Democrats say he missed an opportunity to fight for Maryland.
Annapolis, Md (KM) Before an audience of Delegates, Senators and other visitors at the State House in Annapolis, Governor Larry Hogan (R) touched on a number of issues during his State of the State Address on Wednesday.
He told lawmakers and those watching on television that Maryland’s economy has been performing very well. “We added 73,000 new jobs, and our unemployment rate has dropped 4.2%,” he said, to applause in the audience. “We created more new manufacturing jobs than all of the states in the Mid-Atlantic region added together.”
Hogan said Maryland has the second lowest percentage of people living below the poverty rate in the nation, and has the highest median household income in the US.
But he acknowledged not all areas of Maryland are benefiting from the good economy, and that includes western Maryland, the lower Eastern Shore and Baltimore City. The Governor called for passage of the Maryland Jobs Initiative, which provides incentives for the creation of new jobs in areas that need them the most.
He called for more relief to Maryland retirees who are leaving the state because they can’t afford to live here. Eventually, when the national economy is at full recovery, and the state has corrected its debt situation, Hogan said he would like to eliminate all taxes on retirement income, like other states have done. “But let’s get started moving toward that goal right now by passing the hometown heroes act to eliminate income taxes on the pensions of those who have put their lives on the line for us, our retired military, police, fire and first responders,” he said.
Democrats, in their response, say Hogan missed an opportunity to fight for Maryland. In his speech, the Governor did not mention national issues such as the President Trump’s promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act. But in a statement from Maryland Democratic Party Executive Chuck Connor, said “Trump’s harmful agenda is being felt at home,” noting that more than 400,000 Maryland could lose their health care coverage. “And as Governor Larry Hogan refuses to stand up to Trump, Democrats are preparing to defend Maryland middle-class families from the harmful impact of his agenda.”
Montgomery County Delegate Bill Frick (D), the House Majority Leader, said in a pre-recorded statement, that President Trump’s executive order to freeze hiring of federal employees has hurt tens of thousands of residents who work for the government; and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act could “decimate” Maryland’s budget. “Unfortunately, we don’t hear much from Governor Hogan about how he will work to prevent or mitigate the devastating changes his compatriots in the White House and Congress are inflicting,” he said. “Instead, we hear more of the same: more slogans, more attacks on Democrats and more campaign style posturing.”
Frick said innovative solutions are needed to address unemployment, stagnant wages, and the heroin and opioid crisis. “We remain willing and eager to work with the Governor to tackle these challenges,” he said. “But he’s determined to continue the pattern of seeking out cameras over solutions and working on catchphrases instead of working for consensus, well, we’ll have to move forward as a legislature, with or without Larry Hogan’s support.”
Governor Hogan mentioned the heroin and opioid epidemic in his State of the State Address, and how he appointed Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford to head up a task force to come up with solutions. Hogan said investments were made to carry out these recommendations. But he called on Senators and Delegates to do more when it comes to prevention, treatment and law enforcement.
He also acknowledged that Maryland can’t do it alone. “Nearly all of my fellow governors of both parties have joined with me to ask the federal government to finally get engaged in this national crisis,” Governor Hogan said.
On the issue of education, Governor Hogan said he has invested more than $6-billion to fully fund legislative formulas for public education. “Every single penny that every single jurisdiction anticipated from the state for education is fully funded at 100%,” he said, to the applause of those in State House.
Part of his budget also includes $1.35 billion for the state’s university system, and $256-million for community colleges. “And to continue to make our commitment to make college more affordable, we’re providing an additional $17.5-million specifically for tuition relief so that 14 Maryland universities and colleges can now cap tuition growth at 2% rather then 5% they were proposing,” said Hogan.
Following the controversy over the re-drawing of Maryland’s legislative and Congressional Districts a few years ago, Governor Hogan asked the General Assembly to pass the Redistricting Reform Act which would remove politics and politicians from the process of drawing their own district lines. “Last year, this critically important reform legislation was hidden in a drawer,” he said. “This year, the people deserve to have it come to the floor of the House and the Senate for an up or down vote.”
By Kevin McManus