Gov.-elect Larry Hogan's job of balancing the budget and moving the state forward could become more difficult if the dysfunction that we have become accustomed to seeing from Congress continues in the new term.
Republicans took control of Congress in ceremonies Tuesday that came complete with their leaders, as well as leaders of the now minority party Democrats pledging to work together. Whether that can actually happen remains to be seen. House Speaker John Boehner had to fight back a challenge to retain his position, and tea party Republicans continue to split the party and threaten any prospect of reaching common ground on major issues.
The implications of a dysfunctional Congress controlled by Republicans at war with themselves would be detrimental to Maryland, and Hogan may want to revisit a state Department of Legislative Services report from 2010 that highlighted the impact of the federal government on Maryland's economy.
That report was prepared as Congress battled over the federal budget, sequestration and the prospect of major cuts. According to the report, Maryland ranked third behind only Virginia and Alaska on the amount spent here by the federal government annually.
"Changes in federal government expenditures will likely have a disproportionate influence on the state's economy and can cause changes in the economy that are unexpected given prevailing economic conditions," the report noted.
Hogan already faces the tough prospect of filling projected budget shortfalls in this fiscal year and next due to declines in revenues. Outgoing Gov. Martin O'Malley this week said he'd propose another round of fund transfers and budget cuts to try to close the gap, but with revenues expected to be lower in the next fiscal year, Hogan will still have to make some tough choices for both the remainder of this budget year and for the next budget year. The situation could be made worse if Congress is not able to work together and find common ground on budget issues, spending or tax reforms.
Ultimately it will come down to whether Boehner is able to control the far right faction of his party. The number of Republicans voting against him keeping his position as Speaker of the House was higher than has been seen at any time since 1923, according to reports. That doesn't bode well for the man who has over the past few years struggled to build consensus with a group whose motto is to never compromise. Boehner may, however, find more support among Democrats to push for reasonable reforms or movement on issues that have been stalled in recent years.
Latest Carroll County Times Opinion
Hogan, for his part, will have to keep a close watch on developments in Congress because, unlike many states, the actions of that federal body will have more direct implications on Maryland's economy.