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C. Fraser Smith: Will parties just do what they want to?

Many have noticed that political leadership has passed to the GOP. This used to happen once every 50 years. But the intervals may be getting shorter.

If that is so, a revised citizens’ guide may be in order.

Yes, Maryland, there is a difference between Republicans and Democrats.

Republicans love balance when it comes to budgets. They want balance, and they want it now. Democrats want balance, too, but tomorrow will suffice.

Republicans think pain is good for us — particularly if they can blame it on Democrats. Republicans think we understand the need for pain in our heart of hearts. They rejoice in cold showers and root canal.

Democrats differ. They think pain can be deferred. The can can be kicked down the road to the advantage of us all. No need to enshrine pain, to make it a plank in the platform. The sun will come up tomorrow or the day after or the day after that.

Watch for the incoming Hogan administration to talk sternly about the state’s budget deficit. Democrats? If there were a deficit, they would deal with it in due time. Years ago, they passed an enormous public education bill with no way to pay for it — no sufficient revenue stream. We’ll figure it out, they said. They did, more or less.

We’re still paying the tab.

But hear this: The Dems wanted to balance state aid to the schools. That probably had to happen in the legislature -— or in the courts. The state constitution has language about balanced spending in classrooms across the state. Not only that, but kids in poor school districts also deserved as much financial help as the wealthier ones. So they agreed to spend money they didn’t have.

Gov. Larry Hogan, the Republican interloper, is unlikely to follow such a course. Quite the contrary. Look for lots of bad budget news, all of which is the fault of profligate, Democratic spending regardless of the motive.

Hogan will have many challenges, to be sure. He will have to find enough Democrats to support him on things like lifting phosphorus (chicken waste) regulations on the Eastern Shore.

He will employ an old Annapolis strategy: I wanted to repeal the regulations; I really did. I’m sure he does.

“I fought like a tiger,” he will say. “But, hey, it’s a Democratic assembly.”

This will be regarded by both sides as how the game is played in a divided government. Democrats will try to block him, arguing that you can’t save the bay if you keep choking it with chemicals.

Do we have to drive the chicken farmers out of business? Hogan will ask in words to that effect. Democrats will say: You’re the governor now. You have to deal with both sides of the issue.

And so it will go.

In the beginning, the two sides are talking about wanting to govern. Democrats will want to know how much ideology lies behind Hogan’s impressive efforts to establish good relationships with assembly leaders. Republicans will be wary of Democrats aiming simply to block anything Hogan proposes.

The new governor will have more Republican votes in both houses, but time will tell if that is a blessing or something less exciting. His party’s old business base in the Baltimore region will want to save the Red Line, for example. It knows a public transportation system is important to economic development. Big spenders aren’t all bad, after all.

The new head man says he wants Baltimore to be the state’s economic engine. He does? Really? Baltimore is not even its own economic engine. Many of us will be waiting to see what long-term strategy he has in mind for the city — particularly if he also wants to cut state aid.

So, of course, there will be points of contention. Compromise, concession, common sense and concern for the state’s long-term best interests may be necessary.

If you see any of these tools employed, you may conclude the parties want to govern.

C. Fraser Smith is senior news analyst at WYPR-FM. His column appears Fridays in the Daily Record. His email address is fsmith@wypr.org.