ANNAPOLIS — In Annapolis on Wednesday, Jan. 27, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan delivered his fifth State of the State address, promising tax relief and a continued dedication to making Maryland cleaner, safer and a place of more opportunities.
By putting the people’s priorities ahead of the current national obsessions with partisanship, Hogan said his administration strived to change Maryland for the better.
“As a result of those efforts,” Hogan said. “I am pleased to report that the state of our state has never been stronger and that the people of Maryland are more encouraged about the direction of our state than they have ever been. We pledged to put more people to work, to grow the private sector, and to turn our economy around — and we have done exactly what we said we would do.”
Referring to the first budget he submitted as governor, Hogan reminded Marylanders that he eliminated nearly all of the $5.1 billion structural deficit inherited, and, in the latest budget just submitted, he said, managed to put $1.3 billion into savings for Maryland’s future needs. Following the economic turnaround that occurred during his first term, Hogan said 2019 is the time for targeted tax relief in Maryland.
He has proposed eight different forms of tax relief to revitalize forgotten communities, help students with college loan debt and assist first responders and public safety workers.
Programs that protect the Chesapeake Bay would be fully funded, promised Hogan, and he said he is pushing for comprehensive, nonpartisan reform that would remove politics from the redistricting process.
“And after years of the problem being ignored, we are pushing for action to address the problems of the sediment, debris, and pollution coming down the Susquehanna River over the Conowingo Dam and into the Bay. Maryland has made historic progress in Bay restoration, but we cannot — and should not — have to do it alone. I intend to keep pushing our upstream neighbors in Pennsylvania and New York to do their fair share to protect this national treasure,” said Hogan.
“In November, a panel of federal judges unanimously ruled that the boundary lines of Maryland’s 6th congressional district are unconstitutional and ordered that new electoral lines for the 6th district be drawn by next month .... This unanimous ruling was a victory for those who value fairness and balance in our political system,” said Hogan as he urged lawmakers not to “hide this legislation in a drawer again this year.”
Nonpartisan redistricting reform would remove partisan politics from the redistricting process, he said.
Hogan also encouraged support for passing the Building Opportunity Fund for new school construction and legislation to establish public-school oversight intended to make sure that “every single child in Maryland has the same opportunity to get a world-class education regardless of what neighborhood they happen to grow up.”
For the fifth year in row, Hogan said his budget provides historic, record-high funding for Maryland schools, “We have invested $32 billion in K-12 education. Every single school system in Maryland will again see increased investment by the state.”
More than half of the entire capital budget goes toward education — the casino lockbox, which was jointly supported, will provide an additional $4.4 billion more for schools, the majority of which will go directly into the classrooms for critical things like teacher salaries, pre-K expansion, extended academic programming for at-risk students, and innovative career technology education programs. “In Maryland, we are proud to have some of the best and most highly funded schools in America,” said Hogan.
Hogan also plans to continue his focus on fighting the opioid epidemic and passing legislation to impose tougher mandatory sentences for those who repeatedly commit violent crimes with guns,“We’re talking about taking our communities back and saving lives. Enough is enough. The time has come for all of us to take a stand together and finally, once and for all, pass the ‘Repeat Firearms Offenders Act.’”
Much of this violence is the result of the opioid crisis raging across our nation, said Hogan. Though Maryland has bent the curve downward on prescription opioid and heroin overdose deaths, an even more deadly drug, fentanyl, is infecting and poisoning America, he said, and it will “continue to take federal, state, county, municipal and community leaders working together with an all-hands-on-deck approach in order to save thousands of lives.”
“My experiences over the last four years have blessed me with optimism,” said Hogan in conclusion, “not burdened me with dread. And I know from personal experience that hope — not fear — is the most powerful emotion and the author of humanity’s greatest achievements .... Let’s keep changing Maryland for the better and continue setting an example for Washington, so that America can once again set an example for the world.”
“It was a very uplifting State of the State, offering respect for bipartisanship, common-sense solutions for taxes, redistricting and dealing with the crime in Baltimore city,” said House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga, R-Baltimore, Harford.
Democrats in the chamber did not stand or applaud for Hogan’s proposals on violent crime and redistricting.
“We tried to imprison our way out of the drug war in the ‘70s,” said House Majority Leader Kathleen Dumais, D-Montgomery. “I think providing social services and getting guns off the streets is a better idea.”
Dumais said the legislature has a lot of work to do that will hopefully be done with the governor.
“But we as Democrats will not sacrifice our agenda,” Dumais said.
House Minority Leader Nicholaus Kipke, R-Anne Arundel, said the governor has had a very successful record over the last four years of passing measures with Democrats to solve Maryland’s problems. Democrats have “not always been his biggest cheerleaders, but at the end of they day, he’s working on things that they have to work with him on, because its issues that our citizens demand be fixed,” Kipke said.
With excerpts from David Jahng, Capital News Service.