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Republican Gov. Larry Hogan calls Democratic-controlled Maryland legislature 'reckless' and 'pro-criminal'

Gov. Larry Hogan speaks with Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, center, and top aide Chris Shank. Monday is the "crossover" deadline in the General Assembly. Bills must pass one chamber and cross to the other to be guaranteed at least a hearing in the second chamber.
Gov. Larry Hogan speaks with Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, center, and top aide Chris Shank. Monday is the "crossover" deadline in the General Assembly. Bills must pass one chamber and cross to the other to be guaranteed at least a hearing in the second chamber. (Pamela Wood / Baltimore Sun)

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Monday blasted lawmakers in the Democratic-controlled General Assembly, accusing them of spending recklessly and siding with violent criminals.

In confrontational comments made at a pivotal moment in the legislative session — the day lawmakers rushed to pass bills from one chamber to the other — the Republican governor condemned the Assembly for killing a bill that would have allowed Baltimore school police officers to carry guns inside school buildings. He also took issue with some legislators who have argued against mandatory sentences for violent criminals and spending more on policing.

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“This seems to be the most pro-criminal group of legislators I’ve ever seen,” Hogan said.

Del. Nick J. Mosby, a Baltimore Democrat who was among those who voted Saturday against arming school police inside school buildings, objected to the governor’s characterization of legislators. Mosby has argued state leaders should focus more on investing in youth rather than armed policing.

“It’s insensitive and intellectually lazy to promote such language,” Mosby said. “We can agree to disagree, that’s what our system allows. But Marylanders expect more of the governor than petty, Trump-like, partisan hyperbole."

In a State House news conference, Hogan tallied up bills introduced by legislators that propose mandated spending. If they were all passed, he asserted, they would crush the state’s economy and require a $7,000 tax on every Marylander to pay for them.

“This is exactly the kind of reckless, unsustainable and irresponsible behavior that we have been working so hard to reverse,” Hogan said. “The legislature appears to be attempting to return to the same failed overreach, overspend and overtax policies of the past.”

Much of the legislation sponsored by lawmakers from either party does not pass.

Hogan also took issue with the proposals coming from the so-called Kirwan Commission, which has recommended boosting funding for public education by $3.8 billion annually after a 10-year phase-in. Democratic leaders Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House of Delegates Speaker Michael Busch have introduced legislation to increase school funding by $1 billion over two years to begin paying for the commission’s recommendations. The legislation does not have a funding stream for its second year.

“It is outrageous pandering to special interest groups,” Hogan said, adding that paying for the proposals would require large increases in property, income or sales taxes.

Hogan also said he would not agree to send a single dollar more to public schools without increased accountability of how the money is spent.

“Let me be very clear: No additional state tax dollars will be handed over to local school boards without significant accountability measures attached,” he said.

Democratic leaders and education advocates immediately objected to the governor’s remarks.

Busch said the governor should have long known that the state somehow will have to raise more money down the line to fully implement the Kirwan Commission’s recommendations, including a greater emphasis on early-childhood education.

“It’s no doubt you’re going to need some revenue increases if you meet your obligation to fund Kirwan. And I would say, the governor knew that since the beginning of the session” in January, Busch said in an interview. “We’re always eager to work with the governor, but it’s got to be a two-way street. He never discussed what was going to be in his budget this year until it came down.”

Sean Johnson, of the Maryland State Education Association, the statewide teachers union, said lawmakers have taken a measured approach to increasing school funding.

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The House of Delegates passed a $46.7 billion budget last week that does not include raising taxes, but cut several of Hogan’s favored initiatives including tax cuts for retirees and funds to send kids from poor families to private schools.

“I think that the legislature has been incredibly responsible in their approach around school funding,” Johnson said.

He said it’s frustrating that the governor is making comments about education funding near the end of the legislative session, when Hogan’s own budget secretary has served on the Kirwan Commission for more than two years. The 90-day session ends April 8.

“Whether he is engaged enough to read the report, or even read the bill … I would suspect from his comments, he hasn’t done that,” Johnson said. “That is frustrating but we’ll plow ahead and hope that the legislature that’s been serious about solving these problems continues to be.”

The Kirwan commission has recommended several proposals to boost schools in Maryland, including implementing full-day prekindergarten that is free for low-income 3- and 4-year olds, and expanding services for even younger children and their families; hiring and retaining high-quality and diverse teachers, and toughening certification standards; increasing standards and services so that all students are ready for college or career, with particular attention on students in schools with high concentrations of poverty; and establishing a strong accountability system to oversee the commission’s recommendations.

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