By John Wagner
The Maryland Senate advanced a bill Friday that would exempt Lockheed Martin from paying about $450,000 a year in hotel taxes to Montgomery County related to a training center that the giant defense contractor operates in Bethesda.
Supporters of the measure, who include several senators from Montgomery, argued that the tax break would help keep the center operating and is consistent with a decision the General Assembly made in 2010 to exempt the facility from state sales taxes.
But others questioned whether the state is giving Lockheed Martin special treatment.
“We’re treating the same basic companies differently,” said Sen. Bryan W. Simonaire (R-Anne Arundel), who sought unsuccessfully to slow down consideration of the bill, which he characterized as “a carve out” for Lockheed Martin.
A final Senate vote is expected next week. The measure would then move to the House of Delegates.
As written, the bill applies to any company that operates a lodging facility in Maryland solely to support a training or conference facility that is not open to the general public.
Sen. Nancy J. King (D-Montgomery), the bill’s chief sponsor, acknowledged that no company but Lockheed Martin currently qualifies for the exemption. But King said she could envision other facilities qualifying at some point, citing the FBI’s possible move of its headquarters to Maryland as an example.
Lockheed Martin’s Center for Leadership Excellence opened in Bethesda in 2009. It is a 30,000 square-foot conference center and lodging facility located next to the company’s headquarters. It has more than 180 guest rooms.
King’s bill would apply retroactively to 2010. Montgomery officials estimate it would owe a refund of about $1.4 million to Lockheed Martin as a result.
King said that members of the Montgomery County Council are split on the measure, with three members supporting it, three members opposing it, and three taking no position. King said that Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) supports that tax break.