Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) said Thursday that he can’t work with Gov. Larry Hogan if the governor won’t work with him.
A day after Hogan (R) welcomed lawmakers back to Annapolis by saying he was available to talk with them at any time, Miller accused the governor of shutting legislative leaders out.
He said Hogan’s failure to consult with Democrats before announcing initiatives such as tax relief or closing a troubled jail is hurting efforts for the two parties to work together.
“The governor came up here and said I want to extend my hand, offer peace and goodwill,” said Miller, who has known Hogan for decades. “We want to reciprocate in kind. But we need to come together.”
Hogan spokesman Doug Mayer dismissed Miller’s concerns as “so middle school.” He said the governor looks forward to working with Miller and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) during the 90-day legislative session that began Wednesday.
“As the governor said, his door is wide open and his phone is working,” Mayer said.
The sniping could become an obstacle over the next three months, as the General Assembly deliberates over state budgets and grapples with initiatives including police reform and tax cuts.
Democrats enjoy sizable majorities in both legislative chambers. But Hogan has strong approval ratings across Maryland, even in Democratic-leaning areas.
Miller said he is tired of learning about Hogan’s proposals through news reports, including plans to reduce tolls on state highways and cancel Baltimore’s long-planned Red Line light-rail project.
This month, the governor called for tax cuts and changes in laws governing spending mandates, again without consulting Democratic leaders.
“Nobody on the second floor has talked to me,” Miller said.
Miller said he has yet to find out whether Hogan supports a $247 million, 10-year plan to reduce the state prison population by focusing more on community treatments. The plan is the focus of several bills that will be considered during the legislative session.
“We’ve drafted the bills now, and we want to know what recommendations the governor cares for and doesn’t care for,” the Senate president said.
Mayer said Miller’s statements were “mystifying,” given that staff from the governor’s office and the legislature are working on a criminal justice bill that they hope Miller will introduce in the coming days.
Miller also faulted Hogan for taking jabs at Democratic leaders on social media and in public appearances. At the same time, in response to questions from reporters, Miller took some shots of his own.
“The governor’s advisers are from Red Maryland,” Miller said. “They are advisers from down below, way far down below. . . . [people] who are just trying to throw red meat.”
Mayer said he and other Hogan staffers were “sincerely flattered” to have been mentioned by Miller.
The Senate president said he hasn’t given up on working with Hogan, with whom he will attend a basketball game at the University of Maryland this weekend.
“I say this as a peace offering,” Miller said. “We need to communicate. If we communicate, everything will be fine.”