ANNAPOLIS —With less than a month left in the 2019 General Assembly session, Hogan Monday held a news conference not to announce a new initiative but to criticize lawmakers.
Topping the list for the second-term Republican were increases in spending — including billions in new education funding — and an increase in the state’s minimum wage. He also railed against lawmakers for failing to pass what he said were laws meant to address violent crime while focusing on fringe gun control bills.
Hogan expressed concerns that proposed mandated spending bills topping $7 billion— some which have not passed — would result in a need for massive tax hikes. Driving that figure is the Kirwan Commission proposal to pump an additional $4 billion annually into public education if the panel’s recommendations are fully funded.
“One thing I know for sure is that Marylanders do not want to completely reverse course and return to the days of out of control spending, crippling tax hikes and job loss,” said Hogan. “And they do not want Annapolis to become more like Washington, where bad policy is passed with a promise that a fix will come later.”
Hogan and state Budget Secretary David Brinkley, in letters to lawmakers last week, expressed concerns about the budget-busting effects brought on by expanded education funding. Those concerns included what they said will be an inevitable need to raise taxes.
So far, lawmakers and supporters of the Kirwan recommendations have acknowledged that some new revenues will be needed in combination with more efficient spending of existing aid. They also point to potential revenue from expanded sports betting, recreational marijuana and to the state shares of casino revenues in the education trust fund. No specific source of new revenues has been identified.
“We believe this can be transformative for our schools,” Sen. Paul Pinsky, D-Prince George’s and chairman of the Senate Education Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, said in response to Hogan and Brinkley’s letters. “We’re going to have to raise new revenue next year. I know the governor has not been a fan of taxes. He can decide to support efforts to transform our schools or he can take a walk. It’s that simple.”
Sean Johnson, assistant executive director of the Maryland State Education Association, said he was surprised by Hogan’s tone Monday but said the governor should be a part of the revenue discussion.
“I don’t know that it is so clear-cut that it is a tax increase along the lines that the governor is talking about every every middle-class family,” said Johnson, who represents the state’s largest teacher’s union. “If there is a conversation about new revenues, I hope that the General Assembly works with the governor, not leaving him behind. He is an important part of it. So far, he just covers his eyes and ears and avoids that there is a problem to be addressed. If we can’t even agree on a problem to solve then we’re never going to have honest brokers at the table solving it.”
Johnson called on Hogan to release $200 million set aside last year in the current budget that was intended to help pay for the start of the Kirwan recommendations in the fiscal 2020 budget.
Hogan called on the Democratic-led House and Senate to rethink their policies but stopped short of saying he would veto some or all of the bills he found troubling.
The governor also had sharp words for lawmakers who have failed to pass tougher penalties for violent offenders and have ignored one of his legislative priorities aimed at getting violent repeat offenders off the streets of Baltimore.
“Instead we’re talking about silly things like — their No. 1 focus is 3D-printed guns,” said Hogan. “No one has ever committed a crime in the history of the state with a 3D-printed gun. I mean sure, let’s do it. Let’s step away from the copier, but what are we going to do about the people actually committing violent crimes with real guns? We need to get them off the streets.”
Hogan also said lawmakers have lost their way in debates over the need for more police in Baltimore City and allowing trained police officers in city schools to carry guns.
“This seems to be like the most pro-criminal group of legislators I’ve ever seen,” said Hogan. “It’s not what most people in the state want to see happen. They want to see us stop the violent crimes.”
Del. Luke Clippinger, D-Baltimore City and chairman of the House Judicial Proceedings Committee, said he has been disappointed at the lack of ideas coming from Hogan. He said the governor’s proposals were merely a repeat of laws passed in the last year.
“He’s clearly not paying attention to what we did last year on bills where Democrats and Republicans worked together on the mandatory minimum bill that he is attempting to say is different from what he is putting in this year when in fact it is essentially the same thing,” said Clippinger. “I thought we would get something more substantive from him.”
Clippinger called on Hogan to continue to support increased funding for technology for police departments, especially in the city.
“There’s no one thing that is going to solve violent crime,” said Clippinger. “(Hogan’s) desire to talk about legislation that doesn’t do anything different than what we passed last year — it doesn’t help, and it’s just a flash in the pan.”