"Together, we are investing in our schools and in our children. Fully two-thirds of our entire capital budget goes toward education," Gov. Larry Hogan said. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)
Carroll County legislators agreed that Republican Gov. Larry Hogan's State of the State address Wednesday hit "all the right tones."
Del. Haven Shoemaker, R-District 5, said Hogan's message encouraged lawmakers to work together "to make Maryland better."
During his address, Hogan emphasized bipartisanship in his third State of the State speech, pressing the Democrat-controlled General Assembly to approve the most ambitious legislative agenda of his term.
He bypassed any mention of the political divisions roiling the country. Instead, the popular moderate — who is frequently at odds with legislative leaders — focused on state policy. He characterized their work over the past two years as having "chosen action over apathy" and said he had delivered on the "unifying promise of bipartisan change."
Political maneuvering ahead of the 2018 election has threatened to overshadow debate in Annapolis this year, and Democrats had called on Hogan to use the annual address to speak out against the Trump administration. But Maryland Republicans said programs to combat heroin use and to reform the state government's procurement process are "nonpolitical" and "nonpartisan."
State Sen. Justin Ready, R-District 5, said he thinks Hogan "has really pursued a bold agenda and put Maryland on the right track."
"It was a very strong speech. There's a lot to celebrate and a lot of work to do," Ready said.
Hogan pledged to eventually eliminate all taxes on retiree income, and asked lawmakers to take an up or down vote on his proposal to have an independent commission redraw congressional boundaries.
Hogan's only mention of the federal government came as he urged a multifaceted response to the opioid epidemic.
"We have made strides, but this crisis continues to grow out of control all across our country," the governor said. "This rapidly evolving threat is going to take federal, state and community partners working together to find real solutions and to help save lives."
Shoemaker said he was glad to hear Hogan include the heroin and opioid epidemic in the speech.
"That's a very topical issue right now," Shoemaker said. "It's a big problem in Carroll County and across the state."
In 2016, there were at least 280 overdoses involving heroin or prescription drugs in the county, and at least 19 of those turned fatal, according to statistics from the Carroll County Sheriff's Office. Last Friday, there were at least seven heroin-related overdoses in the Westminster area in a matter of two hours.
Hogan also called for equitable access to education, and urged the General Assembly's support on tax breaks for student loan interest, more money for scholarships to private schools and a broad expansion of the state's charter school program.
Shoemaker said Hogan's proposed budget "has record spending for education."
"That's very important because that's one of the few things the Constitution of Maryland requires us to fund," Shoemaker said.
"We are experiencing tremendous job growth, and an exciting economic resurgence in Maryland," Gov. Larry Hogan said. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)
Hogan also asked lawmakers to endorse expanded tax credits for electric cars and charging stations, and pay for a complicated nutrient-trading program he described as a "market-based" solution to reduce pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.
This year, Hogan embraced several policy ideas that have been championed by Democrats, particularly a paid sick leave mandate. Hogan's proposal does not go as far as one that cleared the House of Delegates last year, but he asked lawmakers to support his plan that only applies to large companies. It also offers tax incentives for small employers to offer the benefit.