Should Maryland re-elect Governor Not-so-bad?

When I ask my friends whom they plan to vote for in the 2018 Maryland gubernatorial election, some of them seem resigned to support Gov. Larry Hogan because he has exceeded their low expectations. I take that to mean that he is a good family man and he is not outrageous or inflammatory. He treats others in a socially appropriate way and with respect. Nor has he pushed our state to the brink of bankruptcy, like Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas.

On the other hand, Mr. Hogan’s positions on the substantive issues are lackluster. Our governor vetoed mandatory sick leave for Marylanders and fought with the legislature and Baltimore City over funding for public schools. It’s evident he’s weak on the environment; he killed regulations that would have curbed emissions from Maryland’s remaining coal-fired power plants — suspiciously within days of taking office. The governor has exhibited no creativity whatsoever in curbing or controlling health care costs.

He’s also taken actions that have had especially harmful effects on Baltimore City. Hogan’s decision to kill the proposed Red Line for the metropolitan transit system cost the city thousands of jobs, and his preference for school vouchers — a very regressive concept that has been discredited by educators far and wide — threatens to further thwart our much-needed advancement in public education. Even though The Sun credits the governor with spending, on average, 31 percent of available capital dollars for education over his first term and assenting to the “lockbox” of casino revenue for education, we have to ask if Mr. Hogan would have done these things if he hadn’t been under duress.

Governor Hogan’s vetoes were strikingly detrimental to Maryland. In addition to paid sick leave, the governor vetoed the Clean Energy Jobs Act, and House Bill 1243, which would have allowed workers to sue for unpaid wages.

Maryland’s ordinary wage earners — both blue and white collar — should also ask themselves if the governor’s pay and job protection record is good enough to warrant another four years in office. He is no friend to unions, calling their leaders “union thugs.” Mr. Hogan has introduced legislation to weaken collective bargaining and to freeze state employees’ salaries.

Mr. Hogan predicated his administration on the slogan that Maryland is “open for business”; however, he has actually performed the worst on his major campaign promise to elevate Maryland’s standard of living. During the nearly four years of the Hogan administration, average total earnings for Marylanders have increased by scarcely $400, compared to $16,500 for residents of Delaware, $8,300 for Virginia, $4,000 for Pennsylvania, and $5,200 for the nation. Thus, Maryland’s income growth is less than 8 percent of the national average.

Regrettably, Maryland is also showing scarcely any gains in total employment, according to the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,which show an employment increase of just 0.6 percent in Maryland in the year ended in July, compared to employment in Virginia, which rose by 1.6 percent, and in West Virginia, which rose by 1 percent. It would appear then, that on his principal initiative, Mr. Hogan has again disappointed.

Overall, Mr. Hogan’s leadership is un-inspiring, akin to the record of a college senior who squeaks by with a 2.0 average, not that of a Rhodes Scholar. All of which brings me to the central question: What do Marylanders want and expect from their governor for the next four years? While some routinely say “it could be worse,” by the same token, we could and should expect much better.

In 2018, Marylanders should elect a governor who is strong on jobs, education, health care and the environment and not settle for a “glass half empty” or a “not so bad” leader. Maryland deserves an outstanding governor, not a lackluster one. We can do better.

Joe Garonzik lives in Maryland; his email is jgaronzi@gmail.com.

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