Friday, September 2, 2011

More Maryland vs. Virginia News: Labor, LGBT Rights, Immigrants and Jobs

Earlier this month, we posted a 2-part column noting that Maryland is now beating Virginia in job-creation -- and that growth is coming from the private sector (Part 1, Part 2).

Only a few days later, members of the business community ignored that development and testified to the Maryland Senate that the state still needs to do more to beat Virginia. Maryland Reporter wrote:
Jim Dinegar, president and CEO of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, talked about several large corporate headquarters that have left Maryland for Virginia, or chosen Virginia for its DC-area offices.

“Until you match the apple to that apple, and realize how deficient Maryland is in the things that are important to businesses, there are going to be other businesses” choosing Virginia over Maryland, he said.

And it doesn’t matter if Maryland seems to be climbing the ranks to appear more business friendly, either. Dinegar said that as long as Virginia – which has the reputation of being more business friendly, has a lower 6% corporate tax rate, and has fewer discussions about making changes to the tax code – is doing better than Maryland, Maryland will suffer. 
Are CEO's really suggesting we should be as rabidly  anti-tax as Virginia? Perhaps they've also forgotten that Northern Virginia had for years been unable to raise critical transportation infrastructure funds, due to Richmond's dogmatic refusal to raise taxes under any circumstances. Nevermind the growing traffic jams or that many NoVa voters even supported a local tax increase. In fact, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported earlier this year that Virginia's transportation funding woes continue today:
A majority of Virginians oppose increasing the state's gasoline tax or adding tolls to pay for transportation but support privatizing the state's liquor stores....

While people may bristle at paying more for roads when asked directly about a tax increase or tolls, they elect leaders who promise transportation improvements, said Robert O. Chase, with the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance.

"The public elects its legislators to be knowledgeable on transportation and other matters and to respond based upon what they know to be the facts," he said. "Virginia's transportation program and highway network are falling into a state of disrepair and absent significant new funding, Virginia will not be able to attract and keep the jobs it needs to continue to be prosperous."
Even in spite of these ignored flaws with Virginia's tax policies, I still believe the non-monetary aspects of the Maryland vs. Virginia battle continue to get lost in the jobs coverage. Though Maryland Reporter noted Jim Dinegar's comments about regional tax rates, the Daily Record noted this part of his testimony:
But Virginia, too, has its faults.

The Board of Trade is big on transportation — they endorsed Gov. Martin O’Malley for reelection in 2010 largely because of his stance on the Purple Line and other transportation issues — but didn’t get on board with Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell when he rolled out his $3 billion transportation agenda. After plans to fund it with offshore drilling and selling state-owned liquor stores fell through, the governor turned to borrowing.

“I think the next governor who gets in there is going to be saying ‘Wait, there’s nothing left?’” Dinegar said.

He said while Virginia stacks up well on the business side of the ledger, Maryland does better on the “social issues” that are becoming more important in addition to draws like quality of life and schools.

According to Dinegar, the “lack of a welcome mat” in Virginia for immigrants and gays “are some real liabilities” for the state.
If you also see labor unions more positively than negatively, then Maryland and Virginia's different perspectives on labor relations should also factor into the equation. Maryland Reporter today reported that a (completely rightwing) think tank has rated Maryland among the top ten pro-government union states:
As we head into the Labor Day weekend, a new rating is classifying Maryland as one of the 10 most pro-government union states in the country.

And that’s not a good thing, according to the Big Labor vs. Taxpayers Index released Wednesday by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank that supports free markets and opposes organized labor....

Maryland only scored well on union density – having a low proportion of union members in the state – anti-strike provisions for public employees, and on funding of its state pension liabilities.
I want to continue to remind people during our "austerity" period, that there is a difference between something being "not a good thing" and something costing money that we may not think we have. The anti-labor rhetoric has heated up so much during the recession that it makes me feel we've lost sight of that.

In conclusion: Yes, in Maryland our elected officials are more likely to appreciate our workforce, stand up for civil rights, and avoid scapegoating segments of our population. That's also why we're a solidly Democratic State, while Virginia seems to be having some political identity issues as of late....

It will be very interesting to see where Virginia heads in the upcoming Presidential election -- but in the meantime, there are clearly many reasons why a lot of people still prefer living in Maryland....

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