Franchot speaks to Dorchester Chamber

Dorchester Banner/Dave Ryan
Maryland State Comptroller Peter Franchot spoke to members of the Dorchester County Chamber of Commerce at Suicide Bridge Restaurant on Friday.

HURLOCK – State Comptroller Peter Franchot visited Dorchester County on Friday, having lunch at Suicide Bridge Restaurant with members of the Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Franchot spoke in general about the state’s legislature and economy, and in particular about one of his favorite projects, promoting craft breweries, wineries and distilleries.
The comptroller is the state’s tax collector. Among his other duties, he is Maryland’s chief alcohol regulator.
Mr. Franchot, a Democrat, began his remarks by reporting that he has been working well with Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.
“I have a very positive relationship with the governor,” he told the full room of local business leaders. “In public and in private, we’ve agreed not to tear each other down.”
Mr. Franchot said he has been making efforts to reform the procurement process, protect taxpayers and save money. “I happen to think that is what the public is thirsting for,” he said.
He moved on to comments regarding his office’s efforts to improve customer service, saying they have just finished processing 3.2 million tax returns, 90 percent of which were filed electronically. Refunds valued at $2 billion went to 2 million families, he said, with an average response time of 2.1 business days.
His staff have answered 300,000 phone calls since January, with an average wait to speak to a person of 40 seconds, Mr. Franchot said. Now there is a push to create more jobs at call centers, to reduce or eliminate the wait time.
“We put 25 new jobs in Salisbury at a call center,” he said. “I’m delighted to report that we’re going to put another call center in Hagerstown.”
With what he called a “good, moderate climate” for business now in the state, Mr. Franchot said he is focusing on the promotion of the craft beer industry. These small breweries, such at Real Ale Revival (RAR) in Cambridge, are popping up across Maryland. “I think we have a dozen of those on the Shore,” he said.
Currently, craft breweries are selling almost $2 billion worth of suds a year, and their cup could overflow to the tune of $6 billion a year.
But there’s a catch, and Mr. Franchot didn’t mince his words.
“The legislature has given the decision making over to a few well connected lobbyists,” he said, who make their choices “like they are the King of Siam or something.”
Still, the promise of growth in this industry remains attractive to the state’s economy and for bringing young people from elsewhere to settle in Maryland. Smoothing the way for this to happen could provide benefits all around.
“It bleeds over into the rest of the state’s business reputation,” Mr. Franchot said.

Dorchester Banner/Dave Ryan
Cambridge Mayor Victoria Jackson-Stanley gave an update on economic activity in the city.

There are things happening locally, as well.
“Cambridge is working again,” Mayor Victoria Jackson-Stanley said. “We are doing a lot. Cambridge Marketplace is the most visible.”
Work on the project has begun along U.S. Rt. 50, with the demolition of the old Fresh ‘N’ Green building. An extensive mall is planned for the site.
To contact the Office of the Comptroller, visit comptroller.marylandtaxes.com.

Dave Ryan is editor of the Dorchester Banner. He can be reached at dryan@newszap.com.

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