Two top Maryland Democrats rebuked Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Hogan Thursday for including $450 million in school construction spending in his tally of waste, fraud and abuse in state government.
House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III criticized Hogan for what they construed as Hogan’s plan to cut that money from the state’s spending on schools.
Hogan, however, contends that was never his intention.
The $450 million figure -- more that the state spends on school construction in a typical year -- comes from the GOP nominee’s detailed plan to eliminate $1.75 billion in wasteful spending from state government. Hogan identified that questionable spending by reviewing 52 audits of state government. He has repeatedly said he could roll back taxes in Maryland without hurting programs because he could cut $1.75 billion in waste.
The Baltimore Sun examined his tally of questionable spending and discovered the $450 million Hogan cited as wasteful was never misspent.
Confronted by Democratic rival Anthony G. Brown in a debate this week, Hogan said he knew nothing about a plan to cut $450 million. But as recently as Wednesday, Hogan was quoted as reaffirming the numbers in his plan, opening the door for Democrats to treat it as a serious proposal rather than a careless mistake.
"When asked about it, he said he stood by [the] comments," Busch said. The other alternative, he said, was a "lack of research" that should give voters pause about Hogan's candidacy.
The speaker said the plan suggests that Hogan doesn't see school construction as a priority.
"This is the first . . . sign that in a Hogan administration there won't be the amount of school construction money we need in Maryland or Anne Arundel County," Busch said. "It also reflects, in my estimation, where they're looking to make cuts in government."
Busch, an Annapolis Democrat, put the matter in local terms by saying $450 million statewide would translate into roughly $45 million less in funding for Anne Arundel. The speaker noted that the county had not built a new high school since 1981.
He was backed by Betty Weller, president of the Maryland State Education Association, who said that under Hogan's plan as released, "many of our students will be stuck in trailers rather than safe, modern buildings."
Baker would cut Hogan no slack, stating that when a candidate makes charges of fraud, waste and abuse, it's up to the campaign to back up the charges with specifics.
"At the county level, we need a partner in the Governor's Office who will work with us to modernize our schools and expand opportunity, that's why we're so excited to elect Anthony Brown.," Baker said. "We can't allow Larry Hogan's school deconstruction plan to take our students backward."
A spokesman for the Hogan campaign would not answer questions Thursday about whether the candiate still stands by the numbers in his plan. Instead, the campaign issued a statement:
"Larry Hogan is not going to cut school construction funding and it’s disappointing that Speaker Busch would echo Anthony Brown’s nonsense instead of calling on the lieutenant governor to address the rampant waste, fraud and abuse in his administration."