It is a fact that thousands of Marylanders sit in traffic for hours every day as congestion and gridlock prevent them from getting home and getting to and from work in a reasonable time period. That is why Gov. Larry Hogan's recent behavior threatening 71 state roads projects is so outrageous. The critical nature of our transportation infrastructure is too important to the quality of life for our citizens for the governor and his press hacks turn it into a Trump-like circus of threats and ridiculous statements that have no actual basis in fact.
The facts are that in 2013, I voted for an increase in the gas tax, along with legislators from only eight of the 24 Maryland counties, because we knew our infrastructure needed the funding. It was not politically popular, but the need for roads and bridges and enhancing our transit systems was nothing short of critical for improving Marylanders' lives, stimulating the economy and creating jobs. Larry Hogan criticized this action in his campaign, vowing to repeal the new transportation dollars. But once elected, he came to understand what the real effect would be of this popular sound bite on projects that were badly needed to reduce congestion in Maryland.
During this first summer of this term, his transportation department unfortunately engaged in nonstop governance by press conference. Instead of an open discussion and transparent public process about potential changes to long-planned state projects — including major interchanges, the Purple Line, the Red Line and the Harry Nice Bridge — major decisions were nonchalantly announced by press release.
The Democratic leaders of the Maryland General Assembly agreed that in these times of horrific traffic congestion, the public deserved a more transparent decision-making process. Virginia and North Carolina both have public processes for evaluating transportation projects. We had the very simple goal of publicly evaluating which projects would have the most impact in reducing traffic and congestion, but Governor Hogan would not permit his Transportation Department officials to engage in the legislative process or suggest better alternatives.
They have never been able or willing to explain why it is problematic to have an advisory process for transportation projects that looks at things like: safety and security, system preservation, quality of service, environmental stewardship, community vitality, economic prosperity, equitable access to transportation, cost effectiveness and return on investment, and local priorities and planning. Moreover, the evaluation law the legislature crafted also clearly states "nothing in this Act may be construed to prohibit or prevent the funding of the capital transportation priorities in each jurisdiction."
Recently, the governor held a press a conference announcing his intent to repeal this advisory-only law, citing 71 state projects he would cancel if he doesn't get his way. When it was pointed out that 31 of the projects he falsely claimed would have to be canceled because of the law have no construction funding at all in his draft transportation plan, his administration called it "preposterous." When a major newspaper editorialized about the "whopper" he had just told the people of Maryland, his administration called it "fake news."
When Larry Hogan was elected governor, I was hopeful and publicly stated my intention to work with him to make Maryland government work for the people of this state. We have disagreed on a number of items, but this time he and his media flaks have gone too far. Winston Churchill once said "a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on." And as we have seen, Donald Trump's bombastic and false statements indeed make their way around the world; Maryland cannot afford to have a governor who acts in the same manner.
Maryland doesn't need to "change" or "be made great again," but we must work together to advance in ways that ensure our citizens can get good jobs that pay fair and family sustaining wages. This includes advancing our infrastructure to materially and measurably reduce commute times. And to do all of this, we need Governor Hogan to be the bipartisan guy he said he would be and quit the Trump-like, anger-inciting false rhetoric about canceling state road projects because of an advisory law.
Can he be governor of all of Maryland, or will he be merely Governor Gridlock?
Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (firstname.lastname@example.org), a Democrat, is the president of the Maryland Senate.