A small crowd of supporters gathered in Frederick on Friday to welcome Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler. Speaking in front of the Riverside Technology Park, Gansler announced that he's running for Governor of Maryland in 2014.
He said the economy will be his number-one priority in the campaign, especially trying to improve the state's business climate. "By not promoting business and not having economic vitality here in Maryland, it's unsustainable," he said. "And what will happen is our tax base will continue to shrink, and the Democratic progressive values that we do have will be unmet."
Gansler says Maryland has a strong life sciences industry, which the state can promote; but it could use some improvements. "We're actually the number-one research dollars in the country. The number-one dollars in the country coming into Maryland," he says. "Yet, as I stand here today, we're 39th in tech transfer. That means ideas are being conceived in Maryland, yet produced somewhere else. And we need to change that culture and have an entrepreneurial, innovative culture here in Maryland that will help us continue to thrive."
Gansler will be facing Lt. Governor Anthony Brown and Delegate Heather Mizeur in the Democratic Primary next year. But Gansler says he's beaten the odds in the past when running for Montgomery County State's Attoney and Maryland Attorney General, a post he has served in since 2007.
The stop in Frederick was part of a series of stops across Maryland to promote his candidacy for Governor, which began Tuesday in Rockville.
During his visit, Gansler promised to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10. "It's the first thing I'm going to do. If they don't do it in this legislative session, I'm going to do it as my first act as Governor. And I'm the only statewide elected official that's on record as doing that," he said to applause.
But he also said he would reduce Maryland's corporate tax rate so that it matches Virginia's. "We need to lower it from 8 3/4% to match Virginia's 6%. People say 'that's going to cost you $300-million. How are you going to pay for that?' Well, you pay for it by actually having companies move here," he said, noting that Maryland is headquarters for only three of the nation's Fortune 500 firms. The others have left, Gansler said.
A number of Maryland residents say taxes are too high, and Gansler says he will work change the state's tax structure. "The problem is we've had 40 consecutive tax increases for people in Maryland, the latest being the gas tax which I think is regressive and hurts poor people," he said. "So we have to continue to work on the economy and stop nickel and diming people."
He was asked about the so-called "Rain Tax," which was implemented to try to reduce pollution runoff into Maryland's waterways and eventually into the Chesapeake Bay by levying a tax on imperiable surfaces. Gansler didn't address the levy specfically, but the tax structure in general. "I do think we need to look at our entire tax structure and figure out why it is we're getting our clocks cleaned in terms of the business community and people leaving Maryland. If you talk to most folks, they'll tell you they're being nickeled and dimed by the taxes and we're going to look forward and try and have a more equitable tax structure that will help the middle class, and that will help everybody and that will help us all thrive," he said.