O'Malley's Agenda Focuses On Health Care, Energy

By Baltimore Business Journal

Gov. Martin Oâ¿¿Malley will push a legislative package this year that includes rolling out federal health care reform in the state, revamping the state retirement and pension system, and adding incentives for renewable energy use and private investment in technology companies.

The governorâ¿¿s agenda includes many items that were to be expected, such as the pension reform he detailed Jan. 21 and the Invest Maryland proposal he unveiled in June. The issues it addresses have been key pieces of Oâ¿¿Malleyâ¿¿s platform during his tenure.

Specific proposals include:

â¿¢ A requirement that the Maryland Public Service Commission require utilities such as Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. to buy power from wind farms built off of the stateâ¿¿s Atlantic coast, helping those projects secure financing;

â¿¢ An extension of health care coverage to 350,000 Marylanders by mandating various aspects of health care reform here, including making it illegal to deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions;

â¿¢ Creation of a health insurance exchange through with Maryland residents and businesses can buy coverage, also a part of health reform;

â¿¢ Permanent creation of the already existing Health Quality and Cost Council, which aims to cut health care costs;

â¿¢ Invest Maryland, which would generate $100 million for the state to put into startup tech firms by auctioning off tax breaks to insurance companies;

â¿¢ Creation of income tax credits worth 20 percent of the cost of an electric vehicle, as well as incentives to encourage electric car owners to charge vehicles during times of low demand for energy;

â¿¢ Incentives for installation of solar water heaters, which the Business Journal reported Jan. 21; and,

â¿¢ A redesigned pension system that gives current state employees and teachers an option to increase the amount they pay into their pension or to agree to take a smaller benefit from it.

Oâ¿¿Malleyâ¿¿s legislative agenda follows his introduction of a budget Jan. 21 that cuts $949 million in spending. The General Assembly will now take up both the budget and the administration-sponsored bills in the coming months.

The legislatureâ¿¿s 2011 session ends April 11.

Copyright 2011 American City Business Journals

http://www.bizjournals.com/baltimore/news/2011/01/24/omalleys-agenda-focuses-on-health.html?ana=thestreet

Copyright bizjournals.com 2010

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