Above: Lt. Gov.-elect Boyd Rutherford, Gov. Elect Larry Hogan, transition co-chair James Brady, Nancy Grasmick, Sen. Joe Getty, former Sen. Marty Madden
By Len Lazarick
Confronted with projections of state deficits far into the future, incoming Gov.-Elect Larry Hogan admitted Monday “quite frankly even I am surprised at the magnitude of the problem, and the task ahead of us is vast.”
Last Wednesday, the legislature’s budget analysts told lawmakers that there was already a $300 million deficit in the current budget, and another $600 million shortfall in fiscal 2016.
“The problem seems even greater than we expected it to be,” Hogan told reporters.
“I’ve been talking about some of these things for years,” Hogan said. “Much of the time I was the lone voice in the wilderness.”
Hogan promised to plunge ahead with his long promised plans to cut spending and taxes raised during the O’Malley years.
“We’re going to try to roll back taxes as quick as we can,” Hogan said.
Continues to emphasize bipartisanship
Hogan was speaking at a news conference where he announced six more members of his transition team, including several Democrats
Five times over the course of a 10-minute news conference he mentioned bipartisanship, with Democrats and Republicans working together to solve problems.
“I’m looking for the smartest most capable people” to serve in the new administration “whether they’re Democrats or Republican,” Hogan said.
He had already appointed Bobby Neall, a former Republican senator turned Democrat, to be his chief fiscal adviser in the transition.
James Brady, Hogan’s transition co-chair, had performed a similar function for incoming Democratic Gov. Parris Glendening in 1994 and then served as Glendening’s economic development secretary. Brady chaired Hogan’s campaign committee.
Hogan was just back from Colorado where he attended a “pretty intense” weekend training session for new governors sponsored by the National Governors Association, that included past and current governors.
“I was really impressed that unless you had a score card, you had no idea who the Democrats were and who the Republicans were,” Hogan said. “It really was an open and bipartisan group that was openly and honestly sharing their advice and input”
“Some of the people in Washington could learn a lot” from the governors, the governor-elect observed. “Governors actually have to govern for everybody in their state; they’re not legislators in Washington arguing all the time.”
“We just can’t have Democrats and Republicans fighting with one another and you actually have to come up with real bipartisan common senses solutions,” Hogan said
Six new transition members
Blair Lee IV: One of the most unusual appointments to the transition team was Blair Lee IV, a longtime columnist for the Gazette newspapers in Montgomery County and regular commentator on WBAL radio. “Blair is the only one of this group that has actually lived in the governor’s mansion,” Hogan noted.
Lee is the son of former Lt. Gov. Blair Lee III, who served as acting governor from 1977 to 1979 during Gov. Marvin Mandel’s trial and incarceration. Blair Lee III was the first of the four lieutenant governors since the office was recreated to run unsuccessfully for governor.
Lee has been a longtime critic of Gov. Martin O’Malley and is chairman of Lee Development Group, a commercial real estate firm in Silver Spring.
Marty Madden is a former state senator from Howard County who was Senate Republican leader. He then served as part of Gov. Bob Ehrlich’s transition team and then as chair of the Critical Area Commission for the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays. He is a Nationwide Insurance broker.
Sen. Joe Getty, an attorney, was just reelected to a second term from Carroll County. A lawyer, Getty served two terms in the House of Delegates before becoming legislative and policy director for Gov. Bob Ehrlich. He’s “very well respected by people on both sides of the aisle,” said Hogan, and a good friend he got to know in the Ehrlich years when Hogan served as appointments secretary.
Anirban Basu is one of the best known economists in Maryland and a regular speaker to business groups. His Sage Policy Group has been a paid consultant to the state.
Hogan said, “He’s the smartest guy in the state when it comes to economic policy and ideas about how we can get our economy moving and turned around.”
“I can’t think of anybody smarter to get us advice about how we can put Maryland on a better foot and turn our economy around,” Hogan said.
At that breakfast for 400 business executives, Basu said, “We don’t have to have the lowest taxes. We just have to be competitive.”
“You have to be competitive with at least your neighboring states,” especially Virginia, said Basu. “We’re not desperate enough yet.”
At that time, Basu said he favored totally eliminating the corporate income tax as a way to show that Maryland is really open for business.
In other venues, Basu has also urged that Maryland try to attract manufacturing to Maryland’s rural counties that are struggling economically.
Nancy Grasmick served as state schools superintendent for 20 years under four governors until her retirement in 2011. Now on the faculty at Towson University, Grasmick engineered major changes in Maryland schools including mandatory standardized testing and the introduction of Common Core curriculum standards, though she has been critical of their implementation.
In his first term, O’Malley sought ways to remove her because of her attempt under the Ehrlich administration to have the state take over some of Baltimore City’s schools while O’Malley was mayor and running against Ehrlich. But Grasmick proved to be too popular among legislators.
“I appreciate having her advice,” Hogan said.
Alex Williams recently retired as federal district court judge, and will serve as Hogan’s liaison to the judiciary. Williams had been elected as the first African American state’s attorney in Prince George’s County, where Hogan grew up and worked.
“He’s been a good friend of mine for many years,” said Hogan.