A recap of this week’s top-five news items and resources from the intersection of business and government.
1. Governor Moore’s State of State Address lays out priorities, introduces first key policy proposals
Maryland Governor Wes Moore delivered a call to action in his first State of the State address Wednesday, Feb. 1, asking the joint session of state lawmakers to support bills aimed at inspiring Marylanders to serve.
The House and Senate, both controlled by a supermajority of Democrats, is largely expected to support Moore’s priorities during his first session, which began last month and runs until mid-April. Senate President Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat, said Tuesday he expects Moore’s bills to pass — with some tweaks — along the way.
Read the full text of Governor Moore’s speech here.
Maryland Gov. Wes Moore on Thursday introduced some of the key policy proposals that he hopes lawmakers will approve, ranging from creating a promised community service program for young people to improving tax breaks for low-income workers and military veterans.
Nine of Moore’s proposals were introduced in the House of Delegates on Thursday; they’ve yet to be introduced in the state Senate. It’s not clear if these are all of the governor’s proposals, as he has yet to publicly unveil his full wish list.
Proposals included the Fair Wage Act, which would increase the state’s minimum wage, and proposals related to clean transportation and energy, broadband expansion, infrastructure and more.
2. Chamber of Commerce wages federal appeal of Maryland digital ad tax
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has filed a federal appeal of Maryland’s Digital Advertising Gross Revenue Tax Act.
According to the chamber, the tax on digital advertising enacted in 2021 violates an advertiser’s constitutional right to free speech by permitting them to factor in the tax cost on a customer’s billing statement while barring companies from separating the tax out as a surcharge on the invoice.
The Maryland attorney general’s office defended the provision in U.S. District Court last year, citing that the contents of a consumer’s invoice are “commercial” in speech, giving the government authority to regulate. The office has until Feb. 23 to submit the state’s response to the to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
3. Fed announces additional rate hike, economists weigh in on possibility of recession
In its eighth rate hike since March, the Federal Reserve on Wednesday continued the fight against inflation by increasing its key interest rate a quarter-point, signaling that even though inflation is easing, it remains high enough to require further rate hikes. Their latest move places the bank’s benchmark short-term rate at 4.75%, its highest in 15 years. Though smaller than its previous hike — and even larger rate increases before that — the latest move will likely further raise the costs of many consumer and business loans and the risk of a recession.
Despite rising consumer costs and recent high-profile layoffs, the Bureau of Labor Statistics finds that most are still employed – reporting the number of people filing for unemployment benefits fell to a nine-month low of 186,000. In spite of an unemployment rate of 3.5% (a half-century low), many economists agree that we are heading towards some degree of recessionary climate soon.
4. Biden, McCarthy hold debt limit talks as fiscal cliffs loom
President Joe Biden and U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy held closed door conversations at the White House on Wednesday as the country approaches two fiscal cliffs this year amid divided government.
The top issue now is when and how to address the nation’s borrowing ceiling, known as the debt limit, ahead of an expected summer deadline. Biden has remained adamant he won’t negotiate with Republicans on the debt ceiling and that talks about government spending need to move on a separate track.
But the two issues are linked for McCarthy and many in the Republican Party, who want to see an agreement about spending cuts before they vote to address the debt limit, which provides borrowing authority for spending Congress already approved.
5. Maryland joins U.S. Climate Alliance, commits to goals
Maryland has joined the U.S. Climate Alliance and is making efforts to address climate change, including reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, land preservation, and other actions.
By joining the alliance, Maryland is committing to the Paris Agreement’s goal of keeping temperature increases below 2.7-degree Fahrenheit, reducing collective net greenhouse gas emissions by 50-52% come 2030, and reaching overall net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 or earlier.
They will also ramp up policies for reducing greenhouse gas pollution; mitigate climate change impacts; deploy more clean energy efforts at the state and federal levels; and track and report progress on these goals to global partners.
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