By Barry Rascovar
Feb. 11, 2015 — When is Gov. Larry Hogan Jr. going to stop campaigning and get serious about governing?
He started on the right foot with his “placeholder” budget that lets him tread water till he wraps his arms about the state’s fiscal problems next year.
He followed the same approach with his State of the State address. In most respects, it was a bland, “placeholder” address.
But then he and his speechwriters lost their focus and started waving the Republican Party’s bloody flag during that speech rather than reaching out sensibly to Democrats.
He said little that was new. There were no rhetorical flourishes. He offered no surprises or initiatives.
Instead, he reverted to campaign mode, re-hashing his partisan themes and denigrating the prior Democratic administration.
Everything Gov. Martin O’Malley did was placed in the negative. Larry Hogan and the Republicans are here to save Maryland!
No wonder Republicans applauded and Democrats responded with silence and growing anger.
Taxes are too high. We’re overregulated,. We need to get government off our backs. We’re anti-business. Maryland is in trouble. It’s headed in the wrong direction.
Sure, Maryland is beautiful. It’s citizens are hard working. But we’ve got to “get Maryland back on track.” Clearly Hogan thinks he knows how to do it.
He pledged to turn Maryland’s economy around.
Who is he kidding?
Maryland is at the mercy of large, macro-economic trends and developments. He’s promising more than he can deliver.
Like any governor, Hogan can only nibble around the edges to make Maryland’s economy stronger and create jobs.
He is fortunate the national economy continues to show steady improvement. If that continues, Hogan will be the beneficiary. But he can’t claim he helped cause it.
His State of the State Address laid out a number of steps he wants to take in his first year, but few are realistic or achievable. They are far too partisan.
The worst aspect of his speech was the overwrought refrain about the dreadfully misnamed “rain tax.”
What an evil! Why, it’s almost sinful to ask counties to raise funds to prevent stormwater runoff from polluting the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.
Demanding an end to the “rain tax” is good Republican red meat.
The fact that the tax is pretty much voluntary already is irrelevant to Hogan. He’s in this fight for long-term political gain. He’s using this gambit to undercut Democrats.
He’s also making enemies in the General Assembly — powerful enemies he will need as friends in short order.
There was few references to bridge-building in Hogan’s speech, or in the press conference he called to introduce his “rain tax” abolition bill. He was using tired campaign rhetoric.
No wonder Democratic leaders responded with coolness, followed by sharp criticism.
Then they delayed approval of his Cabinet appointments.
The battle lines are hardening far earlier than anticipated, and Hogan is to blame.
The new governor’s State of the State address was so short on specifics as to make it a useless document for determining how he intends to find common ground with the dominant political party in the General Assembly.
His “rain tax” remarks this week added fuel to the fire.
Hogan can win most of his budget fights with the legislature, but he is a sure loser on all other legislative matters if he doesn’t stop his partisan rants. He needs to figure out where he and House Speaker Mike Busch and Senate President Mike Miller are in agreement.
Delivering a budget that necessarily tightened the state’s purse strings was bound to cause ill will and anger. Hogan has done little since then to bridge the gap with Democrats.
In his State of the State address, Hogan pledged to “create an environment of trust and cooperation, one in which the best ideas rise to the top based upon their merit, regardless of which side of the political debate they come from.”
A week later, that remark seems a mere platitude.
Until Hogan drops the partisan politicking, his legislative agenda is dead in the water.
He’s got to start acting like a governor, not a candidate.