The year 2013 is in its infancy, but the local chamber of commerce is already working on its list of priorities for the year.
The West Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce will look to continue the momentum of 2012 in some areas, but will also look to finish initiatives that hit roadblocks last year.
Chamber members plan to meet with state lawmakers next week in Annapolis to outline their priorities in the upcoming legislative session, which begins Wednesday.
Odenton-Severn Patch met with chamber president and CEO Claire Louder in her Odenton office, and she outlined a few of the priorities for the organization in 2013.
Transportation - With roads strained by the thousands of new residents and workers in the area, the chamber will take another stab at pushing for new money to fund the construction of roads and public transit. Once again, the chamber is advocating an increase in the gas tax to pay for the work, but is also advocating a constitutional amendment to protect the state's Transportation Trust Fund from being raided.
"We're one one of the richest states in the country and one of these days we have to realize is that we're benefiting from these jobs and that we're going to have to [fund] it ourselves."
Louder said there are big local projects that need funding, such as the widening of Route 170 into Odenton, but that it may be more important to emphasize smaller "bite-sized" projects that could receive funding more easily. Such smaller projects would be eligible to receive funds from development impact fees.
Taxation - The chamber is looking to prevent the legislature from approving a sales tax on services, citing the logistics of implementing it. Businesses such as shoe repair specialists or dry cleaners are not currently set up to charges taxes. Other related issues including a sales tax on Internet sales will be watched closely.
Town Center Momentum - Louder said 2012 was a good year for the development of the Odenton Town Center, with several projects completed during the year. She said the focus this year will be on seeing at least a half-dozen other projects come to fruition, including the completion of the Flats170 apartments and new apartments across from the fire hall. 2013 should also be the year when we see significant work on the extension of Blue Water Boulevard and a new sewer line.
Hoping Congress Gets Its Act Together- Louder said she was relieved to see that the U.S. Congress struck a deal to avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff" but said she was "disgusted" that many key issues, including spending cuts and the lifting of the debt ceiling, remain unresolved. The uncertainty is preventing many agencies and their contractors from spending money, and continued delays will be a drag on the economy, she said.