Gov. Hogan reflects on tenure, urges legislative action on violent crime during final State of the State
Governor Larry Hogan lauded Maryland’s COVID-19 response, promoted his anti-violent crime legislation, and criticized lawmakers over issues such as gerrymandering during his final State of the State address Wednesday night.
In a speech delivered virtually from the Old Senate Chamber, Hogan reflected both personally and professionally on his tenure as governor over the past seven and a half years and he said Maryland is on a much better path than when he took office.
“We have changed Maryland for the better by facing our fiscal challenges head-on, easing the tax burden, and paving the way for historic economic growth and record job creation. We changed Maryland for the better with record investments in education eight years in a row to prepare our children for the opportunities of the future,” Hogan said.
He spoke at length about COVID, noting the state of emergency ends Thursday, Feb. 3, and used the occasion to tout the progress Maryland has made in battling the virus over the past two years. But his overarching message was residents need to move forward with their lives and learn to coexist with COVID.
“My message to you tonight is that we must all learn to live with this virus, not to live in fear of it. We can’t let it continue to dictate how we live our lives. Our offices and businesses need to be open. Our kids need to be in school, in-person,” Hogan said.
But, he clarified there are no plans to cease offering state-sponsored testing and tracing services at this time.
Hogan used the opportunity to highlight his priorities during his final few months in office, and laid out a variety of bills he will prioritize this legislative session; the $4.6 billion Retirement Tax Elimination Act tops that list, he said.
“...so that Marylanders who have spent their lives working and raising a family here, and contributing so much to our state, can afford to retire here in Maryland near their kids and grandkids."
“Each year when I have proposed critical tax relief for seniors, legislators have said we just can’t afford it. Well, with our economy booming and our fiscal health stronger than ever before, we can’t afford not to do it,” he argued.
Hogan, who has repeatedly accused Baltimore City officials of not prosecuting violent criminals harshly enough, once again brought up the city’s violence and murder rate in a plea to lawmakers to pass what he calls anti-violent crime legislation.
“...immediately pass and send to my desk the Violent Firearms Offender Act to increase penalties for those who use guns to commit violent crimes, and the Judicial Transparency Act, because the public has a right to know about the sentences judges are giving or not giving to the most violent offenders,”
He also pressed lawmakers to pass the half-billion-dollar Refund the Police bill, saying law enforcement agencies nationwide are struggling to retain quality officers.
In the official Democratic response, Sen. Will Smith, of Montgomery County, voiced his desire for all Marylanders to have a chance at economic prosperity. He told viewers of his mother’s success as a civil servant despite a teen pregnancy: a story he said could serve as inspiration for why Maryland should invest more in its state employees.
“She was able to provide my family with stability and mobility. She was able to provide me with opportunities that she could have only dreamt of. And because of that, I became a first-generation college graduate, a lawyer, and a state senator,” Smith said.
Smith also criticized Hogan for allowing thousands of state government positions to go unfilled. He said the shortage of parole and probation officers was among the reasons for Baltimore’s crime rate and the lack of workers in the Department of Labor led to fumbling unemployment insurance distribution during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“What our state lacks is an administration that is willing to convene these entities and set out a path toward solving our most critical issues,” Smith said, “We need engaged energetic and collaborative leadership in the months ahead, and we stand ready to work with whomever to get things done for you.”