Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and challenger Ben Jealous (D) have sparred for several months over Maryland’s economy, and what should be done to add jobs and raise wages over the next four years.
Both candidates have touted their backgrounds as small-business owners, but have disagreed on how much the state’s economy grew in the last four years.
Hogan said in last month’s debate on Maryland Public Television that wages have risen 9 percent, and many more people are employed than when he started as governor.
“We’re very proud of the record we’ve got,” he said. “We’ve had one of the best economic turnarounds in America.”
Jealous, however, said the recent economic growth has not been enough relative to the entire region.
“If we had the job growth [rate] of Virginia, we’d have 40,000 more jobs right now,” he said in last month’s debate. “Here’s the punchline: Virginia’s job growth is lower than the national average.”
According to Hogan’s campaign website, he has cut $1.2 billion in taxes, tolls and fees.
Jealous, however, believes more needs to be done to spur economic growth, including increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2023.
Both candidates responded to five economic questions from The Frederick News-Post via email. One question involved what plans they would take to help more Frederick County families meet and exceed their basic needs, given the findings of the United Way’s Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) report released last month.
Jealous said his whole agenda would address that issue.
“First we fully fund education so that more residents have the skills they need to get good paying jobs,” he said in an emailed response to the questions. “We also raise the minimum wage and reduce the state sales tax so we put more money in the pockets of Marylanders to help them take care of their families.”
Hogan touted his expansion of the state’s Employment Advancement Right Now (EARN) program.
“In a recent study on the economic impact of EARN Maryland, it was determined that for every dollar the state invests into the program, an additional $18.97 in economic activity is created,” he said in an emailed response to the questions. “In comparison, the nationwide average return on investment for workforce development programs is $3.41.”
They also have different views on how to stimulate small-business growth in Frederick County and statewide.
Hogan believes his record, which has included many programs designed for this purpose, means he is prepared to help continue that growth. One of them is the Small Business Relief Tax Credit.
That tax credit “provides tax relief for businesses that offer paid sick leave to their employees, and the governor announced in September he would propose expanding it to include businesses that provide paid parental leave,” according to Hogan’s office.
Jealous, however, believes more needs to be done. That includes lowering the state’s sales tax, along with creating more opportunities for startups, according to his office.
“We create an Office of Tech Transfer which will attract and retain startups,” the Jealous campaign wrote in its email. “We increase TEDCO’s [Technology Development Corporation’s] funding to assist more startups and entrepreneurs in growing their companies.”
One aspect that makes Frederick County different from more urban counties is its abundance of farmland. According to the county’s website, the county has roughly 1,300 farms and more than 181,500 acres of farmland.
Jealous said education in more rural areas is crucial, and students need to be prepared for a diversified economy — all while protecting farmland.
“We have to have an approach that recognizes this is an industry that also does well with a well-trained and educated workforce who can both do the jobs we have today and bring innovation that helps the industry to grow new jobs of the future,” he said.
Hogan said that many state government programs in place right now already do a fine job of this, including the Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation and Department of Agriculture.
“Since 1980, MALPF has preserved 312,666 acres in all 23 counties. By June 2018, MALPF managed a public investment of approximately $729 million in permanently preserved land,” Hogan’s office said. “Specifically in Frederick County, this is 21,209 acres, with $52.1 million invested — with nearly $5 million invested in Fiscal Year 2018 alone.”
Maryland’s governor serves a four-year term, and cannot serve more than two consecutive terms. The annual salary is $150,000. The general election is Nov. 6, and early voting begins Oct. 25.