Scott Dorsey is the CEO and chairman of MBRG—Maryland Business for Responsive Government. Duane Carey is the organization’s president. Since 1985, MBRG has educated the members of Maryland’s political and business communities on the questions, challenges, and opportunities facing the state’s private companies, with a focus on holding elected officials accountable to the overall goals of an improved business climate and sustained job growth. A nonpartisan institution, MBRG is supported by corporations, trade associations, chambers of commerce, and individuals.
EDWIN WARFIELD: Tell us about some of the ways MBRG provides education to businesses, politicians, and the public. Can you walk us through the Roll Call report card?
DUANE CAREY: Roll Call, very straightforwardly, takes a look at the actual votes of every representative—every delegate and senator in Maryland—and determines whether those were pro-business votes, pro-economy, pro-job growth, or job-killing votes. We look at about 10 bills per year in the Senate, and about 10 in the House, give or take, and very simple scoring—it’s a plus or a minus: Did you vote with the economy or did you vote against it? Then, each legislator gets a percentage score that’s tallied up each year and those over 70%—all we ask is a C-minus—are considered pro-business; and those below are not, and they need some work.
SCOTT DORSEY: Let me tell you about how I got involved. I was appointed to be a member of the Maryland Economic Development Corporation by Bob Ehrlich in 2004. At that time I really was not involved in political issues at all. I went to Annapolis one cold January morning and went to a fundraiser for Senator George Edwards from western Maryland, who is a very pro-jobs Senator and has been for decades. At that fundraiser, I looked in the corner of the room and I saw this small, older gentleman that looked familiar to me and I couldn’t quite place him. I realized it was Governor Marvin Mandel.
I walked over to the corner of the room and I said, “Governor Mandel, it’s really good to see you, but I thought you were a Democrat and this is a Republican event.” He said to me, “Young man, my politics have not changed one iota.” I thought about it and I realized that even though he was a Democrat, back in the 80s, you know when he was in power and Don Schaefer, there really was an appreciation for the importance of jobs and economic growth in the State of Maryland, and that somehow, it seemed that we had lost our way.
I can tell you that I went back to the Roll Call votes from 1987. In 1987, you really had much more of a normal distribution of scores from Democrats and Republicans. Everybody seemed to get it.
I’ve actually got some numbers here. In 1987, the average Democratic score was 56% and the average Republican score was 83.5%. Now by 2016, the Democratic scores had gone on average down to 33.6%, while the Republican scores have moved up to 92.9%. It shows there’s really been a dichotomy created between pro-business and other issues. The difference between the Democrats and Republicans is 59.2%.
DUANE CAREY: And when you met Governor Mandel, that was the same time that he was co-chair of MBRG with Ellen Sauerbrey. A strong Republican and a strong Democrat who were both very committed to business in the State.
SCOTT DORSEY: And that’s really what MBRG is about now. It’s not about conservatives, progressives—it’s about jobs. It’s about job growth in Maryland. I define a businessperson as a person that works in the private sector for a paycheck. It has nothing to do with management or labor. It has to do with “Are you working in the private sector for a paycheck?” If you are, whether you are a laborer or a CEO or a supervisor, your interests are the same. The policies that are good for business are the same policies that are good for jobs. That’s something that’s become lost in the political discourse over the past couple of decades.
DUANE CAREY: It’s been made into an “us versus them,” which is about the silliest thing there could be, and completely untrue, but it works for some people politically, I guess.
SCOTT DORSEY: Absolutely. The role of MBRG is simply to get people to understand that opportunity comes from jobs, and our policies that are being set forth in Annapolis are not conducive to prosperity and to job growth, and our role is to help the electorate to understand. We really need to get everybody to understand that we can change the narrative in Maryland. Right now, according to Rich States Poor States, Maryland’s economic performance is down in the mid-30s to 40s out of 50 states. And we’re actually doing worse now than we were four or five years ago. We have a Governor now who’s very, very pro-growth. He needs to work with the General Assembly, and we need to get the message to the General Assembly that we as the voters, the owners of the State of Maryland, if you will, will not settle for mediocrity.