Cumberland Times-News

January 21, 2013

Chamber of Commerce takes stand on coal tax credit, work on Footer Dye Works building

Matthew Bieniek
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — The Allegany County Chamber of Commerce has taken a stand on two issues of local importance, continuing a move in the past few years to speak with a collective voice on issues important to the local business community.

The chamber strongly supported the retention of the mined coal tax credit in a Jan. 16 letter to Delegate Sheila Hixson, the chairwoman of the House Ways and Means Committee. The chamber also took a stand on a letter sent the same day to Canal Place leaders, asking them to look at other alternatives to renovation of the Footer Dye Works building. The letter also opposed further public funding of the renovation project unless a credible developer is found.

“Unlike other areas of the state, the immediate repeal of tax credits allowed for the purchase of Maryland-mined coal would have a direct effect on Western Maryland,” the letter to Hixson reads. The letter points out that many companies have signed contracts anticipating the use of the tax credit.

Gov. Martin O’Malley supports the repeal of the coal tax credit in his 2014 budget, released last week. “Allegany and Garrett companies affected by this repeal, if unable to absorb these losses, will inevitably need to eliminate jobs,” the letter states.

Public service companies and a few other designated companies receive a $3-per-ton credit for purchasing Maryland-produced coal. The credit cannot pay a company anything over its tax liability for the year; it can only apply up to the limit of the tax liability.

The public service providers rebate part of their savings back to coal companies based on their contracts with the companies. The effect of the law, currently set to expire in 2021, is to encourage purchase of Maryland coal by Maryland companies.

The fiscal and policy note prepared in 2012 for the repeal bill by the nonpartisan Department of Legislative Services indicates a few million dollars in savings for the state should the credit be repealed early.

In the Canal Place letter, the chamber laid out a tight scenario for any continued public funding for the rehabilitation of the Footer Dye Works building. The letter was addressed to the chairman of the Canal Place Preservation & Development Authority, Andy Vick.

“The chamber respectfully urges the CPPDA to carefully consider alternatives to the use of additional public funds to renovate the exterior of the Footer Dye Works building. ... additional public funds should not be used if a viable developer cannot be secured in a reasonable amount of time. If a viable developer is secured, additional public funds should not be released without a strict contractual and financial commitment from the developer,” the chamber letter stated.

The chamber said it recognizes the important of the success of Canal Place to downtown.

“Private development in and around the Canal Place Heritage Area is vital to the revitalization of downtown Cumberland and its economy,” the letter, signed by the chamber’s executive director, Stu Czapski, stated.

The authority has sought the help of the District 1 legislative delegation for the project. Delegation members have stressed the need for a commitment from a developer to get support from other General Assembly members for funding, Delegate LeRoy Myers said last year. Vick, with the support of authority members, maintains that the project is viable.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com.