U.S. Senator Ben Cardin told a meeting of Maryland manufacturers and workforce development officials yesterday that the state isn't going to take a recent challenge from Texas Governor Rick Perry sitting down.
"We've all been challenged by the governor of Texas. We're going to take on the challenge," said Cardin, referring to TV advertisements that feature Perry urging Maryland businesses to move to Texas for lower taxes and less regulation. "We are open for business in every conceivable way."
Maryland's manufacturing advantages include proximity to markets, to major transportation infrastructure, to decision-makers in Washington and to workers with engineering and technical skill, he said. The senator praised several examples of manufacturing prowess in the state, including Paul Reed Smith Guitars; Lion Brothers, which embroiders uniform decals for professional sports teams, and Marlin Steel Wire Products.
"What's done at Marlin is the best in the world," the senator said. "You understand quality."
Yesterday's roundtable with the senator at Howard Community College in Columbia was organized by the Regional Manufacturing Institute (RMI) of Maryland. Small manufacturers described frustration with uncertainty oozing from Washington. One manufacturer described the chill that sequestration has cast over their government-related work.
They also just got notice of a 34-percent increase in insurance premiums -- even though they're not required to provide health insurance under the Affordable Health Care Act since they're less than half the size of the 50-employee requirement. The senator's explanation that they'll be due for a refund under the law if they're truly getting gouged didn't bring much comfort: Rate hikes and uncertainty are sapping cash flow and energy now, they said.
Cardin, who sits on the Senate Finance Committee, stressed the need for a reformed tax code more based on consumption than income, similar to other industrialized nations. The current system, he said, hinders manufacturing and "keeps a lot of money offshore."
"We're not ceding manufacturing in this country," Cardin told the Maryland manufacturers gathered, "and we're not ceding it in this state."