Moore plans to hold quarterly meetings with mayors at government headquarters and support “tourist areas.”
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’s involvement in these efforts, the governor plans to hold quarterly meetings, starting next year, with mayors across the state in Annapolis at Government House, home of the state’s chief executive.
“We need to be able to hear what you think about the things we should be pushing on…what are the things we should be focusing on, and how,” Moore said Tuesday during the Maryland Municipal League. “We are making sure that this administration will be responsive.” Fall Leadership Excellence Conference at the University of Maryland College Park.
“The one thing I know about each of you is that you serve your communities without fuss,” he said. “Every time you go out to a meal with your family, and it never turns into a meal with your family because someone will come up to you and say, ‘You know what? I only have three things I want to talk to you about. “I understand that, but this is a public service.”
Before the governor began his 20-minute speech, conference attendees sang “Happy Birthday” to Moore, who celebrated his 45th birthday on Sunday.
Moore’s speech focused on partnering with municipal officials who, he said, work multiple jobs and make personal sacrifices “for your neighbors and to make sure we leave a legacy.”
Some of the loud applause Moore received came when he announced his support for the association’s initiative to allow municipalities to create local tourist areas.
The idea comes from neighboring Virginia where counties, cities and towns are allowed to offer tax incentives such as reductions in permit and user fees and gross revenue taxes. There, eligible businesses may receive those incentives for up to 20 years.
The goal is to promote tourism, economic development and employment opportunities.
“I want to make sure that everyone, not just in our state, but everyone around our state understands that this is the right place,” he said.
Virginia tourism zones are similar to business zones where state and local governments work to promote economic development. The basic difference with a tourist zone: state municipalities and counties may create one without state oversight.
Virginia has 19 tourist areas including parts of Fredericksburg, Front Royal, and Spotsylvania County.
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 admission and entertainment tax,” he said. “When you ask big companies why they’re there (in a jurisdiction), it’s more than just the size of the facility or the workers. It can also be the culture and atmosphere around us.”
When the General Assembly convenes for its 90-day session on Jan. 10, the governor plans to partner with the association and advocate for giving municipalities that authority.
“This tourist zone bill will help ensure more of our municipalities are able to take advantage of incentives, attract local businesses, retain local businesses (and) support local entrepreneurs,” he said. “We’re going to work together and make sure it gets to the Legislature. “When it gets to my desk, I’ll sign it.”