Governor's legislative priorities tout wind power, health care exchange
O'Malley also wants tax credit for electric vehicles
Days after introducing a budget that calls for state employees to contribute more to their retirement benefits and slashes Medicaid reimbursement payouts, Gov. Martin O'Malley introduced his legislative agenda Monday.
The governor's priorities, which flesh out elements of his budget, include legislation to develop a tax credit for electric vehicles, creation of a health care exchange to comply with federal health care reform and a measure to force utility companies to award long-term contracts to procure energy produced by off-shore wind.
The vehicle tax credit would be aimed at business owners who have fleets that travel less than 100 miles a day and could be charged overnight. O'Malley (D) is proposing business owners receive a tax credit on 20 percent of the cost of the cars.
The health exchange, a local insurance market mandated under federal law, is intended to allow individuals and small businesses to purchase medical care at an affordable rate.
While states are not required to demonstrate viability until 2012, building the health exchange now will make Maryland eligible for federal money, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D) said in a December interview.
The Maryland Energy Administration expects that wind turbines could be operational off Maryland's cost line by 2015 or 2016. The governor's bill would require the Public Service Commission to oversee the energy procurement and ensure contracts of at least 20 years are established.
O'Malley's legislative agenda focuses heavily on job creation, highlighted by his Invest Maryland program, a $100 million tax credit program designed to fuel investment in high-tech industries.
"We are in a fight for our economic future," O'Malley said in a statement released Monday. "It is a fight in which every state has an important duty to fulfill in creating jobs through innovation in a hotly competitive global economy."
O'Malley went on to say that while cutting and juggling priorities are important, they are not enough to create jobs in a new economy. "Effective decision-making must also make and protect strategic investments for a stronger future," he said.
The governor's agenda also includes legislation that would criminalize child neglect and closes a loophole, equalizing penalties for violent crimes committed with various types of firearms.