Maryland Gov.-elect Larry Hogan (R) on Tuesday renewed his objections to outgoing Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) issuing major regulations and taking other controversial actions in the waning weeks of his tenure.
“I’m very opposed to all of these important decisions being made in the midnight hour of this administration,” Hogan told reporters following a meeting in Annapolis with the state’s five Republican county executives. “I think it’s a mistake. I think the people of Maryland have voted to go in a different direction.”
In recent weeks, the departing Democratic administration has put forward controversial new rules intended to curb pollution from farms and pledged to offer a series of regulatory safeguards that would limit the conditions under which hydraulic fracturing could take place in Western Maryland.
The incoming Republican governor said he has counted a total of 50 new proposed regulations since the election.
The O’Malley administration is also considering whether to make decisions affecting the future of a long-delayed project to redevelop the State Center office project in Baltimore, a complex that currently houses about 3,000 state workers. And O’Malley is considering commuting the sentences of Maryland’s four death-row inmates.
In an interview last month, O’Malley said he intended to remain active as governor until his tenure ends on Jan. 21.
“I have a responsibility and a public trust that I was sworn to uphold,” O’Malley said. “I’m sworn to uphold that for all eight years, and every day of those eight years, and I intend to do so.”
O’Malley spokeswoman Nina Smith reiterated those points Tuesday, saying O’Malley remains focused on achieving the administration’s strategic goals. “He will continue that work until the next governor takes office,” Smith said.
O’Malley backed his long-time deputy, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D), in last month’s election against Hogan, an Anne Arundel County businessman.
On Tuesday, Hogan sharply questioned O’Malley’s recent activities, saying he had “never seen any administration this active in the final days of their administration, trying to rush things in under the wire.”
“I would think it makes sense in most cases on major decisions for them to be decided by the newly elected folks in government,” Hogan said.
In an appearance Monday before the Maryland Farm Bureau, Hogan vowed to weaken or reverse the rules put forward by O’Malley that would curtail the widespread use of poultry manure as fertilizer on Eastern Shore farms.
Hogan has also promised to take another look at the rules O’Malley intends to offer on hydraulic fracturing, which would open up the Marcellus Shale in Western Maryland to “fracking,” but only under some of the most restrictive public health and environmental safeguards in the country.
Hogan has said he believes drilling opportunities in Western Maryland are “an economic gold mine” and have been studied too long.
When O’Malley announced his plans on fracking last month, Hogan criticized him for taking action “on the way out the door.”
Hogan’s comments Tuesday followed about an hour-long meeting with five county executives, all of them Republicans: Tari Moore of Cecil; Allan Kittleman of Howard; Bob Culver of Wicomico, Barry Glassman of Harford; and Steve Schuh of Anne Arundel.
Aides noted that Hogan has already met individually with Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) and has plans to meet with other Democratic county leaders as part of his ongoing transition.
Hogan said he told the executives during their closed-door meeting that he would restore some local road funding that was cut during the O’Malley administration.
Hogan said the group also talked about heroin addiction and his plans to declare a state of emergency and create a task force to figure out why the number of overdoses has steadily increased across Maryland.
Hogan also reiterated his plans to seek a repeal of legislation that requires 10 counties to impose a storm-water management fee, which Hogan has dubbed the “rain tax.”
Hogan said counties will be allowed to fund storm-water management programs using their existing budgets instead of collecting a dedicated fee.
“I don’t think the state should be in the business of forcing tax increases on local governments,” Hogan said.
Hogan, who ran on a platform of cutting taxes, also warned that the state’s financial footing is far from sound.
“Just to put it in simplistic terms, we’ve maxed out all the credit cards, we’ve drained all the savings accounts, we’ve broken into the kid’s piggy banks,” Hogan said. ‘We have no money left. We’ve got a serious hole to dig out from. and we’re going to have to make very tough decisions.”