May 17, 2015

Gov. Hogan picks a fight with Speaker Busch

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Hogan Busch Miller

Photo above: Happier times: Senate President Mike Miller, Gov. Larry Hogan and House Speaker Michael Busch.

By Len Lazarick

Len@MarylandReporter.com

Gov. Larry Hogan will have plenty of reasons to face off with House Speaker Michael Busch over spending and policy issues in the next four years. But why the Republican governor chose to pick a fight with the Democratic leader of the House of Delegates on Friday make little sense.

On Thursday, Hogan had already ticked off Democratic lawmakers, teachers and a host of education advocates by rejecting their pressure to give public schools $68 million more. Hogan said he wanted to use the money for the pension system, reversing a $75 million cut the legislature had made.

But Hogan can only find that money in a roundabout way at the end of the year if there’s a surplus.

Policy differences

It’s a legitimate policy difference — school funding now versus the need for more pension funding later. Democrats see it as shortsighted; Republicans see it as fiscally prudent. It is consistent with Hogan’s goal to get control on spending now and in the future.

Friday, he got personal with Busch, cutting a $2 million project for Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis. Busch has long been a legislative patron of the hall, the former Annapolis High School not far from his home. The building has been transformed into a theater, studio and performance areas.

Hogan said he would use the $2 million to reopen the Annapolis barracks for the State Police and add 100 state troopers for a total of $8.2 million that Hogan had proposed in a supplemental budget. Contrary to traditional practice, Busch did not permit that budget addition to be introduced in the closing days of the session.

The governor’s explanation makes no sense as even his press release makes clear. The $2 million for the Maryland Hall was in the “Maryland Consolidated Capital Bond Loan of 2015, also known as the Capital Budget.” That money was going to come from 15-year bonds the state was going to float, not from current revenues, so cutting the project simply reduces the state’s future debt. Hogan will have to come up with $8.2 million from somewhere other than bond loans yet to be floated. Hogan has never really made a persuasive case of why State Police ranks need to grow by 6%.

UPDATE 5/20, 11:30 P.M. But an interesting twist has gone unnoticed: Gov. Hogan’s original capital budget (HB71, page 21) had proposed spending $500,000 on the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts. The House Appropriations Committee added an additional $1.5 million (Amended HB71, p. 21), quadrupling the amount of the grant in the House speaker’s district.

Making Busch an enemy

While some Republicans on social media have been cheering Hogan standing up to Busch, the action actually does little harm to Busch, but reinforces his stature among fellow Democrats as a foil to Hogan’s plans. Hogan’s pique is directed at Busch, but it’s actually the constituents of both men who lose the benefit of renovations at Maryland Hall.

Hogan also seemed to be making a mistake made by Gov. Bob Ehrlich, who turned Mike Busch from a policy foe into his personal nemesis. Busch is never going to be a fan of Hogan’s policies, but turning their differences into a grudge match undermines Hogan’s ability to govern in a bipartisan way.

  • Dale McNamee

    Busch deserves to be stood up to…

    His policies, and those of the Progressives, have nearly bankrupted Maryland…

    Thank you, Governor Hogan, for standing up for the taxpayers !

  • rkarena

    You forgot to mention Hogan doing his best to destroy the AAA bond rating we have – like cutting tolls without cutting $250 million in expenses – that’s called creating a structural deficit, and bond ratings don’t play politics, they play math. That is, truly, how you bankrupt a state. Only someone who wants to see our state’s hard earned progress destroyed would back this. Just look to the north to New Jersey and you will see how Maryland will look at Hogan in a few short months.

    • lenlazarick

      The MDTA bonds are revenue bonds and get a different rating from the state general obligation bonds.

      • rkarena

        A fair point Len, but is the “Maryland Transportation Authority” really not a part of the State of Maryland for purposes of this discussion? While these bond ratings may be judged differently, the root of the policy decision to put the rating at risk is the same – the Governor. The capital budget is also different from the general budget, but the Governor seems to not care about that distinction. The MDTA versus general obligation bonds seems a small distinction if the policies that drive are creating structural deficits

  • Vidi

    Cutting tolls (where did that $250 million number come from?) will not damage our bond rating; creating a greater funding liability in state pensions will.

  • higgy01

    It is about time someone stood up to the two remaining stooges (the third one is running for president). Both Busch and Miller are disreputable, money grubbing nincompoops that should have been put to pasture many years ago. The only thing that keeps them in the Maryland legislature is the D after their names. Any other state would have rejected them long ago.

  • Maryland Taxpayer

    i don’t know if it’s a mistake, funding the state pension liabilities is the jobfo the governor, and he’s serious about not kicking the can down the road anymore, good for him!

  • Maryland Taxpayer

    “That money was going to come from 15-year bonds the state was going to float, not from current revenues, so cutting the project simply reduces the state’s future debt.”

    And this is a problem for Len Lazarick, reducing future debt? Isn’t bond funding a form of deficit spending you abhor so much as a conservative? Do you suddenly have a soft spot for Mike? I mean we can steal from designated funds all the livelong day (and we have) and replace them with bonds, right? This state is drunk on spending and Hogan is just trying to sober people up–the Democrats just don’t like the hangover.

    Hogan is being true to his word, he’s reducing the money that has raped from our pockets, like tolls, and he’s being fiscally responsible by making sure we can meet our pension obligations in the future. He needs to get an award!

    I can’t believe this is coming from your pen, Len!

  • lenlazarick

    A reminder to all while you can choose a pseudonym (false name) to display, you do have leave a legitimate email address. I would really prefer you use you real name, the way all our writers do

    • snowmaggedoned

      Will keep my pseudonym, thank you.

      I don’t need to wake up one morning and find my tires slashed or my car paint job keyed you know.

  • abby_adams

    Actually, I’m surprised it took this long for someone to get their boxers in a twist. Maybe all politicians should remember, it isn’t about THEM but “We the People.” Just my two cents.

  • ksteve

    Hogan is just pandering to his base (selfish business types and supporters of non-public schools) and trying to punish the people in the jurisdictions that voted against him (Baltimore City and Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties) through his actions. His basic supporters don’t want to pay any taxes and would rather we subsidize their (mainly religious) non-public schools than the public ones that are open to all children. Residents of Maryland are overall among the wealthiest in the country and can afford to pay for good and desirable public programs.

  • Dee Hodges

    It was smart of Hogan to let the Speaker know that he cannot always get away with hindering Hogan’s programs without fear of retribution. Dee Hodges, Maryland Taxpayers Assoc.

  • snowmaggedoned

    Finally someone with cajones has taken on Busch. Both beer commercials (miller and Busch) should be thrown out of office. But, because they have very rich lobbyists that contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to their campaigns, we keep getting stuck with them every stinking four years.

    Finally…an elected official who is sticking up for the average working person who doesn’t have the financial means to “buy an office seat”.

    Thank you Larry Hogan. I am so happy and proud I gave you my vote!!!