ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Gov. Larry Hogan, who hopes to become the first Republican governor re-elected in Maryland since 1954, highlighted hopes for bipartisanship in his fourth State of the State speech Wednesday and frequently criticized partisan rancor in the nation’s capital.
Hogan also urged Democrats who control the General Assembly to support his proposals for tax relief, crime-fighting and redistricting reform.
Hogan began by painting a negative picture of Maryland before his inauguration, describing a floundering economy and a population “frustrated with politics as usual.”
“We’ve worked hard to usher in a new spirit of bipartisanship in Annapolis, and to create an environment of trust and cooperation where the best ideas rise to the top based upon their merit, regardless of which side of the aisle they come from,” Hogan said.
Del. Bill Frick, a Montgomery County Democrat, said Hogan’s address “felt like a campaign speech.”
“I think the State of the State was a lot of nice words, but really was more of a campaign speech where the governor was trying to characterize his first term in ways favorable to him rather than really bring folks together,” Frick said.
Hogan often criticized Washington, where President Donald Trump and the GOP-led Congress are unpopular in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1. He called on lawmakers to work with him to address negative aspects of the federal tax overhaul on Maryland, where state taxes are expected to go up hundreds of millions of dollars, and to stabilize health insurance rates.
“We may not be able to control what they do in Washington, but we certainly can come together in Annapolis to ensure that this money remains in the pockets of Maryland citizens where it belongs,” Hogan said.
The governor underscored large transportation projects he has undertaken, including improvements to the Baltimore Beltway, Interstate 95, the Capital Beltway the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and other projects.
“On transportation infrastructure, Maryland is leading by action and by example, and we cannot afford to turn back now,” Hogan said.
Democrats, however, said the governor was taking credit for hard choices they made during former Gov. Martin O’Malley’s tenure, when lawmakers voted to raise the gas tax.
“I found a great degree of irony of him taking credit for so many of the initiatives that we have passed as Democrats that he actively opposed,” said Sen. Richard Madaleno, a Montgomery County Democrat who is running for the Democratic nomination to challenge Hogan in November.
Republicans say Hogan’s popularity after three years in office shows he’s changed the state for the better.
“I think it’s easy to see by his popularity numbers, approval ratings across our state, people of all parties, all ages, like what Gov. Hogan is doing,” said Del. Kathy Szeliga, the House minority whip whose district includes parts of Harford and Baltimore counties.
Hogan acknowledged the state’s continuing struggle with drug addiction. He said his administration has committed half a billion dollars toward fighting heroin and the opioid epidemic with a focus on education, prevention, treatment and enforcement.
Hogan also introduced Karen Dolch, of Salisbury, Maryland, whose son Chad was a four-year veteran of the Army. Chad served a 15-month tour in Iraq and returned home with post-traumatic stress disorder and drug addiction. He died Dec. 17 after a drug overdose.
“That’s why no matter how hard it is, we cannot ever give up this fight,” Hogan said.
The governor asked lawmakers to support his proposal to pass tougher mandatory minimum sentences for violent criminals who use guns to commit crimes. He’s also backing truth-in-sentencing legislation that would require repeat violent criminals to serve their full sentences without the possibility of suspension, parole or probation.
And he urged lawmakers to support his proposal to take the drawing of congressional districts out of the hands of politicians and put it in the hands of an independent commission.
“Instead of becoming more like Washington, let’s send a message to Washington by putting the politics aside and coming together for all Marylanders,” Hogan said.