Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) talked economic recovery and took shots at the legislature for their progressive economic and criminal justice policies at the seventh annual State of Business Address in Anne Arundel County on Tuesday afternoon.
The event was hosted by the Maryland Free Enterprise Foundation, which promotes business-friendly legislation in Annapolis.
Maryland Commerce Secretary and gubernatorial candidate Kelly M. Schulz (R) introduced Hogan to the sea of business leaders.
She mentioned their partnership during the COVID-19 pandemic as she touted the governor’s economic accomplishments over the past seven years, noting that three days after he declared a state of emergency in March 2020, the two of them met to discuss the small business grant and relief loans.
“He was the very first governor in the nation … to do so,” Schulz said before the cheering crowd. “And they learned from us.”
Hogan said that Maryland was ranked as the “fourth best economy in America with the best recovery because we got everybody back to work.”
WalletHub and Fox Business ranked Maryland’s economy as the seventh-best of the 50 states in 2021. U.S. News and World Report placed the state at 35th of 50 for its economy and 39th of 50 for GDP growth.
While there’s debate over Maryland’s economic ranking, Hogan did take the opportunity to tout state projects that he said would boost job creation, including:
- The reconfiguration of the Howard Street Tunnel, poised to bring 10,000 jobs;
- An initiative to fix the B&P train tunnel;
- The controversial expansion of I-495 and I-270, which could bring up to 13,000 union and non-union jobs; and
- An off-shore wind projects on the Eastern Shore that could add another 50 jobs to the state.
Hogan also said that he plans to “bring steelmaking back to Bethlehem Steel” in a public-private partnership with Tradepoint Atlantic and US Wind that could bring hundreds of jobs.
Of the challenges the governor has faced during his seven years in office, he acknowledged that COVID-19 “was in a category by itself.”
But Hogan surrounded himself with a team of experts and trusted their judgment, he said.
“I don’t care about the politics,” he said. “I had to be the guy in the chair making the decisions.”
But Hogan also took several opportunities during the address to rip into progressive politicians, including those in the U.S. House of Representatives for not moving forward on an infrastructure deal that Hogan made a top initiative as the president of the National Governors Association.
He said that it’s “now being held up in the House by progressives who want to add $3.5 trillion of unrelated things.”
“If President Biden wants to get it done, he needs to tell [Speaker] Nancy Pelosi and leaders in the House to get this done for the American people,” Hogan said to applause.
The governor decried the state of Baltimore, framing violent crime as an economic issue that is “out of control,” has an impact on business and job creation and has caused people to leave the city.
He, once again, decried Baltimore City Councilmember Ryan Dorsey’s suggestion to Baltimore Police Department Sgt. Robert Cherry that the city’s police agency be abolished, using the opportunity to endorse his “re-fund the police” initiative poised to pump $150 million into state and local police agencies.
Hogan said that some of this money will go to local police departments directly through grants to bypass budget approval from the state legislature.
“Some of it I’m sure we’ll be trying to convince our friends in the legislature to not cut it out of our budget, but we’ll be funding some of it in the budget that comes out in January,” he said.
Hogan also criticized the state legislature for refusing to pass legislation to lower taxes for personal income and retirement taxes, its criminal justice reform initiatives and what he deemed its “secret redistricting commission.”
Hogan said he plans to endorse whatever map the Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission settles on and that he believes that maps drawn by the General Assembly haven’t had any public input and won’t “for quite a while.” (The legislative panel has held public hearings, though draft maps have not been released.)
“They’re just hiding them from everybody for a reason because I imagine they’re going to try to continue to gerrymander as they’ve done every 10 years for the past 50 or 60 years,” he said. “But we’re going to try to stop that and I think that’s what the citizens want.”
In regard to his relationship with the legislature, Hogan said he tries to sideswipe “angry politics” and work toward bipartisanship but sees “some serious disagreements on major issues.”
“We’ve got 14, 15 months left in the term, 90 days of that is going to be spent with the legislature,” he said. “And we’ll try to get some things done together with them and reach across the aisle.”
The governor took Tuesday’s Q&A session to implore business leaders to vote for a governor in line with the values that he’s pushed over the past seven years.
“I think it’s going to be important if you want to see Maryland continue to head in the same direction we’ve been heading, … you gotta maybe elect a governor that’s going to continue to take the state in that direction,” Hogan said.
The governor not yet endorsed a 2022 gubernatorial candidate.