Maryland lawmakers pass bill to boost public-private partnerships

Maryland's deteriorating infrastructure could receive a boost from private investor dollars, thanks to legislation passed Monday designed to enhance public-private partnerships.

The idea behind so-called public-private partnerships, or P3s, is to get investors to put up money for, say, highways or bridges in exchange for a share in the revenue stream later. Maryland has had some projects funded by public-private partnerships, but the bill aims to improve the process to attract more investors.

The legislation does this by creating a stronger, more predictable and streamlined process for private investors, said Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, who promoted the measure.

Brown said Maryland, like the rest of the country, is facing infrastructure challenges.

"Going forward, it would cost $12 billion to complete just the top project in each of our 23 counties and Baltimore City alone," Brown said in a statement. Early estimates, he said, are that P3s could contribute 6 percent to 10 percent of Maryland's annual capital budget.

The Maryland Chamber of Commerce supported the bill during the latest legislative session that ended Monday. The organization, which took positions on 163 bills, said that overall, the session was good for business.

"The governor and the House and the Senate — at least the majority of them from both parties — understand the economy is still coming back from the recession and we need to help grow businesses and make Maryland competitive with other states," said Mathew Palmer, the chamber's senior vice president of government affairs.

Among the victories for businesses, Palmer said, was the defeat of an increase the state's minimum wage and a mandate for employers to give workers paid sick leave.

Businesses also will benefit from passage of legislation that will increase the research and development tax credit from $6 million to $8 million annually, he said.

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