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Delegate Joseph Vallario. (The Daily Record / Maximilian Franz)

Democrats prefer platitude to attitude in Hogan’s speech

ANNAPOLIS – Democratic lawmakers praised the bipartisan tone of Gov. Larry Hogan’s second State of the State speech Wednesday as a vast improvement from his maiden address last year, in which the Republican chief executive laid out his cost-cutting program just two weeks after taking office and with little consultation with legislative leaders of the other party.

But the Democratic legislators said Hogan’s softer words this year will prove empty without a budgetary commitment from him.

“This was a kinder, gentler State of the State address,” said Sen. Jamin B. “Jamie” Raskin, D-Montgomery. “I prefer this year’s tone. Last year was a little heavy on attitude. This year was a little heavy on platitude.”

Hogan, in addressing a joint session of the Democratic-led General Assembly, said he and the legislature should “continue to embrace that middle temperament.” The governor said he and legislators could find common ground on ways to protect the Chesapeake Bay and on criminal-justice reform that focuses on breaking “the cycle of incarceration.”

“We cannot afford to leave anyone behind,” he said.

Sen. Robert A. “Bobby” Zirkin, D-Baltimore County,” praised Hogan’s inclusion of justice reinvestment in his speech. The movement toward treatment rather than imprisonment for non-violent drug crimes is “extremely important,” added Zirkin, who chairs the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

Zirkin, however, said he was disappointed that Hogan has not included additional funds for court-ordered drug treatment in his proposed budget for fiscal 2017, which begins July 1.

“We have to ensure that dollars are there … to put meat on the bones,” Zirkin said.

Sen. Paul G. Pinsky, D-Prince George’s, said the governor’s welcome call for cooperation between Republicans and Democrats was undermined by his continued plan to trim state programs.

“I appreciate the bipartisanship tone but the only highlights were cutting the budget,” said Pinsky, vice chairman of the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee. “There were nice platitudes but I didn’t hear a plan for how Maryland moves forward.”

Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez, D-Montgomery, said Hogan was “disingenuous” in claiming credit for having fully funded an optional supplemental aid to education formula when the General Assembly enacted legislation last year requiring full funding. She suggested a new hashtag: “TrickyLarry.”

Sen. Catherine E. Pugh, D-Baltimore City, praised Hogan’s “good bipartisan approach” but said she hopes the governor follows up with funding for schools, transportation and treatment for lead poisoning in her home city. Pugh, who gave the Democratic response to Hogan’s address, also wants the governor to place greater emphasis on revitalization of depressed areas of Baltimore rather than seeking condemnation.

“We [in Baltimore] need every nickel, dime and penny we can get,” said Pugh, who is running for mayor. “There are areas that need to be revitalized rather than knocking them down.”

Del. Joseph F. Vallario Jr., D-Prince George’s, said the governor’s words matter — but only up to a point.

Hogan gave “a great speech,” said Vallario, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee. “Let’s see if he can carry it out.”