Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who touts himself as a model of how to work across the aisle, lashed out Monday at the Democrats who control Maryland’s General Assembly, calling their policies financially “reckless.”
As lawmakers entered the frenzied final three weeks of their annual legislative session, Hogan said bills that would significantly increase spending on education and raise the minimum wage would “devastate” the state’s economy.
He accused Democrats of “pandering” to special interests on school funding. And he lambasted them for ignoring his proposal to impose mandatory minimum sentences for repeat violent offenders who use guns and rejecting a bill to allow school resource officers in Baltimore City to carry guns.
“This seems to be like the most pro-criminal group of legislators I’ve ever seen,” Hogan said of the House of Delegates and Senate, each of which has a Democratic supermajority. “And it’s not what most people in the state want to see happen. They want to see us stop the violent crime.”
His tirade brought rebukes from lawmakers on social media and puzzlement from Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), who said he socialized with the governor over the weekend and Hogan seemed positive then about the 90-day session. “I’m not sure where he’s coming from,” Miller said. “To paint us all with a broad brush is very much a mistake.”
House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) called Hogan’s attacks disingenuous and untrue. “Please,” Busch said, shaking his head. “The General Assembly is not pro-criminal. They do everything they can do to prevent crime . . . Every governor has complained and cried at the end of session that they didn’t get what they want.”
Sen. Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City), vice chair of the Budget and Taxation Committee, wrote on Twitter that he “genuinely” wants to work with Hogan on “some of the big issues our state faces . . . It makes it so much harder when press conferences like this morning’s are built on false narrative of ‘reckless and irresponsible’ legislators.”
Hogan, who easily won a second term in November, is being courted by Republican critics of President Trump to run for president in 2020. The governor says he won’t launch a bid unless Trump is severely weakened. But Hogan has given interviews and speeches on the national stage and next month will visit New Hampshire, home of the first-in-the-nation presidential primary.
In his appearances, Hogan often says his experience governing a blue state and working with Democrats is an important example for an increasingly polarized nation. On Monday, however, the divisions in Annapolis were as sharp as anywhere.
Hogan called the legislature’s embrace of recommendations made by the Kirwan Commission, a landmark panel tasked with reworking the state’s public school system, “irresponsible.”
Democratic leaders committed to $1 billion over the next two years as a down payment on the 10-year plan. Hogan described the spending blueprint as “outrageous pandering” to special-interest groups and promised that “no additional state tax dollars will be handed over to local school districts without significant accountability attached.”
Busch disputed Hogan’s criticism that Democrats were being financially “reckless,” noting that Hogan supported a “lock box” for casino revenue that effectively forces the state to allocate about $125 million more a year for education. “For him to suggest this all snuck up on him, well, it falls on deaf ears,” Busch said.
The governor predicted that legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 for most businesses would lead to a loss of 99,000 jobs and $61 billion over the next decade.
Proponents of the measure say it would boost the economy and lessen pay disparities. The legislature has proposed easing the transition by giving smaller businesses more time to comply.
Miller said the country’s second-wealthiest state “can afford to pay a decent — not even a living — wage, but just a wage that people can get by on. The benefits far outweigh any negative.”
Last year, Hogan teamed with Democrats to ban bump stocks and enact laws keeping guns away from domestic abusers and individuals deemed to pose an immediate and present danger to themselves or others.
On Monday, he criticized lawmakers for “talking about silly things” such as banning 3-D-printed guns, instead of advancing bills to impose mandatory minimums or allow officers in Baltimore schools to carry guns.
“No one has ever committed a crime in the history of the state with a 3-D-printed gun,” Hogan said. “Sure let’s do it . . .but what are we going to do about the people committing crimes with real guns?”
The House passed the 3-D-printed gun ban Monday, along with bills that would regulate private sales of rifles and other long guns, raise the smoking age to 21 and make it easier for people sexually abused as children to sue their attackers.
The Senate also voted to raise the age for tobacco use, with an exemption for members of the military, and gave final approval to a bill that essentially overturns Hogan’s executive order that requires schools to start after Labor Day and end by June 15. Hogan has indicated he will veto the measure and would support a petition to put the question of who controls school calendars to the voters.
This report has been updated.