By Len Lazarick
“If it weren’t for the more moderate leadership in the Senate, things would be a lot worse than what they are” in the Maryland General Assembly, Sen. Ed Kasemeyer told Howard County business leaders Wednesday.
Kasemeyer, Democratic chairman of the Senate Budget and Taxation, said on business issues like combined reporting and the minimum wage that leaders like himself are keeping progressive forces at bay. Kasemeyer was addressing the annual legislative wrap-up of the Howard County Chamber of Commerce, a group in which he served as president in 1980 before his election to the legislature.
Sen. Allan Kittleman, a Republican running for Howard County executive, agreed that the minimum wage “could have been a whole lot worse” for business interests.
On the minimum wage, for instance, the Senate Finance Committee on which Kittleman serves changed the House version to raise the wage to $10.10 over a longer period of time and exempted more workers.
Minimum wage “a whole lot better”
“It was a whole lot better than when the governor brought it in,” said Kittleman. He also said it was remarkable that Senate President Mike Miller referred to the need to reduce Maryland taxes when he supported higher exemptions for the estate tax.
Kasemeyer, typically laid back but tight lipped in Annapolis, was more forthcoming to a friendly home audience.
He said he continues to fight repeated legislation by liberal Democrats to institute “combined reporting” for corporate taxes, a method that uses the percentage of sales in a state to calculate taxes on profits.
Kasemeyer said the vote in his committee continues to stand 7-6 against combined reporting, mainly because he asks his vice chairman, Sen. Nathaniel McFadden, D-Baltimore City, not to vote for it even though McFadden supports it.
“That’s what we’re fighting off,” Kasemeyer said. “Keeping the status quo is sort of a victory down there,” as he contends with the pro-labor legislators from Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and Baltimore City.
“He’s telling you the way it is,” said Kittleman, a former minority leader of the Senate.
New commission expected to help business
Kasemeyer said a “sleeper occurrence at the session” was the formation by the Senate president and House speaker of a new Maryland Economic Development and Business Climate Commission headed by former Lockheed Martin chairman and CEO Norman Augustine. “I see significant legislation coming out of it,” Kasemeyer said.
The commission held its first meeting Wednesday.
He said his committee would be focusing on reducing income taxes on pass-through business entities such as subchapter S corporations, which pay no corporate taxes but whose partners pay personal income taxes on profits distributed to them.
“That’s where we thought we could do the most good,” Kasemeyer said, rather than reducing the corporate income tax rate, a proposal he’s advocated at Howard County Chamber meetings in past years. “I think the focus is going to be put on the small business entity.”
Chamber leaders were not completely reassured. Cole Schnorf, senior vice president at the Manekin commercial real estate firm and co-chair of the chamber’s legislative committee, said he heard Kasemeyer’s statement with “mixed emotions” as he wondered “how much worse it could get.”