News Briefs from Across the State

Maryland Black-owned Businesses Boom in Mid-decade

The number of black-owned businesses in the U.S. increased by about 60 percent — more than three times the national average for business growth — between 2002 and 2007, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

Among the states, Maryland had the third-largest percentage of firms with black ownership in 2007, behind Washington, D.C., and Georgia.

At the time, Maryland had about 102,000 black-owned businesses — approximately 19 percent of Maryland firms — according to the government survey.

In 2007, about 55 percent of business in Prince George's County were black-owned, the highest percentage among the nation's large counties. Baltimore City had nearly 15,000 black-owned businesses that year.

Among the nation's large cities, Baltimore had the third-largest percentage — about 35 percent — of black-owned businesses in 2007. The number of black-owned businesses in Baltimore increased by about 50 percent between 2002 and 2007.

In the metropolitan Washington region, which includes Maryland and Virginia suburbs, the number of black-owned businesses increased by about 42 percent, to more than 95,000 firms. Almost 30,000 of these businesses were in two industries, "health care and social assistance" and "professional, scientific, and technical services."

The data comes from the 2007 Survey of Business Owners, a division of the government's "economic census." The data is gathered every five years. It was released Tuesday.

For purposes of data collection, businesses are considered to be "black-owned" if a majority of a firm's equity is controlled by an owner who self-identifies as black.

—By Capital News Services' Steve Kilar

Lawmaker to Governor: Hands Off Dedicated Funds

ANNAPOLIS — Delegate Herb McMillan, R-Annapolis, is preparing legislation that would allow voters to decide whether the governor can continue using funds dedicated to specific causes to help pay for the state's day-to-day operations.

McMillan's bill, which he's dubbed the "Dedicated State Funds Protection Act," would establish a constitutional amendment that would go before voters in November 2012 to block the transfer of money from the state's dedicated funds in order to balance the budget.

The state currently allocates money to a number of funds dedicated to projects like fixing roads and bridges, Chesapeake Bay restoration and preventing cancer caused by smoking.

Shuffling money from dedicated funds to the state's general fund has become common practice McMillan said, noting that Gov. Martin O'Malley and former Gov. Bob Ehrlich have used the technique.

"Frequently, we'll pass a new tax or fee and it's supposed to go to this wonderful cause. They'll lure people into supporting something like that because they know the purpose they want it to go to," he said. "As soon as the legislation passes and the monies are collected the governor ... will take the money and transfer that fund into the general fund."

For example: O'Malley, in his proposed fiscal 2012 budget, wants to transfer $60 million from the state's Transportation Trust Fund to the general fund. Another $40 million from the transportation fund will go to the state's rainy day fund under O'Malley's proposed budget.

Lawmakers estimate $300 million has been taken from the transportation fund in recent years to address general fund deficits.

O'Malley's fiscal 2012 budget also proposes shuffling $25 million in money dedicated to restoration of the Chesapeake Bay.

McMillan refers to this strategy as a "shell game."

"If you really want the money to go to a dedicated fund then you need to make sure it doesn't... just go there, but that it stays there," he said.

McMillan's legislation is similar to a bill proposed by Senate Majority Leader Rob Garagiola. Garagiola's proposal, which seeks to raise the gas tax by 10 cents and vehicle registration fees by 50 percent, includes a constitutional amendment to prohibit the state from "raiding" the transportation fund.

McMillan's legislation goes a step further by trying to block the state from transferring money out of any of the state's dedicated funds.

He shopped the bill on the House floor Wednesday, looking to drum up support before it's introduced later this week (Friday is the deadline to file a House bill with the guarantee it will get a hearing). McMillan said he secured six co-sponsors in the process, all Democrats.

"Truthfully, I'll easily have a lot of Republicans who will be supportive of this," he said. "I'm going to colleagues from the other side of the aisle first."

— By Capital News Service's David Saleh Rauf

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