occupational licenses and housing.
Education, workforce training
Preparing the workforce to succeed in tomorrow’s economy requires innovative thinking, industry-specific training programs and career plans. Policymakers must enact legislation that ensures that the state’s workforce has well-trained workers at all skill levels. Some of the specific measures that the GBC will recommend that lawmakers take include:
- Ensure that school funding is adequate and targeted to prepare all students to achieve academic proficiency standards and succeed in post-secondary education and the workforce.
- Increase support for Vocational and Technological Education and double enrollment in high schools. Support work-based learning programs at all levels of education.
- Provide additional state funds for basic adult education and labor training.
Policy makers must strategically invest in interconnected multimodal transport networks that actively contribute to economic growth, connect workers to employment and transport people and goods safely and efficiently. Some of the specific measures that the GBC will advocate include:
- Additional funding for state transportation in all modes to the Greater Baltimore region and to oppose efforts to disproportionately direct state dollars to other regions of the state.
- Consistent and adequate operating capital and funding levels for the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) to ensure the safe and efficient operations of the current system and to reduce the billions of dollars accumulation needed to keep the existing system in good repair.
- Prioritize financing for projects that provide enhanced multimodal connectivity to major workforce and distribution centers, including the Port of Baltimore, BWI Airport, Tradepoint Atlantic and Port Covington.
- Advocate for policies and funding to advance major MARC projects and to restore service cuts as workers return to the office during the phased economic recovery.
- Advocate for additional resources to support the implementation of the Maryland Regional Transit Plan.