Hogan delivers third State of the State
Bashes ‘road kill bill,’ calls for bipartisan support
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.
Gov. Larry Hogan, center, prepares to address the Maryland House and Senate for the State of the State in Annapolis on Feb. 1.
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.