Category Archives: Larry Hogan

Hogan Hits Back Hard at Trump Tweet on COVID Tests. “Stop golfing and concede”

Gov. Larry Hogan is having a very bad press week as the media finally focuses on the well known fact that the COVID tests from South Korea were overpriced duds and that he has continued to pretend that they were a success long after it was clear that they weren’t.

But Gov. Hogan is absolutely 100% right on the money when he says that the federal government left the states completely at sea. After denial of the pandemic was no longer possible, President Trump repeatedly and publicly told the states that they were on their own. So Gov. Hogan may have failed in this instance, but why on earth did the president and the federal government leave him to scramble for tests and other supplies?

Gov. Hogan was among the first Republicans to do the utterly normal and congratulate President-Elect Biden. He hadn’t gone beyond that to show leadership in demanding that Trump concede or point out that his behavior was that of an undemocratic sore loser. Looks like the President’s attack has just goaded him into precisely just that.

It turns out that President Trump isn’t the only one who doesn’t take well to public slams and knows how to punch back twice as hard.

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Hogan is Lying About Question 1

By Adam Pagnucco.

Governor Larry Hogan is hopping mad about Question 1, a statewide constitutional amendment on the ballot that would curtail some of his massive budget powers. That’s understandable – any politician (and most of the rest of us) would be upset about having any of our powers taken away. But Hogan’s critique of Question 1 has careened into the territory of outright lies and he deserves to be exposed.

Question 1 has its roots in a state budget crisis way back in 1915. In those days, the state government was considerably less professional than it is now. In Fiscal Year 1915, the state ran up a general fund deficit of $1.4 million. That was pretty bad considering that the state recorded revenues of just $12.1 million.

The crisis resulted in the incorporation of an executive budget system into the state’s constitution, which gives the governor enormous powers to set the operating budget. The General Assembly is prevented from adding to or rearranging the governor’s proposed operating budget under most circumstances. The legislature can cut certain items from the governor’s budget and also fence off money, designating it for use only under certain circumstances. The governor can release the money for those purposes or save it. Over the years, the General Assembly got around the restrictions by mandating future funding for some items through statute (especially education). But in an operating budget for an upcoming fiscal year, the governor – any governor – has awesome power which dwarfs the ability of the legislature to check it.

No other state gives such budgetary authority to its governor.

In the past, the governor and the General Assembly lived with each other by negotiating (to an extent) what would appear in the governor’s budget. But Hogan and the current General Assembly tend not to negotiate with each other all that nicely. Last spring, General Assembly Democrats got fed up and passed SB 1028, a constitutional amendment that would junk the executive budget system and balance budgetary power between the governor and the General Assembly. That is now Question 1 on this year’s ballot. Here is the exact language of Question 1.

Question 01

Constitutional Amendment
(Ch. 645 of the 2020 Legislative Session)
State Budget Process

The proposed amendment authorizes the General Assembly, in enacting a balanced budget bill for fiscal year 2024 and each fiscal year thereafter, to increase, diminish, or add items, provided that the General Assembly may not exceed the total proposed budget as submitted by the Governor.

(Amending Article II Section 17 and Article III Sections 14 and 52 of the Maryland Constitution)

Additionally, the bill creating Question 1 grants the governor authority to veto any line items added by the General Assembly to executive departments. Furthermore, the bill makes clear that the changes will take effect in Fiscal Year 2024, after Hogan has left office.

Hogan despises this constitutional amendment and set up a website to oppose it. The website says, “Question 1 would upend the Maryland constitution to give career politicians in the legislature unchecked power over the budget, denying governors the chance to hold them accountable and to protect taxpayers.”

Hogan also made this video in which he claimed that Question 1 would lead to higher taxes.

Here’s the lie: Question 1 does not give the General Assembly “unchecked power over the budget.” The very language of the amendment makes clear that the legislature “may not exceed the total proposed budget as submitted by the Governor.” That means the governor still gets to set a budget ceiling that the legislature cannot exceed. Furthermore, the bill gives the governor line item veto authority over appropriations for state departments. What the bill actually does is establish a balance of power between the governor and the General Assembly that resembles the arrangement in most other states.

If Hogan wants to make an honest argument against Question 1, he can claim that the current system has worked well enough over the past century and has prevented a recurrence of the kind of budget crisis that it was designed to stop. But it’s a lie to say that it will result in higher taxes when the governor still gets to set a budget ceiling.

Readers, please take this into account when voting on Question 1.

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Private Schools Caught in Elrich-Hogan Feud

By Adam Pagnucco.

Last November, I wrote about the growing feud between Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich and Governor Larry Hogan. Back then, the issues were the governor’s proposed Beltway widening project, the dispute about how to fix MoCo’s crumbling public safety communications system, the thin blue line flag that was delivered to a MoCo police station and transportation funding. Some of those issues have faded over time but the general radioactivity between the two men can still melt hazmat suits. And now the feud is threatening to blow up MoCo’s private schools.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were roughly 190,000 people age 5 through 18 living in MoCo in 2018. MCPS K-12 enrollment was 158,101 in the 2018-19 school year, suggesting that about 30,000 students, or almost one-sixth of all MoCo kids, were in private school or home school. The Census Bureau’s County Business Patterns series identified 108 private school establishments in the county with 6,610 employees in 2017. Their combined annual payroll was $322 million.

Private schools are a big deal in MoCo.

Right now, private school employees, parents and students are caught in a tit-for-tat power struggle between Elrich and Hogan. This isn’t the typical sparring that the two do over social media. With the county saying one thing and the state saying the opposite, what are these families and employees supposed to do? If you’re a school and you open, the county could fine you. If you don’t, your own parents could sue you and/or pull their kids from your school.

It’s the worst of all worlds!

The situation calls for the low-key tactics of former County Executive Ike Leggett. Hogan, a good old boy developer and son of a Republican politician, and Leggett, a soft-spoken law professor who had risen from a childhood of poverty, couldn’t be more different. But despite their different backgrounds and beliefs, Leggett understood the powers of the governor and learned how to work him. Leggett succeeded in getting Hogan to back off a campaign promise to cancel the Purple Line and the two worked hand-in-hand to lure Amazon to MoCo. If Leggett had any criticism of Hogan, he kept it private. Leggett took a loooooong time to endorse Hogan’s general election rival, Democrat Ben Jealous, and never campaigned against Hogan. The two became peas in a pod – and an odd-looking pod at that!

The lesson of Leggett is not one of capitulation but of continuing to talk despite areas of disagreement. Leggett never made things personal even when other people wanted to. I wrote many tough pieces on his administration and Leggett would respond by seeing me at an event, shaking my hand and saying, “How are you? Is everything OK? Let me know if you need something.” Then I would feel bad about being so hard on him and I would go beat up someone else for a while!

Leggett, who originally hired current health officer Travis Gayles, would have found a way to work this current dispute out. Working the phones with Hogan and state health secretary Bobby Neall, Leggett and his people would have devised a stringent network to regulate private school reopenings without provoking a legal war with the state. And he would have kept it out of the press. The only sign of discussion would have been mutual praise between Leggett and Hogan of what a great job each was doing on handling COVID. As for the private schools, many would probably have opted for distance learning rather than deal with cumbersome county bureaucracy and plan approvals, thereby producing a similar result to the one desired by Elrich. It just would have happened without yelling and screaming.

Leggett is happily retired from elected service now and is probably laughing as he reads this column. He is still around. Maybe Elrich and Hogan should bring him back, always the calmest guy in the room, to settle their increasingly bitter feud.

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Hogan Overturns MoCo Closure of Private Schools

By Adam Pagnucco.

Minutes ago, Governor Larry Hogan issued an amended executive order preventing political subdivisions from closing or modifying the operations of schools. The governor issued this statement:

The recovery plan for Maryland public schools stresses local flexibility within the parameters set by state officials. Over the last several weeks, school boards and superintendents made their own decisions about how and when to reopen public schools, after consultation with state and local health officials.

Private and parochial schools deserve the same opportunity and flexibility to make reopening decisions based on public health guidelines. The blanket closure mandate imposed by Montgomery County was overly broad and inconsistent with the powers intended to be delegated to the county health officer.

To be clear, Maryland’s recovery continues to be based on a flexible, community-based approach that follows science, not politics. As long as schools develop safe and detailed plans that follow CDC and state guidelines, they should be empowered to do what’s best for their community.

I want to thank all the parents, students, and school administrators who have spoken out in recent days about this important issue.

The language of the governor’s amended executive order states at I.(e):

If a political subdivision determines that doing so is necessary and reasonable to save lives or prevent exposure to COVID-19, the political subdivision is hereby authorized to issue Orders that are more restrictive than this Order (“Local Orders”):

i. requiring any businesses, organizations, establishments, or facilities (except schools) to close or modify their operations; and/or

ii. requiring individuals to remain indoors or to refrain from congregating.

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Hogan Decides on Regular Election

By Adam Pagnucco.

Governor Larry Hogan has decided not to repeat the state’s use of a mail-predominant election that was adopted for the primary. Instead, citing the problems with mail ballots and long lines on election day, Hogan has opted to hold a regular general election with all early voting centers and all precinct polling locations open. He has directed the State Board of Elections to send an absentee ballot application to every eligible voter and to promote early voting, absentee voting and off-peak voting as “safe and efficient options.”

Hogan’s letter to the State Board of Elections appears below.

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Hogan’s Shift and Shaft

By Adam Pagnucco.

In a long-expected move, Governor Larry Hogan has submitted a long list of state budget cuts to the Board of Public Works. Cuts to state employee salaries and positions are getting a lot of attention. So is a proposed $200 million trim in state aid to public schools, although that needs the consent of the General Assembly to pass. What is less discussed is Hogan’s resumption of a time-honored practice used by higher level governments to dump their problems on lower level governments: the shift and shaft.

Here is how it works. Over the years, state governments decide that they wish to provide certain services, like schools, libraries, colleges, transportation infrastructure, public safety and so on. They could decide to provide them directly through state employees, and sometimes they do in whole or in part. But for reasons of convenience and coordination, they often choose to fund those activities through grants to counties and cities and have them provide the services to residents. Over time, state budgets get in trouble due to economic downturns so cuts are needed. State leaders don’t want to cut services, of course – they don’t want to deal with the backlash and they are happy to have counties and cities continue to provide them. They just don’t want to pay for them anymore. So they cut their grants to lower levels of government and make city and county leaders clean up the mess. (In fairness, the feds do the same things to the states.) The whole process is called “shift and shaft federalism.”

Maryland is no stranger to this concept. The Great Recession of a decade ago hit the state budget HARD. Governor Martin O’Malley’s top priority was preserving state aid for public schools. He was able to accomplish that for the most part through a series of tax hikes, a reduction of hundreds of millions of dollars in highway user revenue funds that had gone to county and municipal transportation budgets and a partial shift of teacher pension payments to the counties. The latter shift was partly ameliorated by supplemental grants paid to the poorest counties to help them meet teacher pension obligations. The counties bitterly resisted these moves, but once the state imposed them, most responded by raising property taxes, income taxes or both.

Hogan is now going down the same road as O’Malley. His cut list includes two programs that steer money to county budgets. The first one is the state’s disparity grant program, which sends money to poorer counties in an effort to remedy local tax capacity inequities. The state’s FY21 budget includes a $12.4 million increase in disparity grants which Hogan would eliminate. The second program is the state’s teacher retirement supplemental grants, which are intended to help poorer counties pay for the teacher pension payments that the state mandated in 2012. Hogan would eliminate them too. Combining the two programs, Hogan would cut their funding by 21.5%, one of the biggest percentage cuts in his entire package and close to the 25% maximum cut that the Board of Public Works could impose.

Here is the total impact by county of Hogan’s cuts to disparity grants and teacher retirement supplemental grants.

Three things stand out. First, most of these cuts are regressive. Other than Baltimore County, these jurisdictions have low assessable bases per capita, low income per capita or both. The very reason why these programs exist is to boost poor counties, so cuts to them are bound to be regressive. Second, many of these jurisdictions are governed by Republican local officials. Hogan is cutting his own people. Third, these amounts were included in county budgets passed over the last two months. Each of these reductions blows a hole in county budgets that were already going to be subject to cuts because of declines in local revenues. The tough choices will now get even tougher.

These counties will be pleased to know that Hogan is proposing to eliminate the state’s $75 million supplemental retirement contribution. So while the counties will continue to be expected to pay for state pensions without the benefit of state assistance, the state will save money by cutting its own payments.

It is good to be at higher levels of government!

More cuts to local entities will probably be coming. Hogan proposed cutting $200 million in state aid for public schools (a move that needs General Assembly approval) and $36 million in state aid for community colleges. His package also contains another $130 million “unallocated reduction to local governments” that needs to be considered by the General Assembly. There may also be more mid-year cut packages.

Good luck to the counties. And good luck to the voters too.

Update: Comptroller Peter Franchot has come out against many of Hogan’s cuts, including the cuts to the counties. Assuming that the Board of Public Works sticks to its schedule and votes on the package tomorrow, Treasurer Nancy Kopp will decide the outcome.

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MoCo’s Most Influential, Part Two

By Adam Pagnucco.

Part One of this series laid out the rules and methodology for how we determined MoCo’s most influential people. Before you complain about it, just remember – these lists are not my lists. They were developed by adding together the nominations of 85 people who are themselves extremely knowledgeable and influential. If you have a problem with that, take it up with them!

And now let’s get started. Today, we will begin listing the most influential elected officials on MoCo’s state and county politics. The criteria include elected officials who appear on our ballots even if they don’t live here. Quotes attributed to sources are not mine and come from our voters.

15. Delegate Kumar Barve (D-17) – 12 votes

Source: Leading voice on Beltway/270 proposal in Annapolis and calls the shots on many environmental initiatives.

Source: Stops a lot of stupid sh*t in the county delegation.

AP: The sources really got this one wrong as Kumar deserves a higher rank. He chairs the House Environment and Transportation Committee and is a former House Majority Leader. He has been in the house since some of today’s delegates were in elementary school. Kumar is brilliant, hilarious and knows the General Assembly as well as anyone. Other delegates need to learn from him as long as he remains in Annapolis.

13 (tied). Council Member Tom Hucker (D-5) – 18 votes

Source: One example, look at 495/270: press conferences, meetings, petition, relationships with SHA, Governor (which he finessed) — got results. He has a deep understanding of relationships and communication partnerships. Knows how to whip up/work with constituents to get things done.

AP: Tom Hucker’s secret for political success is that he knows who he is as a politician. You don’t see him hemming and hawing in public, flip-flopping or trying to figure out where the political winds are blowing. He just pushes ahead with his brand of practical, meat-and-potatoes progressivism and never strays too far from his base. That and his expertise in the outside ground game make him one of the most focused and effective elected officials in MoCo. Bonus points: his Chief of Staff, Dave Kunes, is one of the best.

13 (tied). Council Member Nancy Navarro (D-4) – 18 votes

Source: Nancy has become the moral leader of county government. She boldly spearheaded plans to re-shape how county government leaders understand structural racism, view our community, and even perceive themselves. She’s also helped create a platform for the County Council to engage on economic development issues. She’s done both of these things while overseeing a Council Presidency that saw a new administration, four new Councilmembers, and many new faces on central staff.

Source: Navarro has stepped up on every major issue and gathered the “council troops” to take the reins of county government at a time when the County Executive’s leadership is sorely lacking. She has exquisite timing and strategically lays out a vision for getting things accomplished in this leadership vacuum.

AP: No one wants to take on Nancy directly. She makes people who cross her pay a price! That’s why she usually gets her way, especially in directing money towards her district. Also, the fact that she is the only council member left from the 2010 budget crisis will amplify her influence in the coming weeks.

12. Governor Larry Hogan – 19 votes

Source: Completely driving the transportation priorities for the county. Officials deride but residents adore his proposals to expand highways even if the county proposal is utterly more sensible.

Source: Strong, capable and bold. Leading on the coronavirus when counties were still contemplating how to respond. He inspires trust and I can’t tell you how many people say, “I love Hogan.” A true leader at a difficult time.

AP: Governor Hogan deserves to be ranked higher. He doesn’t live here, but how many state initiatives have had a bigger impact on county politics than his I-270/Beltway proposal? It’s a short list.

10 (tied). Delegate Anne Kaiser (D-14) – 20 votes

Source: Quietly behind the scenes, she has become MoCo’s most influential state legislator by a mile, writing legislation that pushes progressive priorities in a practical way. Others get more press. She gets it done.

Source: One of the most prominent Kirwan and education voices, and a mentor to lots of (especially female) electeds.

AP: If I were going to advise a young delegate on how to get ahead in Annapolis, I would tell that person to watch Anne Kaiser. She is not flashy or fancy. She doesn’t seek out press attention. She just does her job, works hard, listens to others, plays on the team and picks her spots to move the team forward. Now she has the ways and means committee chair that once belonged to the legendary Sheila Hixson and she is not done. Don’t be surprised if you are calling her Speaker Kaiser in a few years.

10 (tied). Delegate Eric Luedtke (D-14) – 20 votes

Source: Decent amount of helium in Annapolis, arrow will probably continue to point skyward within the House.

Source: Put together the arrangement that made Adrienne Jones speaker. Influential enough to float tax proposals that can mobilize widespread opposition.

Source: Kaiser would be more obvious choice here given the gavel but no one made more of an impact for good or ill with service tax proposal this session, dominating the conversation.

AP: Smart, outspoken, intellectually honest and ready for combat with right-wingers, Eric has become one of the go-to guys for taking point in House leadership. Underneath all that, he is still the person I first met a long time ago: a socially progressive teacher out to push for the common good. Who knows how his career will progress, but I guarantee it won’t be boring!

More to come in Part Three!

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LIUNA’s Endorsement of Hogan is a Big Deal

By Adam Pagnucco.

In politics, it’s an iron law that unions always endorse Democrats, yeah?  Labor is known for supplying money and manpower to the Democratic Party in an alliance dating back decades.  But the truth is more complicated owing to the complexities within the labor movement little appreciated by outsiders.  And that truth just erupted in the Governor’s race in a big way.

Recently, the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA), one of the largest unions in the country, endorsed Republican Governor Larry Hogan.  As the Washington Post noted, LIUNA had supported Hogan’s 2014 opponent, then-Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, and gave him a last-minute $500,000 loan.  Why is this such a big deal?

First, LIUNA is in part a building trades union.  A big chunk of its half a million members work in the construction industry alongside unions representing carpenters, electricians, operating engineers, iron workers, bricklayers and more.  Accordingly, it has an interest in landing construction projects for its members.  The Post reported, “A spokesman for the union said it is backing Hogan because of his emphasis on building roads and bridges – particularly his $9 billion proposal to add toll plans to Maryland’s most congested highways.”  LIUNA Mid-Atlantic Vice President Dennis Martire added, “Transportation infrastructure continues to take a back seat for many elected officials… It’s refreshing to see Governor Hogan’s proposed plans for Maryland’s roads and highways.”  Local organizations affiliated with two other building trades unions – the Roofers and the Plumbers and Pipefitters – have also endorsed Hogan.  Don’t be surprised if more trades climb on board.

Second, LIUNA is one of the most diverse unions in the country.  It represents large numbers of African Americans and Latinos who are not as socially conservative as the other trades and public safety unions that are supporting Hogan.  Many LIUNA members are government employees, and in Montgomery County, the union represents trash haulers who are employed by county contractors.  The union’s legislative agenda goes beyond traditional building trades issues.  In endorsing Rich Madaleno in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, the union cited his work on earned sick leave and the $15 minimum wage.  LIUNA also endorsed Marc Elrich for County Executive.  That’s right, folks – here is an organization that supported Madaleno, Elrich, Brown AND Hogan.

Third, LIUNA spends massive amounts on Maryland political campaigns.  From 2005 through June 2018, the union contributed $2.2 million to Maryland candidates, PACs and independent expenditure committees.  Its biggest expenditures were $678,065 to the Clean Slate Baltimore PAC opposing 2016 Mayor candidate (and former Mayor) Sheila Dixon; $528,500 to Anthony Brown’s 2014 campaign for Governor; $150,000 to the One State One Future Super PAC for Brown; $78,250 to the state Democratic Party; and $35,000 to the Progressive Maryland PAC that ran negative TV ads against County Executive candidate David Blair.  There is no indication that the union will spend any money promoting Hogan, who – Lord knows! – doesn’t need more money.  But LIUNA’s resources are now off the table for Democratic nominee Ben Jealous, who could have used them.

Speaking of Progressive Maryland, LIUNA is one of their dues-paying affiliates.  That didn’t stop Progressive Maryland from criticizing LIUNA’s endorsement of Hogan on Facebook, an almost unheard-of act by an umbrella group against a member.  That’s how much LIUNA’s choice stings the left.

Finally, consider this.  One of the most remarkable findings in the recent Gonzales poll showing a sixteen-point lead for Hogan over Jealous was its estimates for Baltimore City and Prince George’s County.  Those are two jurisdictions Jealous needs to win by big margins, but the poll shows him leading Hogan by six points in the City and thirteen points in Prince George’s.  We are skeptical that those margins will hold.  But to the extent that middle-class African Americans are a key to the election, it’s hard to think of many labor unions that represent more middle-class African Americans than LIUNA.

There’s a long way to go to Election Day and Jealous still has some large and powerful groups behind him.  But none of this is good for the Democrats.  Hogan must be smiling all the way to the hiring hall and beyond.

Disclosure: The author worked for LIUNA in 1994 and 1995 and spent sixteen years working for building trades unions.

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Who is Paying for RGA’s Campaign?

By Adam Pagnucco.

As we have previously written, the Republican Governors Association (RGA) has launched a TV and mail campaign promoting Governor Larry Hogan and attacking Democratic nominee Ben Jealous.  RGA is a 527, not a PAC or a federal political committee regulated by the FEC, and since the Citizens United decision it is free to advocate for and against candidates.  However, in Maryland, it is registered as an Independent Expenditure (IE) Committee and must disclose its contributions and expenditures.

Below are the 21 entities (17 organizations and 4 individuals) who have contributed to RGA’s Maryland IE account.  They have combined to contribute $1,037,500 to the campaign.  All but one (Gary Mangum of Bell Nursery) are from out of state.

The four healthcare and pharmaceutical companies contributed $300,000, which is interesting considering that Jealous is known for advocating single payer healthcare.  Indeed, one of RGA’s TV ads slams Jealous’s healthcare proposal over its alleged cost.  The $100,000 contribution by student testing firm Data Recognition Corporation is also noteworthy.  Is it seeking contracts in Maryland?

One more item from the IE filings stands out: the vendors collecting its money are all based out of state.  Are there no consultants based in Maryland who are capable of doing political work?  So far, the IE has spent $1,648,663 on TV, online ads, mail and consulting fees.  Compare that to the $2.9 million raised by Jealous’s campaign for the entire cycle.

RGA’s last IE report was dated July 11.  If the campaign continues, there will be more reports.  Who knows how much they will spend by the time they are done?

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RGA Runs Hogan as a Democrat

By Adam Pagnucco.

Below is the latest mailer by the Republican Governors Association (RGA) on behalf of Governor Larry Hogan.  It was sent to a Democratic household in MoCo.  Check out how it says that Hogan is “protecting what matters most” and promotes his record on “record funding for education,” “supporting the Paris climate accord,” “protecting Maryland’s environment” and “making Maryland’s schools world class.”

The RGA is running Hogan as if he was a Democrat.

This is the kind of mailer that will make Democratic officials and activists howl at the moon, but it’s savvy as hell.  Let’s see: Hogan is pro-environment and pro-education but he won’t raise taxes.  Simple, yeah, but effective.

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