Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (D) said municipal leaders know their constituents best because they work closely with them when it comes to public safety, trash collection and other local services.
To ensure his administration partners in those efforts, the governor plans to hold quarterly meetings, starting next year, with mayors throughout the state in Annapolis at Government House, home to the state’s chief executive.
“We need to be able to hear from you what’s going on. We need to be able to hear from you about what things we should be pushing on…what things we should be focusing on, and how exactly to make sure that this administration is going to be responsive,” Moore said Tuesday during the Maryland Municipal League Excellence in Leadership Fall Conference at the University of Maryland College Park.
“The one thing I know about each and every one of you is that you are serving your communities without fanfare,” he said. “Every once awhile you go out for a meal with your family, and it never turns into a meal with your family because someone’s going to come to you and say, ‘You know what? I just have three things I want to talk with you about.’ I get it, but that’s public service.”
Before the governor began his 20-minute speech, conference attendees sang “Happy Birthday” to Moore who celebrated his 45th birthday Sunday.
Moore’s speech focused on partnership with municipal officials who, he said, work multiple jobs and make personal sacrifices “for your neighbors and to make sure that we’re leaving a legacy.”
Some of the loudest applause Moore received came when he announced his support for the league’s initiative to authorize municipalities to create local tourism zones.
The idea comes from neighboring Virginia where counties, cities and towns are allowed to provide tax incentives such as reductions in permit and user fees and gross receipts taxes. There, businesses who qualify may receive those incentives for up to 20 years.
The aim is to boost tourism, economic development and employment opportunities.
“I want to make sure that everybody not just in our state, but everyone around our state understands that this is the place to be,” he said.
Virginia’s tourism zones are similar to business enterprise zones where the state and local governments promote economic development. The primary difference with a tourism zone: the state’s municipalities and counties may establish one without state oversight.
Virginia has 19 tourism zones including parts of Fredericksburg, Front Royal and Spotsylvania County.
But Maryland municipalities cannot create tourism zones unless state law is changed to give them that authority, said Justin Fiore, deputy director of advocacy and public affairs for the Maryland Municipal League.
“The closest thing we have in Maryland is the AMA tax, or the admissions and amusement tax,” he said. “When you ask big businesses why they locate [to a jurisdiction], it’s more than just the size of the facility or the workers. It can also be the surrounding culture and atmosphere.”
When the General Assembly convenes for its 90-day session Jan. 10, the governor plans to partner with the league and advocate for giving municipalities that authority.
“This tourism zone bill is going to help ensure that more of our municipalities can make use of the incentives and attract local businesses, retain local businesses [and] support local entrepreneurs,” he said. “We’re going to work together and make sure that it makes it to the legislature. When it makes it to my desk, I will sign it.”