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Mixed Reaction to Hogan’s Vaccine Claims

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In his state of the state speech Wednesday night, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan stressed the need for Marylanders to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, for the legislature to pass his COVID relief package and for lower taxes.

Democrats in the General Assembly lamented about what Hogan left out of his address.

Hogan said Maryland has vaccinated more people against the coronavirus in the last few weeks than were infected in the last year and his administration is building a statewide distribution network while waiting for additional doses.

“Unfortunately, right now, the amount of vaccines being allocated by the federal government is just a tiny fraction of what we need,” he said. “That is the hard truth, not just for us in Maryland. But for every state in America.

Sen. Clarence Lam, a Montgomery County Democrat who sits on a vaccine oversight work group, said the governor failed to mention the equitable distribution of that vaccine, reaching out to people who may not have access to public transit or internet service, or are in hard to reach rural areas.

“And so, all those populations need direct outreach to address any latency or lag in their ability to get a vaccine,” he explained. “Because we all need to be able to get our populations vaccinated otherwise, we're still at risk.”

Del. Nic Kipke, the House minority leader, conceded there has been confusion, but said it wasn’t all the governor’s fault. Maryland’s vaccine allocation was “a drop in the bucket” compared to the need, he said. But they were distributed immediately to hospitals.

“There was just sort of a delay in getting through all that,” he said. “But we've largely caught up now with all of that population. I mean, when you compare it today, the number of vaccines received versus the number of vaccines that have been jabbed into the arms of people. We're right where we need to be.”

Sen. Cory McCray, chair of the Baltimore City delegation, complimented Hogan’s leadership during the pandemic, but complained he heard nothing about police accountability, a national issue and one lawmakers have been confronting.

“In black neighborhoods, there are folks that are hurting because of this issue, and it’s unconscionable that the governor didn't even scratch the surface on it,” he said.

Hogan also pushed for action on his RELIEF Act of 2021.

“Tonight, I am once again calling on the legislature to pass this bill and get it to my desk as soon as possible so that I can sign it into law and so that it can take effect immediately.”

The Senate gave initial approval Wednesday to its version of that bill and is expected to take final action tomorrow.

The governor also called for cuts in Maryland’s taxes on retirement income.

“Lifelong Marylanders are moving to other states for one reason, our state's sky-high retirement taxes. We cannot let this keep happening,” he insisted. “Now, more than ever, Marylanders need to be able to keep more of their hard earned money in their own pockets.”

Del. Eric Luedtke, the House majority leader, agreed there’s a problem with taxes in Maryland, but said it’s not that taxes are too high.

“It's that we let too many people get away without paying their fair share,” he said.

Democrats have argued that Maryland’s tax code allows Marylanders to pay a smaller shore of their income than anyone else, and are pushing a package of bills.

Kipke called that claim a lie.

“I was so frustrated by it,” he said. “Maryland already has a progressive tax structure. So, if you make more money, you get taxed at a higher rate.”

He warned that the package Democrats are pushing would lead to an exodus of high- income residents and businesses.

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