Steve Lash//January 11, 2023
//January 11, 2023
ANNAPOLIS — Maryland Gov.-elect Wes Moore on Wednesday called it “pretty special” that he will become the state’s first Black chief executive when he is sworn in next Wednesday and said one of his top priorities will be fighting to eradicate childhood poverty in the state.
“The assignment was never to make history,” Moore said at The Daily Record’s Eye on Annapolis Summit. “We have work to do.”
Moore, speaking just hours before the start of the 2023 General Assembly session, said ending child poverty will be among his top priorities. He said he will work toward ensuring housing availability for low-income individuals and improving public transportation.
“You cannot have economic mobility if you do not have physical mobility” enabling people to get to work, he said. “If we have a permanent underclass, the state cannot grow.”
Moore added he wants to fill what he called 10,000 vacant positions in state government. He vowed to fill 5,000 of those positions by the time his second year of the term begins next January.
While some have questioned why the incoming governor has filled few of his Cabinet positions, he said he is working to appoint his top team at his own pace. He said he will work with the legislature but will move forward with hiring as quickly as he can.
“There is definitely going to be a partnership with the legislature,” he said. “While I will always work in partnership, I don’t always have to ask for permission” to fill vacancies.
Moore hinted that he may release by the end of his first full day in office the $3.5 million that Hogan has refused to provide for the training of nurse practitioners, nurse midwives and physician assistants to perform abortions. The General Assembly called for the training and the funding allocation under a law it recently passed over the governor’s veto.
Moore talked about releasing the money after being pressed by conflicting statements about the issue including a promise last summer in a Baltimore Banner candidate questionnaire. In that document, he was asked about health care and volunteered an answer on the training funding saying he would release it on his first day in office. In subsequent interviews with The Daily Record, including Wednesday’s event, Moore said the issue was being reviewed.
Moore also said he supports a constitutional amendment guaranteeing a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy, saying Maryland should be “a safe haven for abortion rights.”
“That incredibly difficult decision should be made between the woman and her doctor,” Moore added.
Moore, a 44-year-old political newcomer, will succeed Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican whom the Maryland Constitution limited to two terms. Moore defeated Daniel Cox, the GOP’s gubernatorial candidate, by a 64% to 32% margin in the November election.
The incoming governor said he will be fiscally responsible as he enters office with a state flush with cash — a side effect of a flood of federal COVID-19 pandemic spending over the last two years.
“Being bold and ambitious does not mean being reckless,” Moore said. “Our administration is going to be thoughtful and disciplined.”
With Moore’s inauguration, the Maryland General Assembly and the governor’s mansion will be under same-party, Democratic rule for the first time since January 2015.
Speaking at the summit, the General Assembly’s two legislative leaders said they look forward to working with Moore to achieve his goals while pursuing their priorities.
Senate President Bill Ferguson and House Speaker Adrienne Jones spoke of increasing funding for education, transportation, health care and mental health — the need for which has increased amid the anxiety wrought by the pandemic.
Ferguson also spoke of the need for expanding workers’ skills amid increasing technology and a competitive global economy.
“We have to remain competitive and expand opportunities,” said Ferguson, D-Baltimore City. “We rely on economic opportunity and expansion.”
The Senate president said he supports Moore’s effort to fill vacancies at state agencies, noting the challenges of recruiting and retaining employees amid the changing workforce demands that resulted from the pandemic.
“COVID did change the world in very dramatic ways,” Ferguson said. “These are things that great leaders of state agencies have to work through.”
Both legislative leaders expressed confidence that lawmakers could create the structure for a legalized marijuana marketplace, one that would allow minority-owned businesses to operate and flourish.
“It has to be an equitable framework,” Ferguson said.
“We want to make sure we get it right,” said Jones, D-Baltimore County.