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Historic incoming Moore administration faces questions, challenges to meet ambitious goals

Maryland Gov.-elect Wes Moore introduces Attorney General Anthony Brown to make remarks after Brown was sworn in on Jan. 3, 2023, in Annapolis. (AP Photo/Brian Witte)

Days away from the historic inauguration of Maryland’s first Black governor and first woman of color lieutenant governor, many are eager to learn about the new administration’s priorities.

Wes Moore, a political outsider with no government experience, will take the reins of state government next week and will have to fulfill his promise of transforming state government.

Within days of his election, he vowed to hit the ground running with an aggressive agenda.

In the following weeks, little of that agenda has become public. Days before Christmas, Moore had announced only a few key appointments. By comparison, outgoing two-term Republican Larry Hogan announced appointments and policy issues weekly including one final press conference tapping appointments in nearly two dozen positions.

“Nothing is quiet. We continue to move at the same pace,” Moore said in an interview before the holidays. “We are moving very fast and are laser focused on building state government.”

“I could not be more excited about the aggressive pace that this transition is taking,” said Moore.

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The incoming executive said he plans to follow through on his vision of equity and improving the economic circumstances of all Marylanders.

“We’re going to focus on economic growth,” said Moore. “That means creating pathways to work, wages and wealth for Marylanders. That includes things like ensuring that we have a 21st century education system that is going to be teaching our students not just how to be employees but to be employers. It means we have to find mechanisms to increase wages for work-ers. We still have too many people in this state that are working jobs or in some cases multiple jobs and are still living at or below the poverty line. And we have to address the ability for people to create wealth in our state.”

Included in that is an acceleration of the move to a $15 minimum wage.

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“Something we talked about for the past year and a half is that the $15 minimum wage is one that has to be addressed in the state of Maryland,” said Moore. “The data is very clear about the impacts, the economic impacts that can have for the peo-ple it is benefiting. Often times these are people who go back and immediately turn around and support the economy.”

The state passed a phased-in increase in the minimum wage that would reach $15 by 2025.

Moore said he will also work to “address things like unfair appraisal values and historic redlined neighborhoods, to have greater support for entrepreneurs and small businesses.”

Included in his economic efforts is helping workers get to jobs.

In 2015, Hogan announced the cancellation of the  $3 billion Red Line project.

The 14.1-mile-long Red Line proposal was designed to connect Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center with Woodlawn in Baltimore County. Hogan characterized the project, which included a $1 billion tunnel under the city, as a boondoggle.

For eight years, Democrats have pined for a return to the project.

Moore, a political outsider, campaigned on resurrecting it.

“Right now, and I tested it out if a person is living in west Baltimore, if a person is living near Mondawmin and they get a job in Fells Point, it took me over an hour and a half to get from west Baltimore from Mondawmin to Fells Point,” said Moore. “That doesn’t work for people. So we’ve got to first remind people why this is such an extraordinary priority that we can create.

mechanisms of physical mobility and that includes mass transit.”

What is unclear is what shape such a plan takes. Moore, in an interview, referred to the transit project as an “east-west transit” effort.

“The plan for the Red line was designed a decade ago so the responsible thing for all of us to do is to go back and take a look at all the plans that have been done before and then take a look at what is the societal needs we have right now and make sure that we’re addressing the needs of right now and not necessarily a decade ago,” Moore said.

The governor-elect added that the mothballed plans “will be a starting point that we’ll be looking at.”

How quickly it can be done and what cost will also be a factor.

In 2015, the cost of the Red Line project was considered by critics to be optimistic. Costs of materials since then have in-creased sharply.

The Purple Line project in the Maryland-D.C. suburbs was a sister project to the Baltimore transit system. It is more than four years behind schedule with cost overruns of $1.4 billion.

“I think we have to remember what the cost is of not doing this,” Moore said. “We cannot continue talking about economic growth if we’re not providing measurements of physical movement for people to be able to get to those pockets, those assets of economic growth.”