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Town hall meeting held on unemployment rate, rising taxes

The Hagerstown Tea Party and Americans for Prosperity-Maryland held event

June 01, 2010|By HEATHER LOWERY
  • Maryland Del. Steven Schuh, R-Anne Arundel makes a gesture while speaking to those gathered for a town hall meeting Tuesday at Next Dimensions in Funkstown. The event was held by the Hagerstown Tea Party and Americans for Prosperity-Maryland.
Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

FUNKSTOWN -- The Hagerstown Tea Party and Americans for Prosperity-Maryland held a town hall meeting Tuesday that focused on the state's current unemployment rate and rising taxes.

The event at Next Dimensions restaurant included speakers Christopher Summers, president of the Maryland Public Policy Institute; Del. Steven Schuh, R-Anne Arundel; and Joan Warner, president of Associated Builders and Contractors-Cumberland Valley.

Also in attendance were Republican candidates Del. Chris Shank, Cort Meinelschmidt, Denny Stouffer, Jeff Cline and Bill McKinley.

AFP-Maryland has 21,000 members, 13 chapters and is a nonprofit, grassroots organization focused on informing and educating citizens about economic policy.

Both the Hagerstown Tea Party and AFP-Marlyand are looking to make the state of Maryland competitive again economically, speakers said.

"Our state has a lot to offer. We're at a fantastic location. We are well set up to receive new businesses, but we are 49 out of 50 concerning the individual income tax rate. New York is the only other state that has a higher income tax rate than Maryland," said Neil Parrott, organizer of the Hagerstown Tea Party.

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The unemployment rate was another hot topic at the town hall meeting. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Maryland's unemployment rate has risen in the past 10 years from 3.5 percent in March 2000 to 7.7 percent in March 2010.

"We have an unemployment rate of 11.1 percent in Washington County. Maryland is ranked 45 out of 50 when it comes to business-friendly environments. That means only five states are worse than ours," Parrott said.

Schuh said the state budget is in dire need of reform.

"Spending has gone up 7 percent. Revenue is going down by 3 percent," he said. "We have a deficit approaching $2 billion. And it's not getting any better."

Schuh, Summers and Dave Schwartz, AFP-Maryland's state director, said that if Maryland's environment is not changed, there will be an increase in taxes.

"How can we change the environment in Maryland? We need to get good-paying jobs in Maryland. We need to make it a friendly environment for businesses," Schwartz said.

"If we create a different environment, you will see an uptick in the economy," Summers said.

The business environment in Maryland is what continues to hurt the unemployment rate, Summers and Parrott said.

"Maryland has the climate, the natural resources and the close proximity to Washington, D.C., and these are good things, things that don't need to be changed. However, the economic policies, they can change. State economic policies are crucial to a state's environment," Summers said.

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