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Hogan says state's economic picture even bleaker than he thought

Gov.-elect Larry Hogan said Monday that new budget figures show Maryland's economic picture is even bleaker than he had warned during his campaign, and will make it tougher to devise a plan to cut taxes.

Gov.-elect Larry Hogan said Monday that new budget figures show Maryland's economic picture is even bleaker than he had warned during his campaign, and will make it tougher to devise a plan to cut taxes.

"Even I am surprised by the magnitude of the problem and the task ahead of us," he said.

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Hogan's remarks came at a news conference he called to announce six more members of his transition team, including former state schools Superintendent Nancy Grasmick.

He was asked if figures released last week showing a $900 million budget shortfall would affect his plans to roll back taxes. "Obviously it's a factor," he said. He did not offer specifics. Hogan said during the campaign that his first step would be to rein in spending, and then he would move to cut taxes. Since the election, he has said he will wait until after his inauguration Jan. 21 to offer details of his proposals.

The incoming governor introduced a half-dozen new members of his transition team, including figures well known in Maryland politics, economics, education and journalism. None ruled out going on to serve in a Hogan administration.

Among the best known is Grasmick, who headed the Maryland State Department of Education from 1991 to 2011. Originally hired with the backing of her mentor, Democratic Gov. William Donald Schaefer, she also served under Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Democrats Parris N. Glendening and Martin O'Malley.

Hogan said Grasmick would advise him on education, which she called her passion.

Others Hogan appointed were:

•Republican Sen. Joseph M. Getty of Carroll County. Getty served as minority leader in the Senate during this year's session and earlier worked as legislative director for Ehrlich. Hogan said Getty will focus on legislative initiatives.

•Anirban Basu, founder of Sage Policy Group. As an economist and consultant, Basu has focused on the regional economy. Hogan praised him as "the smartest guy in the state" on economic policy and said Basu would work on economic development.

•Retired Judge Alexander Williams Jr., who left the bench this year after nearly 20 years on the U.S. District Court for Maryland. Hogan said Williams, whom he called a longtime friend, would be his liaison to the judiciary.

•Former Sen. Martin G. Madden, a Republican who represented Howard and Prince George's counties from 1995 to 2002. Madden served under Ehrlich as chairman of the Critical Area Commission, which deals with the Chesapeake Bay.

•Columnist Blair Lee IV. Lee, who writes for the Gazette Newspapers of Montgomery County, is known as an outspoken conservative and a critic of Baltimore's reliance on state aid generated by wealthier jurisdictions. Hogan said Madden and Lee will advise him on general transition issues.

Lee noted that he is the only member of the team to have lived in the governor's mansion, having stayed in Government House for about a year when his father, Blair Lee III, was acting governor in the 1970s.

"I don't think a columnist has ever been on a transition team," Lee said.

Meanwhile, Hogan also found time to get back into political fundraising Monday with a $4,000-a-ticket event at an Annapolis restaurant.

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More than 100 people turned out to contribute that amount to the Maryland Republican Party, said GOP state Executive Director Joe Cluster.

"We have a little bit of bills still left over from the campaign," Cluster said. "We're gearing up to replenish the Hogan Victory account so he'll be ready to go in four years."

The money will not be used to pay back the $500,000 Hogan lent himself during the primary, Cluster said. Other events will be held to raise that money, he said.

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