Listen closely, and one can almost hear the tooth-gnashing and hand-wringing of Montgomery County’s largely Democratic electorate at the thought of a Republican occupying Government House in January. Gov.-elect Larry Hogan is anathema to county Democrats: A Republican hell-bent on cutting taxes, which will mean less government revenue, and by definition, fewer government services. But such consternation is premature. Yes, he wants to cut taxes, but there’s no sign Hogan is a tea party conservative straight out of Central Casting, who wants to shut down government.
Yes, he wants to end the “rain tax.” But he also told Gazette editors that he wants to replace Maryland’s funding of environmental programs, money that was raided in recent years to balance budgets. That doesn’t sound like the kind of Republican who wants to choke the life out of state government.
And some Democrats are already preparing their coulda, woulda, shoulda statements. Here’s what County Council President Craig L. Rice told The Gazette’s Kate Alexander: “There are going to be a number of Montgomery County priorities I think, in the next four years, that will be put on the backburner.”
Laying aside the never-ending hopefulness of a Montgomery politician, those priorities likely would have been on the backburner anyway. Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown promised to provide relief to Maryland families, meaning he would have had to squeeze the Maryland budget himself, threatening those Montgomery County priorities. Maybe Brown wouldn’t cut taxes as deeply as Hogan would, but no one should think Maryland would have had an overflowing larder of services and projects had the election results gone differently.
Among those county priorities, of course, are school construction projects. Despite attempts to make it appear Hogan wants to cut school construction completely out of the state budget, there still will be schools to build and money to build them. In Montgomery, a lack of school capacity could halt development in Silver Spring, Wheaton and Gaithersburg. Economic development will be a hallmark of the future Hogan administration. Would it be such a stretch to think the state would step in to keep the county from putting those areas in moratorium?
Despite his opponents’ attempts to make it appear Hogan will halt every transit program, people still need to get to work. Maybe transit advocates will bristle at the miles of fresh pavement the new governor budgets. But too much of our transportation money has been siphoned off to pay for other priorities. Even the Coalition for Smarter Growth is willing to take the man at his word, at least until his Jan. 21 swearing-in. The organization supports the county’s signature big-money transportation project, the Purple Line.
“If Larry Hogan is worried about Maryland losing jobs to Virginia then I can think of no better project to move forward than the Purple Line. We have faith when he says economic development is his number one focus,” said Alex Posorske, managing director of the coalition.
This might not reveal that the coalition is giving Hogan the benefit of the doubt, but it does show an interest group that’s trying to speak in his language.
On that note, we were impressed by what Council Vice President George Leventhal said: “I don’t know him, but I like what I’ve heard about him. He seems like a practical person, and it seems like we share a lot in common. Growing jobs and strengthening our economy are important to me, too. I’m very optimistic about working with the new governor.”
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