Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) continued to hammer a theme of bipartisanship in his fifth State of the State address on Wednesday, steering clear of an income-tax-rate cut and most other legislative proposals being pushed by GOP House leaders.
Hogan, who is being recruited as a possible challenger to President Trump, used the speech to highlight his already announced legislative priorities, including tax relief for retirees, redistricting reform, school accountability and mandatory minimums for repeat violent offenders who use firearms to commit crimes.
He lauded the Democratic-controlled General Assembly for working with him on lowering health-insurance premiums and reforming the criminal-justice system, saying Annapolis had shown the “rest of America that a divided government does not have to be a divisive government.”
“We found a way to disagree without being disagreeable,” Hogan said. “We did our very best to put the people’s priorities ahead of the current national obsessions with partisanship while striving to change Maryland for the better.”
Hogan, who has said that he won reelection by “not running as a Republican,” did not embrace a proposal by the House Minority Caucus to cut income tax rates by a quarter of a percentage point. He called for redistricting reform, a longtime priority that was also included in the House GOP’s legislative agenda, but did not echo their call for a violent offender registry.
Hogan spokeswoman Amelia Chasse said Hogan’s speech was an opportunity to lay out his own legislative agenda.
The governor is “open to any ideas to provide tax relief to hard-working Marylanders, and will consider any tax-relief proposals that reach his desk,” Chasse said.
House Minority Leader Nicholaus R. Kipke (R-Anne Arundel) said he supports Hogan’s tax-cutting proposals, but “many of us in the Republican caucus would like to see even deeper tax cuts being considered.”
Hogan wants the General Assembly to extend tax breaks for retired military, police officers and fire and rescue workers, and incentives for businesses that locate in poor areas or provide family leave.
He also proposed lowering taxes for all retirees, including exempting 100 percent of retirement income from state taxes, and allowing state residents to deduct 100 percent of the interest paid on their student loans.
“These hard-pressed Marylanders deserve a break for a change,” Hogan said Wednesday, citing Maryland’s recovery from the Great Recession. “Let’s do the right thing and give some of this money back to the people who have worked so hard to help make it happen.”
The governor is also pushing for more accountability in public schools, with legislation to create an “investigator general” with subpoena power and full authority to investigate ethical claims and corruption allegations.
“With the billions of dollars in historic state investment in our local school systems, Marylanders are demanding more accountability,” Hogan said. “This isn’t about politics — this is about our kids and their future.”
He had made several of his legislative proposals in previous years as well, but they failed to advance in the legislature.
In a formal response to the governor’s speech, House Majority Leader Kathleen M. Dumais (D-Montgomery) said the legislature will “work with Governor Hogan when we can, but we will not sacrifice our Democratic values and principles to cut deals.”
Democrats announced their legislative agenda earlier this week. It includes raising the minimum wage, banning Styrofoam and foam byproducts, banning 3-D guns and reining in the cost of prescription drugs and child care.
“Unlike Washington, we know how to find common ground when we need to — but we also have a different view from the governor of the state’s role and ability to improve the lives of everyday Marylanders,” Dumais said.
During his first four years in office, Hogan collaborated with Democrats at times but also was partisan. He insulted Democratic lawmakers and union officials, and in many cases took action unilaterally, without informing or consulting with legislative leaders.
Those who know the governor well and have spoken to him in recent weeks say he is unlikely to launch a White House bid unless the president, whose poll numbers have fallen, is severely weakened or decides not to seek a second term.
He says he wants to use his platform as a two-term Republican governor in a deeply blue state and as incoming chairman of the National Governors Association to help change the direction of the Republican Party and national politics.
Hogan, a cancer survivor, opened his speech by paying tribute to longtime Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), who was diagnosed late last year with metastasized prostate cancer that has spread throughout his body.
“President Miller, I can attest to how tough the battle is that you are facing,” Hogan said, as Miller gave a thumbs-up. “But I also know your strength and your never-give-up spirit . . . We are all praying that you come out of this stronger than ever.”