Thursday, February 5, 2015

Hogan's State of the State

Yesterday, Governor Larry Hogan laid out an ambitious State of the State address that could almost be read as the antithesis to the State of the Union President Obama gave.  If the President offered a Democratic wish-list, Governor Hogan showed what the Republican counter would be - lower taxes, less regulation, and scaled down government.  He drove home precisely those policy planks that made Marylanders vote R in 2014 and left out all of the positions that drive them away (social issues, guns, and climate change denial).  The Governor even included post-partisan promises on subjects like redistricting and publicly financed campaigns. 

The Democratic response was as quick as it was decisively confrontational.  The Sun has a great compilation of both Democratic and Republican responses here.  To summarize: Democratic legislators disagree with his premise, they disagree with his policy, and they promise he will have a difficult time getting any of it done.

House Majority Leader Anne Kaiser provided the "official" Democratic response, which crystallized Democratic policy much better than anything we heard in the 2014 election.  Democrats want a well funded education system, a clean environment, and investments in public sector catalysts that help the private sector grow (biotech, cyber security, green energy).

While it may be uncomfortable for partisans on either side to see their ideas trashed, this is setting up to be  the contest of priorities that many Marylanders have longed for when saying we need a "real two-party state".  The question is whether that is what they really wanted, or instead they just wanted the Democrats to let the Republicans score a few points.

Governor Hogan's proposals seem to shoot just over the heads of most Marylanders.  Lower taxes on small business and decreased regulations are probably popular with significant segments of our population, but isn't going to put more money in my bank account.   While Hogan maintains that he is not cutting education, he is going to be held accountable for the cut-back in education staffing that is planned across the state.  And the Bay is not persuaded by campaign rhetoric or blaming folks up-river.  If his proposal isn't right with science, it will get worse.

I've tried to focus on the Governor's proposals, but have to comment on his preamble critiquing Maryland for all its faults.  You won on this stuff.  Don't dance in the end zone.  It made what could have been a strong speech juvenile and grating.

The bottom line is this - I think Governor Hogan has represented the best the Republicans have to offer in terms of conservative policy ideas.  I don't agree with those ideas and think he is playing loose and fast with the environment, but otherwise am optimistic that he will work hard to make it easier for small businesses to start and grow in Maryland.  He's not going to get every tax cut he wants, and he knows that, but promising the moon never hurt any politician.  Governor Hogan is the new reality for this state and we're about to see exactly what that means.

Have a great Thursday doing what you love!