Gov. Larry Hogan used his first State of the State address since being re-elected to push for targeted tax credits for retirees, longer sentences for gun offenders and more oversight of local school systems.
As “Never Trump” Republicans encourage him to run for president in 2020, Hogan emphasized bipartisan governing — and received a mix of applause and criticism from Democrats in response.
“We have shown the rest of America that a divided government does not have to be a divisive government,” Hogan said.
The text of Gov. Larry Hogan’s 2019 State of the State address, as prepared for delivery Wednesday to the General Assembly in the House of Delegates chamber in Annapolis.
Hogan instead emphasized proposals for more than $500 million in targeted tax reductions over five years — including expanding credits for manufacturers and law enforcement officers’ retirement benefits, as well as increasing a tax deduction on student loan interest.
Hogan’s biggest tax cut proposals — more than $280 million — are aimed at retirees’ income, including a $91 million reduction in taxes for veterans. Hogan also is pushing for the state to collect about $150 million less in taxes from student debt and $25 million less from small businesses.
“These hard-pressed Marylanders deserve a break for a change,” Hogan told a joint session of the General Assembly. Some Democrats pushed back against the tax cuts.
Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, chairwoman of the Maryland Democratic Party, released a statement calling Hogan’s proposed tax cuts “irresponsible.” Rockeymoore Cummings argued the state cannot forgo revenue when billions more are needed to pay for the recommendations of the so-called Kirwan commission to improve public schools.
“Today, Governor Hogan showed that he is an old-fashioned Republican, unwilling to learn from the failed, trickle-down economic policies of yesterday, while thumbing his nose at education reform and other critical state priorities,” she said.
Republican leaders in Maryland’s House of Delegates released their legislative priorities for 2019, including an state income tax cut, a registry for violent repeat offenders, and single-member districts in the General Assembly. They also plan to push for greater school safety.
“Tax cuts are always popular, but Hogan's tax cut pandering of $500M is pure fantasy,” Kaiser tweeted.
And some of Maryland’s Democratic county executives expressed concern that Hogan is promoting tax relief at a time when they believe more money is needed for public schools, and with a potential recession looming.
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. said any tax relief has to be “smart and strategic.”
“I have seen places where tax credits and tax incentives have worked out,” he said. “But we have to make sure they are having the intended effect and they are growing the economy and not benefiting a select few at the expense of the many.”
During his State of the State speech on Wednesday, Gov. Larry Hogan pointed to the tragic shootings of two young sisters in Baltimore — 7-year-old Taylor was killed in July; 5-year-old Amy survived in November — to condemn city violence and call for change. The comments were familiar.
“The members of our caucus would like to see bigger tax relief for Marylanders than even what Governor Hogan has proposed, but certainly there should be a bipartisan agreement around his proposals,” Kipke said.
The National Federation of Independent Business, which represents small businesses, called Hogan’s proposals “refreshing” for the state.
Hogan is just the second Republican governor to be re-elected in Maryland history — an accomplishment in a blue state that is drawing national attention. The president of a Washington think tank has been pushing Hogan for weeks to explore a Republican Party primary challenge to President Donald Trump. Hogan has said he plans to finish his second, four-year term, but has left the door open to running.
Hogan has proposed a package of bills he wants the General Assembly to pass, including a plan to use money from the state’s so-called education “lockbox” for a $1.9 billion increase in school construction projects and increasing support for public charter schools in Maryland.
The governor opened his fifth State of the State speech with a message of support for Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, who recently announced he has prostate cancer.
“I want you to know that we are all praying that you come out of this stronger than ever,” said Hogan, who waged his own fight against cancer.
Tax cuts to help retirees who I meet all across the state who say: “I love Maryland, and I don’t want to leave my kids and grandkids, but I can’t afford to stay here on a fixed income.”
Citing Baltimore’s high crime rate — including four years of more than 300 homicides annually — Hogan asked lawmakers for tougher sentences against repeat gun offenders. Hogan, who has repeatedly sparred with Baltimore’s judges, also asked legislators to pass a bill that would require tracking to show which judges are handing down lenient sentences.
“People who live in Baltimore don’t feel safe in their own neighborhoods, and citizens all across the state are outraged by the daily reports of this rampant gang violence,” Hogan said.
The governor also emphasized his push for an independent Education Inspector General to probe claims of mismanagement or wasteful spending in local school systems. And he pushed again for a nonpartisan redistricting commission to draw Maryland’s congressional and legislative maps.
“Please do not hide this legislation in a drawer again this year," Hogan told lawmakers.
Tax cuts are always popular, but Hogan's tax cut pandering of $500M is pure fantasy. His proposed budget is structurally imbalanced and we lost over $60 from federal shutdown.
Del. Kathleen Dumais of Montgomery County, the majority leader in the House of Delegates, delivered the Democrats’ response and thanked Hogan “for submitting a budget proposal that funds so many of our collective priorities.”
But she said she wanted the governor to once again work with the assembly’s Democratic leaders to lower the cost of health care for Marylanders.
“The toughest decisions on healthcare are in front of us — not behind us,” Dumais said. “We challenge the governor to come to the table and work with us to find a permanent solution for those families for whom healthcare is quickly becoming unaffordable.”
The response of Democrats in Maryland's legislature to Republican Gov. Larry Hogan's State of the State address: We will work with you "when we can." But, Del. Kathleen Dumais said in prepared remarks, "we will not sacrifice our Democratic values and principles to cut deals."
Del. Eric Luedtke, a Montgomery County Democrat, called the speech “boilerplate Hogan.”
“It was either stuff he’s already talked about before, or him running from the back of the bus to the front of the bus on Democratic initiatives,” he said.
Former Gov. Parris Glendening, a Democrat who led Maryland from 1995 until 2003, was the only former governor in attendance.
Glendening said he was disappointed that Hogan continues to focus on expanding roads, contributing to automotive air pollution and polluted stormwater runoff. He suggested that such proposals are counter to the governor’s other efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay and address climate change.
“I appreciate the fact he is standing up on climate change, that he is standing up nationally,” Glendening said. “He is not going to succeed, though, if we continue to build more and more roads and add more emissions to the system,” Glendening said.
Glendening said he also would have liked for the governor to support an effort to increase the minimum wage in Maryland to $15 per hour — one of Maryland Democrats’ top priorities this General Assembly session.