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Analysis: Fact-checking Maryland Gov. Hogan's 2018 State of State speech

In his fourth State of the State speech Wednesday, Gov. Larry Hogan some bold assertions. Some withstood scrutiny well, others less so.

CLAIM: “We went from losing 100,000 jobs to gaining more than 110,000 jobs.”

FACTS: Hogan can justifiably claim that 111,500 nonfarm jobs were created in Maryland during his first three years in office, January 2015 to December 2017, a period of strong economic growth nationally. For comparison, however, his office reached back to Gov. Martin O’Malley’s first three years, which included a global recession. While Maryland lost 100,000 jobs between January 2007 and December 2009, it rebounded after that. During the final three O’Malley years, Maryland gained 75,000 new jobs. That would be a closer comparison, and Hogan still comes out ahead.

CLAIM: “We have been breaking records at the Port of Baltimore for three straight years.”

FACTS: The claim seems more accurate in spirit than in literal fact. The Port of Baltimore set a record for general cargo in 2016 after 2015 showed a slight dip a from the previous year. Hogan’s spokesman, Doug Mayer, said the 2017 figures expected this week would show another record, but that still means two records in a row rather than three. The governor is justified, however, in boasting about long-term trends at the port, which has been on a strong upward trend since 2010. Container traffic, a lucrative sector that was once the port’s weakness, has set records every year since 2009. Those trends started under O’Malley and have continued under Hogan, who retained his predecessor’s port director.

CLAIM: “We are fourth among all 50 states for entrepreneurial business growth.”

FACTS: According to the latest Kauffman Index Latest Growth Entrepreneurship Report, Maryland ranks fourth nationally in growth of entrepreneurship. The number looks even better for Hogan when compared with two years ago, when Maryland ranked 13th.

CLAIM: “The day after I was sworn in we submitted the first balanced budget in a decade, which eliminated nearly all of the $5.1 billion structural deficit which we inherited.”

FACTS: Under Maryland’s Constitution, all governors must submit a balanced budget each year. The General Assembly is required to make sure the budget’s still in balance when it finishes making its changes. Hogan equates a balanced budget with the longer-term question of whether the state can meet its spending expectations in the future. The term “structural deficit” refers to long-term projections of revenue growth that fall short of expected spending growth. The $5.1 billion figure represented the hole Maryland would have been in if it had taken no corrective action for five years starting in 2015. Hogan made impressive strides toward eliminating the structural deficit during his first year and has continued to do so. But he did not submit the first balanced budget in a decade.

CLAIM: “For three straight years we have delivered record investments in education. This year, let’s continue that historic trend. And do it for the fourth straight year.”

Analysis: The Maryland State of the State, annotated »

FACT: Hogan is correct that his administration has proposed record K-12 education spending each year. He is proposing spending $6.5 billion next year for another record. But the historic trend in education funding is governed by a formula that increases the amount the governor is required to put into the budget as school population grows. Hogan has hewed closely to that formula, which was in place long before he took office.

CLAIM: “We ensured that every single school system in Maryland will receive increased funding from the state.”

FACTS: True, with the caveat that the increases are largely formula-driven. But Hogan has ensured that no system will lose money next year by proposing $15.2 million more than required to help protect Baltimore and other jurisdictions from what otherwise would be funding decreases because enrollments have declined. It should be noted that the governor could have proposed to fund the basic formula at less than 100 percent, as he did with another index his first year, but has chosen not to.



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