RIVA — When Republican Larry Hogan served as former Gov. Robert Ehrlich's appointments secretary, a big part of his job involved working with Democrats in the Maryland General Assembly on executive branch appointments. He wants to do it again — this time, as governor.
Hogan, who is running in the GOP primary, says his previous state government job and his work in the private sector as a real estate broker have provided him the experience that will be needed to change the direction of a state he believes has gone way too far with tax increases and runaway spending.
"It took working with Democrats to get things done, and it's not the same thing as getting legislation done, but you have to be able to work with people," Hogan said in a recent interview with The Associated Press at a waterside crab house, not far from his Edgewater home in Anne Arundel County.
Unlike his opponents in the GOP primary, Hogan hasn't outlined definitive plans for tax cuts, though he says repealing the state's stormwater management fee — dubbed the "rain tax" by critics — would be one of his first initiatives. Both Harford County Executive David Craig and Charles County businessman Charles Lollar say they would work to phase out the state's income tax. Del. Ron George wants a 10 percent across-the-board income tax cut.
"Ideally, I'd like to get many of them rolled back to the point where we were in 2007 before the 40 increases," Hogan said, referring to tax and toll increases approved during Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley's tenure. "But you can't just say we're going to just eliminate, you know, the biggest source of revenue and not tell how you're going to fill the hole."
Hogan, like his primary opponents, contends that can be done by cutting waste in state government. That, he said, could be done with the help of state audits that already have found wasteful spending and by initiating new audits.
"We've got to get the spending under control and then see how many of the taxes and which of the taxes we can roll back and to what point," he said.
Hogan is a lot like his primary opponents in this respect: Economic issues are the main focus of his campaign. While O'Malley and Maryland lawmakers have taken up a host of social issues such as same-sex marriage and allowing people who are not in the country legally to pay in-state tuition if they have paid state taxes, Hogan isn't interested in trying to make any changes on those issues.
"It's not something we need to revisit at all," Hogan said, adding that voters approved both of those laws on the ballot in 2012.
Hogan also is highlighting his experience as president and CEO of the real estate firm Hogan Companies. He said his work in the private sector has enabled him to better understand what businesses experience in Maryland. It's a profession that hasn't had its setbacks for Hogan. In 1995, he filed for bankruptcy after new federal lending rules caused a string of bank failures. New bank owners called in all of Hogan's loans. Nearly 20 years later, he said his company is successful now, and looking back, he found it was a valuable lesson in how small businesses can be impacted by government decisions.
"A lot of people out here are going through tough times, and I can kind of relate to that," Hogan said. "Most people that are professional politicians would have no idea."