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Larry Hogan starts his "thank you" voters tour in the Leonardtown, MD. annual Veterans Day parade

Gov.-elect Larry Hogan named a widely respected former state senator to his transition team Wednesday, the same day experts warned that Maryland's budget will require about $900 million in belt-tightening.

Hogan tapped Democrat Robert R. Neall, a former state senator and Anne Arundel County executive widely respected by both parties for his keen fiscal sense, as the first major appointment to his transition team.

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Hogan, who has ruled out tax increases, praised Neall's reputation as a sharp financial mind and said jokingly that he even forgave him for switching parties from Republican to Democrat about 15 years ago.

"There's no better person to put our fiscal house in order than Bobby Neall," said Hogan, a Republican.

Neall, 66, joins Hogan's running mate, Boyd Rutherford, and former Cabinet secretary James T. Brady as what Hogan called the "executive team" to prepare to take over state government from departing Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley.

With the state facing the dwindling revenue projections, Hogan said he planned to fulfill his campaign promise to curb state spending. He declined to offer specifics on what he would do.

Legislative analysts told a key panel of lawmakers the state needs to trim nearly $300 million from the current budget, largely due to higher-than-expected Medicaid costs and the underperformance of the housing market.

Hogan and the Democrat-controlled General Assembly will then have to find another $600 million in cuts to close a revenue shortfall in next year's budget, analysts told the Spending Affordability Committee. The estimated shortfall has grown from the $400 million estimated two months ago.

Warren Deschenaux, the legislature's chief budget analyst, warned the committee that those cuts would not come easily. He said the trend lines show revenue growing at 3.9 percent a year while spending is growing at 4.5 percent a year.

Deschenaux warned that the type of trims the legislature has made in recent years may no longer be sufficient to keep the revenue shortfall from eventually approaching $1 billion. He said half the budget was tied up in entitlements and mandates — especially in education — that would require permanent changes in formulas to cut.

"We are continually trying to get back to an era that no longer exists," he said.

Deschenaux said the governor — O'Malley until Jan. 21, then Hogan — can make the $300 million in cuts to this year's budget without General Assembly approval.

Asked how the estimated $600 million shortfall for next year affects his ability to cut taxes, Hogan responded, "It affects it a lot ... Obviously, they have been spending too much."

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