Three years in, Gov. Larry Hogan has figured out the formula for a good State of the State speech. However much he and the Democrats who control the General Assembly (and make up most of the audience for the address) may tussle, he paints a picture of shared purpose and cooperation while couching his agenda in terms of the issues most important to voters: education, the economy, the environment and public safety. The Republicans in the crowd today stood to cheer at virtually every turn, but Democrats found themselves clapping along to many of the applause lines, too.
Mr. Hogan did, however, avoid mention of the one thing that is at the top of mind for many if not most of his constituents and which is already having a profound impact on all the issues he mentioned: President Donald Trump. The governor's speech existed in some kind of parallel reality in which the president's campaign to start trade wars, gut the federal workforce, decimate environmental regulations, privatize schools, dragoon police into enforcing immigration laws and close our borders to the world's most vulnerable bears no mention in an accounting of the state of the state.
To be clear, Governor Hogan wasn't standing in the House of Delegates chamber spouting out fake news. Maryland's economy is generally strong with high incomes, low unemployment and low poverty. His budget does include extra funds to hold down college tuition. He and the legislature really did work together to enact historic criminal justice reform last year. The Chesapeake Bay did just get its best water quality ratings in decades. Some caveats are warranted — yes, education funding is at a record level, but formula-driven cuts to Baltimore City Schools are worsening a devastating deficit there — and Mr. Hogan's vendetta against a transportation scoring bill is as inexplicable as his rhetoric about it is misleading. But the agenda he laid out is the most ambitious and comprehensive he has offered, and we support many of his ideas. (At least in concept; details remain to be fleshed out.)
But how can Mr. Hogan trumpet the progress in Maryland's economy without mentioning the federal hiring freeze and pay freeze President Trump instituted as a down payment on his promise to shrink what remains of Maryland's largest employer? Wouldn't massive tariffs on imported goods (and retaliation from our trading partners) be a gut-punch to the Port of Baltimore? How does his support for expanding a modest state program to give scholarships to poor children to attend private schools relate to Mr. Trump's campaign pledge to divert $20 billion in federal funds to that cause? Will the efforts he describes to build on the Chesapeake Bay's progress be erased by a new EPA administrator who calls his agency's involvement "federal overreach" and questions whether it's making any difference? The only time Mr. Hogan used the word "federal" in his speech was to call on officials in Washington to help address the opioid addiction crisis. But can Maryland succeed in reducing addiction if the Affordable Care Act and its expansion of Medicaid are repealed?
We don't expect Governor Hogan to make a career out of responding to everything President Trump does or says. But surely when the president's ban on immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries leads to a 5-year-old Maryland boy (and American citizen) being held at Dulles International Airport for four hours without his mother, he could manage to say something more about the policy than he's looking into it. "The implementation and enforcement of immigration law and policies is the sole purview of the federal government," as Mr. Hogan's spokeswoman says, but safeguarding the interests of Marylanders is his.
Other Republican governors have publicly stood up to the president on the travel ban, and even more have publicly lobbied to keep the Medicaid expansion intact. Most Marylanders would cheer if Mr. Hogan joined them. Mr. Hogan is sticking to the line that he is focused solely on what's going on in Maryland, not in Washington, but as what happens there begins to have profound effects here, that stance is going to become untenable. Maryland's Democrats are going to do their best to make sure of that.
They've already started. On Tuesday, they rolled out a series of bills designed to "protect" Maryland from President Trump, and the Democratic response to Mr. Hogan's address talked as much about the president as it did about him. They clearly intend to do their best to tie Mr. Hogan's fortunes to Mr. Trump's. Mr. Hogan and a front-row seat when that strategy helped defeat Maryland's last Republican governor, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who was running for re-election with the weight of President George W. Bush on his shoulders.
Mr. Hogan can avoid that and stand up for his state at the same time. What's to lose?