ANNAPOLIS — In his first State of the State address nearly two months ago, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan repeatedly referred to small businesses as a barometer for Maryland’s health, advocating for a focus on business-friendly policies to boost the state’s economy.
The state Senate agreed March 31, passing a bill that would create a small business advisory panel in the Department of Business and Economic Development, and advancing a tax relief measure Hogan has said will benefit more than 70,000 small business owners.
The advisory panel echoes Hogan’s promise to consider how each decision he makes will affect small businesses. The six-member council, which would include small business owners, would review bills and help inform lawmakers about the legislation’s potential consequences for businesses.
“It gives the small business community a voice in the regulatory process that they haven’t had before,” said Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton (D-Charles), the chair of the Finance Committee.
Meanwhile, the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee on March 27 approved Hogan’s Small Business Personal Property Tax Relief Act of 2015. The bill would excuse a business from paying a tax on $10,000 or less in personal property, which includes work-related property such as office equipment.
The bill should save eligible businesses an average of $72 in taxes per year, according to the bill’s fiscal note.
The two measures advanced with strong support in the Senate chamber, though a few senators were concerned the advisory panel was a “feel-good bill” that would not make state regulations more business-friendly.
The proposed panel “makes the regulatory process in the state so bureaucratic as to slow down any effort to help improve working conditions,” said Sen. Richard Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery), vice-chair of the Budget and Taxation Committee.
But Madaleno described himself as the “floor leader” in the discussion of Hogan’s tax relief bill.
“It’s more of a headache elimination for the smallest businesses,” he said. “To me, that had a real impact on reducing a burden on small businesses.”