CUMBERLAND — Economic development is forefront for both incumbent Del. Kevin Kelly and his House of Delegates District 1B challenger, Cumberland attorney Jason Buckel.
Both candidates have ideas for legislation they say they’d like to work on getting through the General Assembly. While there’s a lot of talk about cutting the corporate tax rate, Kelly said that what he’d rather see is a cut in the personal income tax rate, since that’s the tax that most small business men and women pay. He said he would also like to have the legislative delegation arrange a summit with local business and government leaders to discuss effective ways to bring economic development to Allegany County.
Buckel said his legislative priority would also deal with economic development.
“The first and perhaps most important piece of legislation that I hope to have enacted is a legislative package designating all of Allegany County as a special tax incentive and economic development zone which would provide significant advantages to businesses in the cybersecurity, biotechnology, advanced manufacturing/3-D printing, and digital data management fields to locate operations in Allegany County. These types of businesses and industries flourish throughout other parts of Maryland and neighboring states,” Buckel said.
Such legislation would equalize some of the difficulties faced by the county.
“In order to attract these industries of the future, Annapolis needs to recognize that Allegany County and other economically disadvantaged areas within Maryland need the ability to offer property and corporate tax advantages, loan guaranties and technology infrastructure upgrades that will drive higher paying jobs to our county,” Buckel said.
Kelly said all sorts of tax credits and enterprise zones already exist. “There is no magic bullet. ... The General Assembly can’t pass laws telling businesses to come here,” Kelly said.
Buckel, a Republican, blamed the Democratic Party for “taxing and regulating our citizens to death.” That being said, Buckel said he can work with Democrats. “While I’m sure that I will have a different point of view from the Democratic leadership in Annapolis on certain issues, that doesn’t mean that people of good faith and integrity who care about all of Maryland can’t work together on core issues concerning growing our state and local economy, reducing crime and making Maryland’s schools and universities the nation’s finest,” Buckel said.
Buckel said his legislative priorities would be economic development, tax and regulator relief, Second Amendment rights and crime. He advocates “more police manpower, more political pressure on the prosecution of repeat offenders and tougher sentencing guidelines.”
Kelly has served 24 years in the House of Delegates and Buckel believes that’s not a good thing. “I am running for the House of Delegates because I believe that Allegany County needs a better future and I know that we need a more effective voice in Annapolis. I’m not a career politician, and I’m committed to serving no more than 12 years maximum in this job. For too long, we’ve been falling behind in Allegany County while some of our “leaders” accomplish little other than playing politics and cashing paychecks. It’s time for a change,” Buckel said.
Kelly pointed out that he hardly votes in lock step with the Democratic party leadership. He said his support for gun rights is indisputable.
During his time in Annapolis, Kelly said he and his colleagues representing the district have brought millions of dollars that have created jobs for local workers and brought new schools, jobs and water and sewer systems. Kelly pointed to Mountain Ridge High School and the planned Allegany High School, the deal to create a casino at Rocky Gap and the prisons.
In several public forums, Buckel and Kelly have offered different perspectives on the importance of the prisons to the local economy. Kelly said the prison’s have brought 1,100 good jobs, let alone the $300 million in work constructing them.
“Prisons have not solved anything for Allegany County,” Buckel said. Correctional officers are underpaid and must work in dangerous conditions, Buckel said.
“For anyone to denigrate the correctional facilties is extremely troublesome and offensive,” said Kelly.
Both candidates were asked about thier plans for constituent service — helping citizens out who face problems with the government. “I set the gold standard for constituent service,” Kelly said. He said his years of service in Annapolis means he knows how to get the attention of the right people in government to get problems promptly addressed. Even in the rare cases when something can’t be resolved, the citizen will have an explanation of why the problem cannot be solved. Usually, though, the situation can be resolved within days of Kelly sending out a letter.
“I know all the players down there and have a good relationship with them,” Kelly said.
Kelly especially prides himself on helping out constituents who are senior citizens.
Buckel said he has a plan to handle constituent service if he is elected.
“I will maintain a full-time office and presence in my district and have a full-time aide to assist with constituent service requests. I understand how difficult and frustrating it is to navigate through the government bureaucracy and my office will always be available to help any constituents when they have a problem or concern that I can address,” Buckel said. However, constituent service isn’t the only purpose of being a legislator, Buckel said.
“Constituent service is a significant part of the job, although it is not the only or most important part of serving in the House of Delegates. Ideas, leadership and working together matters,” Buckel said.
District 1B has about 23,007 voters, with 8,189 Democrats, 11,008 Republicans, 3,426 unaffiliated and a scattering of voters affiliated with other parties.
The district includes portions of Cumberland, Frostburg and Mount Savage as well as Rocky Gap. The district begins at the Garrett County line and moves east to the state park region.
Matthew Bieniek can be contacted at email@example.com.