Cumberland Times-News

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September 23, 2013

Democratic gubernatorial candidates woo labor group

ELLICOTT CITY — Three Maryland Democratic candidates for governor wooed a labor organization on Monday by pledging to pursue labor agreements that steer work on public projects to unionized firms.

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown said project labor agreements would have a chance in every public project under his administration, while he also noted that there are legal requirements that must be met for them to go forward. He said his administration would work to address legal hurdles.

“And you know what? Sometimes we’ll be successful and sometimes we won’t, but that won’t stop us from trying,” Brown said at the Maryland State and DC Building Trades Conference.

Attorney General Doug Gansler, who is launching a statewide tour on Tuesday seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, also committed to moving ahead with public labor agreements.

“We’re going to have project labor agreements in the future,” Gansler said.

Delegate Heather Mizeur, whose district is in Montgomery County, said she pushed to have project labor agreements during the recent legislative session as part of a major Baltimore schools funding measure. But she said Democratic leadership balked at the idea for fear it would jeopardize the proposal.

“So rather than push it for a vote and end up losing badly, we decided to hold off, wait for a Mizeur administration where we get these things done,” she said.

Brown also touted a gas tax increase approved in a tough vote in this year’s legislative session, saying it will enable construction of badly needed transportation projects that will increase construction jobs.

He also noted difficult work on expanding gambling in Maryland, which will generate jobs for construction workers who will be needed to build a new Las Vegas-style casino near the nation’s capital. Brown also noted that he does not foresee a need for raising taxes further.

Brown also said he worked to bring all parties to the table to include a prevailing wage provision in a law that created a framework for unlicensed-private partnerships in Maryland.

Gansler said more inspectors are needed to enforce prevailing wage violations, and Brown said the state budget will include more funding to do that.

Gansler also said he supports raising the state’s minimum wage to $10. He also pointed out that he backs reducing the state’s corporate income tax from 8.25 percent to 6 percent to help keep businesses from moving to Virginia.

“We’re bleeding business,” Gansler said. “I think business and labor can and should work together.”

Mizeur also underscored her support for raising the minimum wage.

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