Hogan promises 'I'm not going to play the politics'

Gov. Larry Hogan acknowledges partisan hostility in Annapolis, says it's "not coming from me."

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan on Wednesday promised he would not engage in partisan warfare over the next 90 days the Democrat-dominated General Assembly is convened in Annapolis.

"I have no intention of coming out with any claws," Hogan said Wednesday morning during an Annapolis event.

"I believe there are claws coming out. They're not coming from me."

He said he would focus on 2017, not maneuvering to win re-election in 2018.

"I'm not going to play the politics," he said at the annual Annapolis Summit hosted by The Marc Steiner Show and The Daily Record.

The legislature returns to the State House Wednesday, and leaders of both parties say they expect partisan brinkmanship to potentially overshadow policy debate.

Tuesday, Democrats rallied at a luncheon where outgoing Obama administration Labor Secretary Tom Perez told them they were at the "tip of the spear" in the fight against Republican President-elect Donald Trump's agenda. Democratic House Speaker Michael E. Busch reminded his caucus that "you can't be wearing a jersey with both colors on it. You're either on one team or the other."

Already, leading Maryland Democrats have been quick to tie Hogan, who is widely popular, to Trump, who lost the state by more than 20 percentage points in November.

Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller have suggested Hogan has reneged on his promises of bipartisanship by not fostering a relationship with them, submarining policies the governor dislikes or running political attack ads over disagreements.

Hogan disputed that he has failed to reach out to leaders, saying, "I have an excellent relationship with Speaker Busch, in spite of the crazy comments that were made in the paper the other day."

The governor also responded to criticism that he was championing policy ideas traditionally supported by Democrats — including a tax credit to lure manufactures, mandatory paid sick leave and a tax break on student loan interests.

He said he's been criticized for "just stealing" ideas.

"That's what I said I was going to do," Hogan said. "I'm taking things that they already support, and saying 'here's how we can make it better.'"

He continued, "There's all this talk about 'we're going to tie Hogan to Washington and to Trump, and we're going to hurt him politically, and it's all about 2018 and the election.' That's two years from now." he said. "I'm not going to play politics, and I'm not going to focus on Democrat and Republican."

Miller and Busch took the stage after Hogan, and disputed the governor's assertion that he's attempted to work with them. They said Hogan introducing his own version of policies they support in general — such as paid sick leave and incentives for manufacturing companies — and refusing to compromise on crucial details is not bipartisan.

Busch said that while the governor "is not obligated to meet with any of us," Hogan should meet with lawmakers if he wants to be bipartisan.

And Busch reiterated that his Democratic members need to remember their loyalties. Using a sports analogy, he said that while he might be friends with players on the opposing team, he still wants to make sure his own team wins.

He said that some Democrats "want to show up to the rallies" but when it comes to voting on tough issues, "you can't find them."

Miller struck a slightly more conciliatory tone. He pledged that the Senate will consider the governor's proposals and won't put any of them "in the trash can."

Busch and Miller made clear that there won't be any compromise on Hogan's attempt to undo a law that requires the governor to rank transportation projects on a variety of factors. The law says governor doesn't have to follow the ranking when deciding which projects to fund if he provides a reason.

Hogan has made repealing the law his top priority this session and suggested Wednesday that if he doesn't follow the rankings, the issue may end up in court — delaying needed road projects further.

Miller maintained the transportation ranking bill is a good policy. And he said the governor's office hasn't offered any suggestions for improving the law, instead focusing on just repeatedly "railing" against it.

"He doesn't want people to see where he's putting their hard-earned money," Miller said.

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