Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan delivers his second inaugural address Wednesday in Annapolis. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R) struck a welcome note of bipartisanship in his second inaugural address on Wednesday. It was an appeal for civility and centrism seemingly aimed well beyond the audience before him in Annapolis, in which former Florida governor Jeb Bush sat, and included glowing references to late GOP center-right icons such as Mr. Bush’s father, President George H.W. Bush, and Sen. John McCain. Mr. Hogan called on Marylanders to “repudiate the debilitating politics practiced elsewhere — including just down the road in Washington — where insults substitute for debate, recriminations for negotiation, and gridlock for compromise.” There’s a bit of a Hogan-for-president boomlet just now in anti-Trump Republican circles, and the governor’s nationally attuned speech will do nothing to discourage it.

The matter at hand, though, is the 2019 session of the General Assembly, to which Mr. Hogan directed a bevy of policy proposals in his fiscal 2020 budget. In several instances, his ideas correspond well to his promise, in the inaugural speech, to provide “decent, hard-working, and pragmatic” government: a renewed emphasis on redistricting reform, for example, or the fourth straight year of modest, 2 percent increases in state university tuition.

We’re less enamored of the governor’s continuing penchant for aiming tax deductions at problems and declaring them addressed. This is reflected in two of his ideas for improving college affordability: to double the annual tax-deductible contribution Marylanders may make to tax-free 529 college savings accounts from $2,500 to $5,000 per year, and to allow Marylanders to deduct 100 percent of the interest paid on student loans from their taxes.

Deductions are worth most to the relatively well-off, who face higher marginal tax rates. Mr. Hogan’s proposals try to take account of this. The student-loan interest deduction and increased deductibility for 529 contributions would start phasing out for individuals making more than $91,000 per year and couples earning more than $141,000. But this simply underscores the limited impact on college affordability of any such tax break that isn’t unduly regressive. At the margin, it might even be counterproductive, because some of the tax subsidy is ultimately captured by the institutions that charge such high tuition in the first place. More fundamental solutions are needed.

Economists have long understood that targeted tax breaks generally are inefficient and, especially when delivered in the form of deductions, potentially regressive. Mr. Hogan keeps pushing for “opportunity zone” business breaks that essentially shift investment from one place to another. His plan to extend a tax exemption for the pensions of retired military, law enforcement and emergency workers certainly rewards an already deservedly admired group of people. Whether it has any economic rationale is unclear at best.

Far better to adopt broadly applicable rules that incentivize socially beneficial behavior. Politicians like targeted breaks because, well, the voters who benefit from them like them. And in that sense at least, Mr. Hogan, while certainly a different kind of Republican, is not a different kind of politician.