Ho­gan de­liv­ers third State of the State

Bashes ‘road kill bill,’ calls for bi­par­ti­san sup­port

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JA­COB TAY­LOR Cap­i­tal News Ser­vice

AN­NAPO­LIS — Gov. Larry Ho­gan (R) de­voted most of his third State of the State speech Wed­nes­day to calls for bi­parti- san ef­forts to ad­vance key parts of his pol­icy agenda, but strongly crit­i­cized sev­eral leg­isla­tive ef­forts by state Democrats, in­clud­ing a con­tro­ver­sial trans­porta­tion bill.

The gov­er­nor de­scribed the past two years as a suc­cess story made pos­si­ble by com­pro­mise and sought to em­pha­size that

the govern­ment un­der his lead­er­ship had “cho­sen ac­tion over ap­a­thy.”

He char­ac­ter­ized Mary­land as a state in deep eco­nomic trou­ble when he took of­fice that has since dra­mat­i­cally righted it­self, say­ing that Mary­land is “stronger to­day than it was a year ago.”

Ho­gan gen­er­ally struck a con­cil­ia­tory tone and of­fered praise to his Dem- ocratic op­po­si­tion in the leg­is­la­ture on sev­eral points.

How­ever, he did offer a stern crit­i­cism of the so­called “road kill bill.” The law as­signs a score to all trans­porta­tion projects and re­quires the gover- nor to pro­vide a writ­ten ex­pla­na­tion to the leg­isla- ture if he de­cides to fund a project with a lower score over a higher one.

In his speech Wed­nes­day in the State House, Ho­gan called the bill “poorly drafted” and “mis- guided.” His call for its im­me­di­ate re­peal was met with rau­cous, stand­ing ap­plause from his cabi­net and Repub­li­cans while most Democrats, who make up about two-thirds of the leg­is­la­ture, sat in stony si­lence.

Re­duc­ing taxes and spend­ing have been cen- tral goals of Ho­gan’s ad- min­is­tra­tion.

Since he en­tered of­fice, he has reg­u­larly clashed with the Demo­crat-dom- inated leg­is­la­ture over how much money the state should spend and what it should spend it on.

The Mary­land Open Trans­porta­tion In­vest- ment De­ci­sion Act of 2016, which Ho­gan calls the “road kill bill,” is an out­growth of that bat­tle, an at­tempt by Democrats to force the gov­er­nor to de­fend spend­ing that goes to trans­porta­tion projects in ru­ral parts of the state rather than ur­ban and sub­ur­ban parts. Re­gard­less of the mer­its of the bill, it puts the gov­er­nor in a po­lit­i­cally tight po­si­tion by forc­ing him to ei­ther com- ply with the leg­is­la­ture’s trans­porta­tion fund­ing pri­or­i­ties or risk look­ing like he is un­fairly fa­vor­ing projects in ru­ral, pre­dom- inantly Repub­li­can ar­eas.

The gov­er­nor also ad­dressed govern­ment cor­rup­tion, which has be­come a prom­i­nent is­sue and a headache for Demo­cratic lead­ers amid a bribery scan­dal in­volv­ing of­fi­cials from Prince Ge­orge’s County and the dis­tri­bu­tion of liquor li­censes. In his ad­dress, Ho­gan touted a pack­age of anti-cor­rup­tion leg­is­la­tion he had an­nounced at the foot of the State House Jan. 19.

Tax re­lief has fac­tored heav­ily into Ho­gan’s plat­form. In his first State of the State ad­dress in 2015, Ho­gan said he hoped to even­tu­ally make all re­tire­ment in­come tax-ex­empt. He stated this goal again in his speech Wed­nes­day, and de­scribed his pro­posal to offer tax ex­emp­tions

on mil­i­tary, po­lice and fire­fighter re­tire­ment in­come as a step to­ward that goal.

Ho­gan said his admin- is­tra­tion has an “un­wav- er­ing com­mit­ment to ed- uca­tion” and high­lighted his pro­posed 2018 bud- get’s fund­ing for school con­struc­tion, higher ed- uca­tion tu­ition re­lief and schol­ar­ships for un­der- priv­i­leged stu­dents to at- tend pri­vate schools.

The gov­er­nor praised the leg­is­la­ture for pass­ing leg­is­la­tion fund­ing schol­ar­ships for un­der­privi- leged stu­dents to at­tend pri­vate schools, and tout- ed that he ex­panded fund- ing for that pro­gram in his pro­posed 2018 bud­get.

Ho­gan’s catch phrase through the speech was “we can and must do more,” which he used to de­scribe his views on sev- eral pol­icy ar­eas.

State Sen. James Ros­apepe (D-Prince Ge­orge’s, Anne Arun­del) said in a state­ment: “Gov­er­nor Ho­gan said many things I agree with. But he ig- nored the ele­phant in the room — Pres­i­dent Trump and the Trump Republi- cans in Wash­ing­ton.”

Ho­gan briefly al­luded to Don­ald Trump and feder- al dis­cord when he said that na­tional pol­i­tics need not di­vide Mary­lan­ders. He also may have hinted that he in­tends to play to Mary­land’s mod­er­ates in the up­com­ing 2018 gu­ber­na­to­rial elec­tion, say­ing, “Mary­land has al­ways been called a state of mid­dle tem­per­a­ment.”

Ho­gan en­joys an ex­cep­tion­ally high ap­proval rat­ing, at­trib­uted in part to his abil­ity to dis­tance him­self from Trump dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

As the 2018 gu­ber­na­to­rial elec­tion ap­proaches, Democrats will likely try to as­so­ci­ate Ho­gan with Trump, who is ex­tremely un­pop­u­lar among Mary­lan­ders.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF CAP­I­TAL NEWS SER­VICE/HAN­NAH KLARNER

Gov. Larry Ho­gan, cen­ter, pre­pares to ad­dress the Mary­land House and Se­nate for the State of the State in An­napo­lis on Feb. 1.

CNS PHOTO BY HAN­NAH KLARNER

Mem­bers of the Mary­land House and Se­nate give Gov. Larry Ho­gan a stand­ing ova­tion at the con­clu­sion of his State of the State ad­dress in An­napo­lis on Wed­nes­day.

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