Carroll County legislators described the governor's second State of the State address as good news for the county after he delivered it to the General Assembly on Wednesday.
In the speech, Gov. Larry Hogan repeatedly described the past year as one of compromise and joint accomplishments, and he tried to enlist the legislature to help him push an agenda he described as reflecting the state's "middle temperament."
"In the days ahead, I extend my hand to you — in cooperation and in devotion to our duty — and I ask each of you, and all Marylanders, to seek that middle ground where we can all stand together," Hogan said, according to a transcript of his remarks.
The speech stands in contrast to his remarks last year, when he characterized a state that had been governed by Democrats as one in desperate need of help. The address was widely panned by Democrats as unnecessarily harsh, and Hogan on Wednesday referenced it and offered an olive branch.
"As you may know by now, I'm a man who speaks candidly. It's the only way I know how," Hogan said. "Last year when I stood before you, I was very direct about the challenges that were facing us. It's because I care so much about this state, its people, and our future — just like each and every person in this chamber does."
Hogan proclaimed success in his first year as governor in repealing the "Rain Tax" mandate, cutting taxes for retirees and committing more money to infrastructure improvements around the state, in addition to a commitment to rolling back fees that he said hamper business in the state.
He also pointed to the investment the state has made in education. In his second year, he said, he will set a new record for investment in education.
"These investments are important — but as we look to the year ahead, it's clear that more money alone will not close the performance gap we see impacting Maryland's children," he said in challenging legislators from both parties to look for new ways to improve education in the state.
Sen. Justin Ready, R-District 5, praised the work Hogan accomplished in his first year in office.
"I am thrilled at the progress Gov. Hogan has made in one year — our economy has turned around despite the damage done by the previous administration. Our economy is growing, we're adding to infrastructure, cutting taxes; Marylanders have reason to optimistic about state government for the first time in years," Ready said in a prepared statement.
Hogan's message of bipartisanship, tax relief, sensible environmental policy and support of public education was well received, said Del. Haven Shoemaker, R-District 5.
"I felt that it hit all the right chords," he said.
By putting money into roads around the state rather than into large mass transit projects in urban areas, as the now-cancelled Red Line would have been in Baltimore, the governor is demonstrating his commitment to helping Marylanders everywhere, including in Carroll County, Shoemaker said. County residents will also benefit from moves like Hogan's cuts in fees placed on small businesses, he said.
Additionally, Shoemaker said, "He's putting his money where his mouth is by putting more money into education."
Fully funding the Geographic Cost of Education Index, funds dedicated to help counties where the cost of providing education is higher, shows the governor's commitment to helping school systems around the state, said Del. Susan Krebs, R-District 5.
The decreased funding that has come with declining enrollment is a major problem for the county, Krebs said, but there are other factors to consider.
"He also made the point that money is not the only way to fix the school system," she said.
Overall, she said, the governor has carried into office a sense of optimism that all residents can feel good about.
"He has really righted the ship," she said. "Government works for the people, and not the reverse."
Dels. David Vogt and Kathy Afzali, both Republicans from District 4, agreed.
With close proximity to Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, Afzali said the business climate in the state of Maryland, in addition to the tax rate residents are expected to pay, are always important to her constituents.
"When I first got elected … every year, other than one, we were borrowing huge amounts of bond money," she said. "Gov. Hogan not only balanced the budget, we've got a surplus for God's sake."
Vogt said he was encouraged by Hogan's emphasis on working across the aisle and on working to let small businesses and residents keep more of their money.
"I'm really optimistic that we'll be able to take these initiatives and move forward," he said.