February 3, 2010

Business groups support jobs tax credit

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By Len Lazarick
Len@MarylandReporter.com

A wide range of Maryland business group supported Gov. Martin O’Malley’s proposal to give a $3,000 tax credit for hiring an unemployed worker at a hearing Tuesday.

But Sen. George Edwards, R-Western Maryland, said it was “wrong” to propose a new jobs credit when the governor was seeking to eliminate a tax credit for coal mined in Maryland. He called the measure “one of the great tax credits for the poorest part of our state.”

The president of a group fighting illegal immigration also testified that the bill should require that all those hired be certified as citizens.

The jobs tax credit is a key element of O’Malley’s legislative package this year, which he pushed in his State of the State speech Tuesday.

Tom Saquella of the Maryland Retailers Association dismissed doubters who believe the credit will have no impact.

“I don’t know what planet they are living on,” Saquella said. “We believe it will make a difference.”

The cost of the credit is capped at $20 million, meaning it could help foster only about 6,600 jobs. Stacy Mayer of O’Malley’s legislative office said the amount “had to be enough for a number of businesses to participate,” but needed to be “a number that we could do and still be fiscally responsible.”

Kathleen Murphy of the Maryland Bankers Association said the $3,000 was enough that it “may push [employers] over the edge” on a decision of whether to hire a new employee or not.

Ron Wineholt of the state Chamber of Commerce supported making the credit $5,000 for each worker, while retaining the $20 million cost of the plan.

Matthew Palmer, representing Johns Hopkins University and Medical Institutions, the state’s largest private employer, also favored the plan. It would offer a cash rebate for nonprofit organizations that hired the jobless as well.

Sen. Edwards, who sits on the Budget and Taxation Committee that heard the testimony, said he would fight the elimination of the $4.5 million coal-mining tax credit.

“I will go to the mat on this one,” Edwards said.

Mayer said the governor’s office would like to sit down with him and discuss the issue.

Edwards and Sen. Lowell Stoltzfus, R-Dorchester, both said the state needed to look at regulations that he believes discourage the creation of jobs and businesses.

“These kinds of things are sort of out of control,” Stoltzfus said.

Sue Payne, president of the illegal immigration opponent group Citizens Above Party, said she opposed the bill because it did not protect against hiring “unauthorized” workers. She cited O’Malley’s speech earlier in the day which talked about “embracing the power of citizenship.”

She said that an employer hiring under the tax credit should be required to use the Homeland Security Department’s e-verify system to check the immigration status of any new hire.

“We ought not to take the chance that these jobs are being given to illegal aliens,” Payne said.