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Read: Maryland GOP responds to Gov. Moore’s State of the State speech

Below is the Maryland GOP’s prepared response to Gov. Wes Moore’s Wednesday State of the State address:

Del. Jason Buckel

Del. Jason Buckel

Good afternoon, I’m Delegate Jason Buckel, and I represent Allegany County in Western Maryland in the Maryland House of Delegates.

I also serve as the House Republican Leader selected by my Republican colleagues and I’m speaking to you today to articulate our vision of where Maryland is, and where we should go in this new era for our state.

Governor Moore has presented an ambitious vision for Maryland, one where he claims that no one will be left behind. We have no disagreement with such a vision. We want every Marylander to succeed, but it will take more than words to realize this goal.

Watch: Gov. Wes Moore delivers his first State of the State speech

We are willing to work with Governor Moore’s administration to find opportunities for common ground that will benefit all Marylanders.
While we work to find common ground, we must still share our concerns as they arise. In the first two weeks of the Moore administration, we have growing concerns – in good faith – that from the beginning, there are Marylanders being left behind.

Our children deserve a world-class education, and Maryland is making record investments in public education to achieve this goal. We are literally spending more taxpayer money than has ever been spent in our state on education, but our results don’t seem to match our spending.
There are families in this state that, for a variety of reasons, have made the decision that the public schools in their communities do not adequately meet the needs of their children. While some families are in a financial position to send their children to a private school, many are not.

This is why, several years ago, Maryland began funding the Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today – or BOOST – Program. This program provides scholarships for some of Maryland’s poorest students to attend approved private schools, typically not the fancy prep schools that dot our state, but local private and parochial schools geared toward middle-class families.

In the 2021-2022 school year, the BOOST program awarded scholarships to nearly 3,300 students across 21 counties and Baltimore City. Of those students, 56% of them were children of color and more than 1,000 of them were English-language learners. All of them were eligible for the federal free and reduced meals program.

One of the most powerful lobbies in Maryland, the state teacher’s union, has somehow viewed the BOOST program as an existential threat to Maryland’s public schools and fought its establishment and its funding, and sadly, in his budget proposal this year, Governor Moore cut this program for Maryland’s poorest students by 20 percent. Maryland’s public schools are funded with billions of dollars. They are not competing for funding with the children in the BOOST program. This is a false choice and an unnecessary cut, and those families and students
should not be left behind.

Governor Moore has stated that Marylanders do not have to choose between a safe state and a just state. We agree. Every Marylander deserves to feel safe in their homes, their cars, and their communities, no matter what. We appreciate Governor Moore directing more funding into parole and probation services. These agencies play an important role in keeping repeat offenders out of our communities while giving deserving individuals a chance for a new life. We hope this increased funding translates into better results.

However, his budget also cuts local funding for public safety while increasing the size of the Attorney General’s Office by over 30% and pouring millions of additional dollars into the Public Defender’s Office – investments that appear only to help those working for the criminals, not the safety of our citizens.

Public safety is our number one concern. You simply cannot build a better state – from Western Maryland to the DC suburbs to troubled Baltimore City to the Eastern Shore – without a foundation where serious, repeat violent criminals are investigated, caught, fairly prosecuted, and then put in jail where they serve a real sentence and not just a slap on the wrist. We hope Governor Moore breaks away from some in his party who seem to care more about the violent criminal than their victims.

All administrations appropriate money based on their priorities. Governor Moore has proposed a robust Capital spending program, but in doing so has left out projects important to many areas in our state. The Benedictine School in Caroline County, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, provides comprehensive residential and educational services for children and adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities and autism. Their request for $2.5 million was not funded in Governor Moore’s Capital Budget and their services to our most deserving citizens will suffer.

Western Maryland Health System provides healthcare services for residents of Western Maryland and the surrounding areas. Their oncology center needs new equipment to provide state-of-the-art radiation therapy to cancer patients. Their funding was not included in Governor Moore’s Capital Budget and many citizens, and their families may suffer as a result.

Governor Moore, please do not leave Marylanders outside of the large cities and sprawling suburbs behind.

Governor Moore wants to rise above the partisan fighting that occurs much too often in today’s political climate. We want that as well and truly hope to work in a bipartisan fashion to achieve our common goals. It is not enough for Republicans to simply be the party of no. We have to offer solutions to the many challenges that face our state. Solutions are, in fact, possible.

The House Republican Caucus has a legislative agenda focused on the issues important to a vast majority of Marylanders. Our legislative package includes a series of bills focused on improving education, reducing crime, and restoring our economy. Educating our children and keeping them safe is a fundamental necessity for our society.

Our Caucus’ education bills will seek to protect our children’s classrooms by enhancing funding for school resource officers, increasing the focus on the educational achievement of our kids rather than the politics of adults, and providing school choice for families stuck in failing or dangerous schools. We can work together on building a better public education system for our future, but job number one is giving children in the school system today a better pathway to success.

Safe communities are vital to Maryland’s success. Growing crime rates impact virtually every part of our state. The House Republican Caucus’ legislative package focuses on holding accountable those who endanger our communities. People who repeatedly commit violent crimes should not roam free to threaten and harm more of our citizens. Juveniles who endanger their classmates and teachers by bringing firearms to school must be prosecuted appropriately, not forgotten about, and shifted from school to school.

In a state where an increasing number of criminals are using stolen guns to commit acts of violence, we must make the theft of a handgun an automatic felony.

These are simple, common-sense solutions. We hope our colleagues and Governor Moore embrace them.

A healthy and robust economy benefits all Marylanders. Maryland places in the bottom five in America on many rankings that measure tax rates, regulatory burdens, and the environment for private sector job creation. We cannot continue to burden our businesses and then be surprised when they leave our state. Maryland has one of the highest corporate tax rates in our region and we must reduce this tax to improve our regional economic competitiveness.

We must also remove the tax burden on our retirees, starting with those who served this country in our military. They have already sacrificed so much for our nation, and we share Governor Moore’s commitment to our veterans. Maryland must also eliminate state taxes that increase housing costs to make homebuying more affordable for more of our citizens.

Finally, Maryland must stop following the reckless environmental policies of California and reject a foolish and economically disastrous plan to ban the sale of gasoline-powered automobiles over the next few years.

We are offering this legislative package in good faith not only to Governor Moore, but also to the citizens of Maryland. A Maryland that offers quality educational opportunities, safe communities, and a robust economy will benefit us all. It can be achieved if we all work together.

Thank you for tuning in to hear the Republican view on the State of the State.