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Black Md. lawmakers, Hogan clash sharply

Members of the Black Legislative Caucus criticized Gov. Larry Hogan for decisions they said hurt their communities and for refusing to meet with them.

In a meeting with reporters Thursday morning, leaders of the caucus said Hogan has opted to cancel projects such as the Red Line in Baltimore City and to fund the construction of a new city jail over a business school at Coppin State University.

When asked if legislators believed that Hogan’s decisions were “racially motivated,” Del. Cheryl D. Glenn, D-Baltimore City responded, “Absolutely.”

The accusation was called “shameful” by a spokesman for the governor.

Glenn was joined by other members who quickly agreed with her.

“We have to beg for education funding but yet we don’t have to beg for him to build a new prison,” said Del. Jay Walker, D-Prince George’s County. “We have to beg for the right for everybody in Maryland to vote . The first thing we have to do when we get to Annapolis is overturn his veto of felony voting rights when we’re trying to be inclusive. So we have to beg for every little thing that we need while other jurisdictions are being given handouts for things that are not even on the books. So what we’re saying is right now you’ve got to stop. Enough is enough, and we’re not going to take it any more.”

Watch the full meeting with reporters here.

Among the list of grievances the caucus has with the governor are some old complaints including the cancellation of the Red Line project, withholding of $68 million in supplemental education funding. But recent issues also drew their fire, such as the $400 million for a new jail in Baltimore City and a lack of funding for the Prince George’s Regional Medical Center and money for the demolition of vacant and dilapidated properties in the city.

Some lawmakers said the Hogan is financing a new jail at the expense of higher education projects at Morgan State and Coppin State Universities — two historically black universities.

In the last week, Hogan has introduced two supplemental budgets. The first provided $55 million in funding for the Prince George’s Regional Medical Center following an agreement with the University of Maryland Medical System. The second followed an memorandum of understanding with the city and provided the first installment of a plan to spend $75 million over four years on demolition in the city. The plan also calls for $600 million in financing over the same period for redevelopment.

In an interview on WBAL Thursday morning at about the same time lawmakers were criticizing him, Hogan said he would be happy to consider canceling the city jail project.

“I have no desire to build a jail in Baltimore,” Hogan said on the C4 Show. “I’d just as soon have nothing to do with it.”

Hogan said the plan was the desire of lawmakers but if they had changed their minds then he would go along with their wishes and consider other plans for the money, including higher education projects.

“If they don’t want the jail in Baltimore, I don’t want it,” Hogan said.

Douglass Mayer, a Hogan spokesman, called the statements made by the caucus “a new low” and accused the members of calling the governor a racist.

“We’ve hit a new low in today in Annapolis and I sincerely hope that the voters are listening,” Mayer said in an emailed statement. “Members of the General Assembly have just accused the governor of racism. This is the last, desperate act of legislators who refuse to discuss actual policy or solutions to real problems. These kinds of comments are not worthy to report in the news and shouldn’t warrant a response. Unfortunately, we have to stoop to this disgraceful level to set the record straight. ”

 “Governor Hogan’s immediate family are all minorities, including his wife, daughters, sons-in-law and granddaughter,” Mayer continued. “The lieutenant governor is African American, and the administration is racially diverse. Since taking office, the governor has spent more time in Baltimore City than any other Jurisdiction, and has invested  more state dollars in regions of the state that are predominantly African American than anyplace else. There are is not a single statement, fact or anything else that supports the lie that was perpetrated this morning. Shameful.”

Also at issue is what legislators said was Hogan’s refusal to meet with them until April, a week before the end of the session. The governor’s office said they offered the caucus a March 2 meeting but that was rejected.

Del. Barbara Robinson, D-Baltimore City and chairwoman of the caucus, said the timing was unacceptable because the group always meets on Thursdays and that there was a scheduling conflict with another caucus.

Other legislators said Hogan was targeting black communities.

“You’ve heard about the assault on Prince George’s County. You’ve heard about the assault on Baltimore City,” said Del. Curt Anderson, D-Baltimore City. “There’s assaults going on in our black communities across the state whether it’s the Eastern Shore University of Maryland, or Baltimore County. To be honest, ladies and gentlemen, we’re not going to take it anymore. You can pick on one of us but when you pick on all of us at the same time, we’re not stupid. We know what’s going on and we’re going to retaliate.”