Gov. Larry Hogan said Tuesday that he is excited that Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael E. Busch are now "parroting" his message about the need for Maryland to improve its competitiveness with other states.
In an impromptu news conference in the State House press room, the Republican governor said the two Democratic legislative leaders' testimony Monday in favor of legislation intended to improve the state's business climate "showed they are on board with us to talk about making Maryland more competitive."
"Now both of them are sort of parroting a lot of the things we've been talking about for four years," the governor said. "So we're excited about that."
Busch and Miller testified in support of a package of five bills proposed by a commission chaired by former Lockheed Martin chief executive Norman R. Augustine.
The speaker, who introduced the legislation that created the commission along with Miller more than a year ago, bristled at Hogan's description of the legislative leaders' actions. Busch said the commission had been put together before Hogan even announced his candidacy for governor.
"The governor had little or no input into the proposals that were presented to the General Assembly," Busch added. "To be successful you have to be collaborative. It cannot be about one-upmanship."
Miller released a statement saying he is pleased that Hogan now supports his and Busch's eforts.
"The most important issues in our State don't belong to any one party and are not changed by elections," Miller said. "One of those issues, the vitality of Maryland's economic and business climate, is why the speaker and I asked Mr. Augustine and his colleagues on the commission to undertake this charge before any election rhetoric even began."
During his news conference, Hogan expressed confidence about the prospects for his legislative agenda in the face of last week's defeat of his legislation repealing the storm water fee he calls the "rain tax." The governor predicted that a measure sponsored by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller making the fees optional for the counties would be approved.
Hogan insisted he didn't care about whose name was on a repeal bill so long as it passes. He said it was "no surprise" that Miller's bill was more popular because it had the Senate president's name on it.
"Everybody knows I'm the leading driver behind this entire movement," Hogan said. "We called it the rain tax. We got 100,000 people involved in the [repeal] effort."
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The governor pointed to polls showing strong support for repealing the requirement that nine counties and Baltimore city impose the fees.
"We believe it's going to pass by big numbers in the Senate and we believe we're going to get this done in the House," he said.
Miller's bill differs from Hogan's in that it contains language requiring the counties affected by a federal mandate for storm water cleanup to show that they are putting aside the money to meet their goals. It also imposes restrictions on how much the counties that choose to impose the fees can do so.
While Hogan expressed optimism about his prograam for this year's legislative session, which ends next month.
"I think of all our agenda is going to pass. Most of it is going to pass. They may put somebody else's name on it," he said.
Hogan acknowledged that his proposal to stop indexing the gas tax for inflation had run into strong headwinds in the legislature. The measure, which would roll back a measure adopted in 2013,Senate president and House speaker point out they set up competitive received a skeptical hearing Tuesday from the Democratic majority on the Senate Budget & Taxation Committee.
"That one seems to have more problems than some of the others," Hogan said.