Monday, June 05, 2006

MD Democrats: Businesses? Hate ‘em. Felons? Love ‘em.
Moves on BGE, Wal-Mart bad for business

Maryland officials are scaring off investment in the state with such anti-business moves as the court-ordered scrutiny of Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.'s energy rates and the law that forces Wal-Mart to pay employee health benefits, business leaders say.

"Wal-Mart yesterday. BGE today. Who's next?" asked William R. Burns, spokesman for the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, which represents about 850 businesses employing more than 340,000 people statewide.

He said companies are thinking twice about operating in Maryland after Baltimore Circuit Judge Albert J. Matricciani Jr. ordered the state's Public Service Commission to review the utility company's pending 72 percent rate increase and open its books for political leaders.

The lawsuit by Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, a Democratic candidate for governor, also succeeded in voiding the energy plan of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican seeking re-election…

Maryland Secretary of Business and Economic Development Aris Melissaratos, whose chief job is attracting companies to the state, said the judge's ruling was a "huge negative."

"I'm often asked why Baltimore does not have more [corporate] headquarters," he said. "This is the answer. It makes my job that much tougher."

Mr. Melissaratos also criticized calls by Mr. O'Malley and some state lawmakers to review compensation paid to Mayo Shattuck, president and chief executive officer of Constellation Energy Group, which is BGE's parent company, and financial details of a proposed $11 billion merger of Constellation Energy and Florida utility Florida Power and Light Co.

"That is not the realm of legislatures or courts," he said. "Frankly, there are regulatory bodies [such as the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission] set up to do those things."...

Perhaps the Maryland Democrats believe the felons they want to add to their constituency will supplant the lost investment dollars and tax revenue of businesses they drive from the state.

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