Opinion

Examiner Local Editorial: Montgomery makes itself less competitive

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Opinion,Local Editorial

Leaders in the District of Columbia must be pretty happy whenever they look north. The Montgomery County suburbs once had several economic advantages for new residents and businesses to move there. Luckily, the state and county governments are hard at work eliminating them, one by one, making D.C. more competitive each day.

The county's high-income earners, long squeezed by the county's piggyback tax, will now pay D.C. income tax rates without the benefit of the District's low property taxes, thanks to Maryland's new "hundred-thousandaires tax." As for businesses, the County Council moved to punish them on Tuesday.

In an effort to curry favor with a single union chapter, the council narrowly passed a bill that makes it more difficult to let certain contractors go, even when they provide poor service. As it happens, the bill applies specifically to services provided by members of the Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ -- janitorial work, security, building maintenance and food preparation.

As The Examiner reported Wednesday, the measure affects "private schools, hospitals, nursing homes, museums, convention centers, airports, music halls, arenas and office buildings" that contract such services. Companies that win new contracts from them will have to hire and keep the fired company's staff on the job for 90 days.

There's no question that this measure contravenes the economic freedom of those who hire such contractors, to say nothing of the contractors themselves. As Marilyn Balcombe, president and CEO of the Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce, put it, "This bill requires the new contractor to retain the old contractor's employees who may have been the very reason for the change."

This new law isn't the end of the world for businesses. Washington has had a similar law on the books for many years. But the fact that things could be worse for businesses in Montgomery County is sort of beside the point. The question for anyone looking for a place to live or base a business in the region is this: If you're going to be subject to high taxes and onerous labor regulations anyway, what's the point of picking a location way out in the suburbs?

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