Photos by Rebecca Lessner. Above: Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, networks at a press event marking 100 days in office.
By Rebecca Lessner
Gov. Larry Hogan did not give a final decision about whether to fund a requested $68 million to aid counties with higher costs of education during a 100 days in office press event on Thursday.
“They’re gone, session is over,” said Hogan when asked to comment on any future negotiations with legislators. “We now have to deal with the consequences of what happened and make very tough decisions moving forward on how to solve the problems that were created.”
Currently there is a bill before the governor that would require Hogan to fully fund Geographic Cost of Education Index (GCEI), which gives more funding for areas with high school costs. The governor now has the option to sign mandated spending into law, or veto it.
“They’re screaming bloody murder, (saying) ‘it’s the end of the world, we’re going to increase classroom size and lay-off teachers,’ when in fact that doesn’t make sense,” said Hogan. “We’ve increased spending. I think there is a lot of rhetoric that isn’t helping the discussion and is not that accurate.”
Hogan ended his first days in office with a flock of journalists from all over Maryland, arriving not only to show support to the state press association, but also to drill the governor on what he plans to do with his next 1,360 days in office.
“Actually I’ve only been in office 93 days,” said Hogan at the event. “We have accomplished a hard days worth of work in 93 days, you won’t believe what we will accomplish in the next seven days.”
The on the-record discussion with Hogan and Lieutenant Gov. Boyd Rutherford was sponsored by the Maryland DC Press Association (MDDC). On the menu were the governor’s responses to the Freddie Gray investigation ongoing in Baltimore City, whether Hogan planned to veto the hotel tax bill, transparency and overtesting in public schools.
Educating funding still being debated
Speaker of the House Michael Busch joined Sen. Richard Madaleno and teachers union president of the Maryland State Education Association, Betty Weller, on Tuesday for a press conference calling for more support from the governor for GCEI.
“The money is essential for the well being of our education throughout the state,” Busch said. “We’re here to ask the governor to take the obligation that was put before him by the General Assembly.”
Hogan did not give a definitive answer on Thursday, but it appears there are still disagreements.
“We’re trying to move forward with something very responsible, but also trying to address the out-years,” said Budget Secretary David Brinkley. “The governor is the first governor to fund any GCEI in his first year.”
Hogan feels leaders aren’t differing on their priority of funding education.
“We are all 100-percent in agreement that the top priority for our state is education funding. We’ve agreed on $109 million increase over the last year and a $290 million more for new school construction,” said Hogan, supporting his position on treating education fairly.
Brinkley worries that harvesting pension funds for short-term gain will cause long term problems.
Hogan will sign police body cam legislation, called for investigation into Gray case
In part because of recent events in Baltimore City, Hogan has decided to sign HB 533 into law, allowing law enforcement officers to wear body cameras at all times without receiving consent from subjects in the video-feed.
Hogan remarked that a small part of the problem in the Freddie Gray case is that police are receiving only “bits and pieces of video from bystanders,” remarking that with body cams the entire incident would be reviewable.
“Everyone I talked to was in agreement, that it is a tragedy and we have to get to the bottom of this and find the answers of how this took place,” said Hogan, relaying how he has reached out to Baltimore City and the Attorney General’s Office.
Hogan also broke the news that state police will be assisting Baltimore County police officers as back-up during protests this week.
Hogan announced he will sign transparency, testing bills
“Transparency is something that we’ve talked about a lot in the past four years with Change Maryland and my campaign,” said Hogan on SB 695. “I am proud to announce this morning that I will sign that legislation and it’s a huge move forward for Maryland.”
Addressing overtesting children in Maryland schools is also on Hogan’s agenda.
“I think students are over tested, I think we are spending far too much time preparing them for the test and not actually teaching them,” said Hogan.