Rascovar: Hogan’s rhetoric has Trump tendencies

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By Barry Rascovar

For MarylandReporter.com

The yin and the yang of Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan keep bubbling to the surface.

On the one hand, he’s made it clear he finds Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump offensive. The Republican governor says he doesn’t like Trump, disagrees with his behavior and many of his statements and won’t vote for him.

On the other hand, Hogan continues to dip into Trump’s bag of tricks to win emotional points with voters. Indeed, Hogan was way ahead of Trump in one aspect of propaganda campaigning – the use of a fictitious story as a key election tool.

Trump has become a master of making it up as he goes along. He’s even better at taking a negative development and embroidering it with a fairy tale of malevolence and evil that rivals the Brothers Grimm.

Hogan does the same thing. The most recent example is the absurd furor he’s prompted over his mis-named “road kill bill.” It’s similar to his virtuoso propaganda winner from the 2014 campaign: Hogan’s mis-named “rain tax” – a savvy fabrication that helped win him the governorship.

This time, Hogan has latched onto a toothless bill passed by Democrats in the legislature to bring openness to the process of selecting major transportation projects.

Not a “road kill bill”

Hogan thinks the bill is evil incarnate. It will wipe out every road project in Maryland, he told reporters and county leaders this month. That’s why he calls it “the road kill bill.”

That’s an intentional distortion of the facts for political purposes.

Hogan wants to use this unimportant bill – which he vetoed but then saw overridden by lawmakers – as a hammer against Democrats. He thinks it will help him win another term in 2018. You might call it the second coming of the “rain tax.”

As a candidate in 2014, Hogan harangued Democrats for passage of a bill that allowed 10 counties to impose a local levy on impermeable surfaces such as roofs and asphalt or concrete driveways because these surfaces generate stormwater runoff that pollutes the Chesapeake Bay. The tax revenue would be used to reduce waterway pollution.

But Hogan twisted that bill into something that sounded ludicrous. His TV ads sounded the alarm: Democrats had reached the point where “they’re even taxing the rain!”

Brilliant as a campaign tactic. But untrue.

Hogan’s latest invention concerns the Democrat-passed “Maryland Open Transportation Decision Act” aimed at bringing a statistical ranking system to road and bridge projects that the public can understand.

Explaining transportation choices

Its preamble sets out the purpose: to create “a public process for transportation planning. . . that provides Maryland citizens with a clear and transparent explanation as to how their transportation taxes and revenues are allocated to fund major capital transportation projects.”

The key phrase: “a clear and transparent explanation.” Not a mandate. Not an order that forces the governor to fund projects he opposes. Just a new planning tool shared with the public.

It could be a useful planning mechanism, just as it is in Virginia and North Carolina, where conservative Republican legislatures passed similar measures. Why? Because it’s a sensible way to get the “biggest bang” for the state’s buck – a very Republican notion.

But Hogan is thinking politics, not government efficiency.

He says the bill will wreak havoc on every county road project. He keeps repeating this flight of fancy. Mentioning “the road kill bill” revs up Republican crowds.

Compounding the situation is an effort by Hogan’s minions to twist reality even further. Deputy DOT Secretary Jim Ports tried terrorizing the counties by claiming none of their projects would be funded next year because of this Democratic-passed law.

Pure buncombe.

To begin with, DOT hasn’t even created the detailed scoring and ranking metrics needed to come to such a conclusion. Most important, these rankings don’t count when the governor names the transportation projects he wishes to finance. He still can do as he pleases.

A planning tool, not a funding requirement

This is strictly a planning tool, not a funding requirement. The law states quite clearly that the governor can ignore the rankings and toss the list in the trash as long as he “provides in writing a rational basis for the decision.”

Moreover, Ports’ ridiculous assertion that every county’s priority list of road projects would be wiped out by this law is refuted by this wording in the statute: “nothing in this Act may be construed to prohibit or prevent the funding of the capital transportation priorities in each jurisdiction.”

In other words, counties still get to name their top projects and Hogan gets to fund them if he wishes.

Calling it “the road kill bill” is a Trumpian tactic. How ironic for Hogan, who has positioned himself as the anti-Trump in Maryland’s Republican Party. Now he’s following The Donald’s lead by ignoring the facts and generating a story-line that fits his political purposes.

Unfortunately, we’ll be hearing a lot more about Hogan’s made-up “road kill bill.” He will continue demanding that lawmakers get rid of the statute – which won’t happen.

Meanwhile, Ports has made himself a prime target of angry Democrats, who are nearly certain to revise the law to make even clearer that it creates merely an advisory ranking system for road projects.

But has Hogan set an unintended trap for himself?

He and Democrats could get into a game of transportation “chicken” in which lawmakers dare the governor to wipe out all county road projects, as Hogan says is required – but isn’t – under the new advisory law.

What does Hogan do then – especially since this would be happening in the run-up to Hogan’s reelection bid?

Only by harming counties can Hogan prove his assertion is correct. That’s a huge risk for an incumbent who at the moment looks like a shoo-in for a second term.

Barry Rascovar’s blog is www.politicalmaryland.com. His email address is brascovar@hotmail.com.

  • Johnny

    Hogan has passionately expressed his opposition to the “road kill bill.” To say that his expressing of emotion over his position is akin to “dipping into Trump’s bag of tricks” is an absurd argument. Also, let me remind you that no “virtuoso propaganda” was needed to convince people that the rain tax was bad legislation. It was widely unpopular, and its repeal passed the senate unanimously and the house 138-1.

    How is calling it the road kill bill a “Trumpian tactic?” What does that even mean? I don’t recall Trump ever being involved in the passage or enforcement of any legislation. He has absolutely no experience with this. As his supporters loudly proclaim – “He’s not a politician!”

    Trump has nothing to do with Larry Hogan, or his aims with this or any other legislation. I think YOU – Barry Rascovar – are “following The Donald’s lead by ignoring the facts and generating a story-line” that fits YOUR political purposes. How ironic.

    • Sam D

      Your characterization of what happened with the repeal of the stormwater management fee is pretty far off. For starters, the so-called “rain-tax” was enacted in response to an EPA mandate that Maryland must spend so much money to protect the Chesapeake Bay. In response to this, the Maryland General Assembly passed a law saying that the counties must charge a fee based on the amount of impervious surfaces on a given property. (The thought behind that is that historically, when it rains, the ground absorbs much of the stormwater. When there are “impervious surfaces” such as concrete, the rain runs off, taking pollutants on the surface with it.) The “repeal” of the fee just removed the requirement that this particular fee be the mechanism for raising money. Counties still have to provide funds to protect the bay as mandated by the EPA, but they can now choose what mechanism to use to raise those funds. The repeal passed so easily because it didn’t actually make it so any less money would go towards the bay.

      And to get to the comparisons with Trump, Rascovar is saying that Hogan, like Trump, creates and/or peddles a false narrative for political purposes. Trump lies for political gain by saying that the country is more dangerous than ever, Hogan lies for political gain by saying a toothless transparency bill will kill rural road projects.

    • If the adminstration had “passionately appeared at General Assembly hearings and sessions with legislators ” maybe the adminstration would have legislation consistent with its objectives.

      Instead Secretary Rahn offered a ridiculous analogy of the current Transportation Project funding process as a convoluted series of different athletic games all taking place on the same filed all at the same time.

      Yeah, I know. But it is on video available to be viewed at the General Assembly website.

      Bottom line is there are two branches of government involved in policy making. The executive and the legislature. Hogan and his supporters love to forget that the legislature is the true representatives of the people for there are 113 individual races across the entire state.

      Hogan is the representative of the collect state and the legislature is the collective representatives of the districts.

      Balance of power…

  • Rick Williams

    Barry Rascovar is always looking for ways to attack our good governor. I already wrote about that stupid road bill six weeks ago. http://marylandreporter.com/2016/07/10/opinion-rascovars-fiction-about-gov-hogan/ Now the Razz dumps on Hogan for using the term “rain tax.” Hogan didn’t invent the term. He did make it popular. It drives environmentalists crazy. They want to call it a “stormwater remediation fee.”
    For them, when rain hits the ground, it’s no longer rain, it’s stormwater. And for them, it’s not a tax, it’s a fee. Maryland courts have ruled on this: a fee is something you pay for a particular government service, and it is voluntary; a tax is something everybody pays to raise revenue. That makes it a tax. On rain.
    Rascovar is flat out wrong when he said the rain bill “allowed” 10 counties to impose it. It required them.
    It was a mandatory rain tax. The governor says it has been repealed, but only the mandate has been repealed. Half the counties are still charging it.

    • So if it is a “rain tax” EVERY resident of the state would have to pay it AND it would need to be calculated on annual rain fall.

      Since neither is true, and what is true is that the fee (and Chapter 151 of 2012 calls it a stormwater remediation fee) is levied upon impervious surfaces, Hogan’s puerile labeling is worthy of critism.

      Structures and surfaces which do not allow stormwater to be naturally absorbed into the ground and dissipated, are assessed a fee based on area, to fund remediation efforts.

      What gets lost in all of this is the fact the federal government, through the EPA has mandated the state meet pollution goals by 2017 and 2025. These Total Maximum Daily Load goals relate to nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment. Sediment is created by stormwater runoff. So systems like retention ponds or surfaces designed to absorb stormwater to reduce sediment deposits in the Bay are the sort of items funded by these 10 NPDES Phase I jurisdictions.

      Hogan can spin this to his base base all he wants. What he has not figured out yet is how to capture more than 23% of registered Maryland voters.

      His only true shot at reelection is voter suppression. He won in a historically low gubernatorial turnout. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend got 29% of registered voters in her loss to Ehrlich.

      • Rick Williams

        What a silly argument. These rain taxes don’t do any calculations. They just assign the tax based on the size of the property. And the court case said just because a legislature calls something a fee, it still could be a tax. This mandatory rain tax was not mandated by the EPA. It was just the politically easy way to do so.

        As to using registration figures to show political power, what baloney. Maybe the GOP should put up KKT next time.There were a million more registered voters in 2014 than in 2002, yet Hogan and Brown each got only 5,000 votes more than Ehrlich and KKT. So much for early voting, MVA registration, felon voting, etc..

        The only thing suppressing votes is the one party monopoly in the state’s biggest counties.

        • What a silly retort. Did you actually read Chapter 151 of 2012? Have you read up TMDL goals and the unfunded mandates the federal government has placed on states which feed the Chesapeake? Of course not.

          Yeah, you’re right, using registration power to show power is baloney. But that was not what I did (again with the reading part) PERCENTAGE of registered voters. This measures apathy. Anthony Brown sucked slightly more than Larry Hogan sucked. End of story.

          Yet real power to make laws, pass budgets, mandate action by the state is in the 188 seats of the Maryland General Assembly.

          • Johnny

            How exactly did Larry Hogan suck? He won the election.

      • Johnny

        What Hogan has figured out is how to maintain a historically high approval rating, as a Republican, in a majority-Democrat state. Maryland Dems love to use the “historically low turnout” excuse to deflect from the fact that ALL Marylanders were sick of the high taxes, and Anthony Brown ran a pathetic campaign. If the Democrats think the only thing that will win them back the governorship is higher voter turnout, without acknowledging the true reasons a Republican won in a majority-Democrat state, they better prepare for four more years of Hogan.

        • Ehrlich had a historically high approval rating in his first, err only term… There is one poll that matters for Ehrlich, Hogan, O’Malley, et al. Election Day.

          If you think a Baltimore Sun or Goucher poll two and three years out is an indicator of his “power”, you are sadly mistaken.

          Here’s the thing. He is highly ineffective as a governor. Only 16 of his 31 non-budget (for those are constitutionally required and must pass at some point,) introduced ever made it back to his desk. Weakest governor in quite some time. His agenda , if you can call it that, is DOA.

          REAL power is in the General Assembly, for better or for worse.

          When Republicans start winning those seat, call me.

          • Johnny

            http://marylandreporter.com/2016/01/19/hogans-67-approval-rating-higher-than-tops-for-omalley-ehrlich/

            Never said anything about his “power,” but its a pretty significant indicator of his popularity and the job he is doing. If you can’t see the significance of such a high approval rating as a Republican in a majority Dem state – even higher that O’Malley’s – you’re not paying attention. Why do you think Democrats are trying to attack him will all this nonsense, going so far as to try and tie him to Trump? They are nervous.

            His agenda to cut taxes and balance the budget has and is being achieved, despite the Democrats trying to hamper his efforts. If you think he is going to be blamed for this come election time, I think you’re mistaken. If you think an effective governor is someone who is just going to rubber-stamp everything the GA sends their way, I guess we have different ideas of what a good governor and leader should be.

            Whats your number?

  • charlie hayward

    The deciding question should be whether this law is necessary and justified in view of its cost. DLS’ scoring says it costs almost $3 million to administer (over 5 years.) Why is a toothless and unimportant (Rascovar’s words) law justified? On what grounds is the politicization of transportation funding at taxpayer expense a necessary function of government?

    Hogan is right on this one.

  • Dave Moe

    So what’s the point of the Democratic General Assembly passing a law allowing for it to be ignored by the Governor ?

    • Sam D

      The point was to allow for more transparency in the process. The law makes it so all major transportation projects must be ranked. This means that the public will be able to look at the individual merits of each project that is proposed instead of just being told what will be funded. This law just enables the public to be more involved and educated on transportation projects.

      • Dale McNamee

        If the public were that interested in such…

        Most are awaiting the football season (pro and college) and attentive to other trivia…

  • Dale McNamee

    Barry, Barry, Barry… sigh…?