Hogan's Zeroes

Larry Hogan, exiting Maryland’s governorship while his inexplicable in-state popularity stays Teflon, has been crowing about his made-up accomplishments as top dog here and told reporters and interviewers he had “no regrets” about anything he did in his eight years. “We’re leaving the state in in much better shape than where we found it,” Larry tells Bruce DePuyt in an exit interview

Those on the progressive side of politics who have fought Hogan’s stealthy disempowering of bottom-line democracy and public provision would beg to differ. Regrets, he needs a few, and we are offering our list here. Numerous progressive activists have been quite willing to furnish regrets as Hogan goes out the door.

Wes Moore’s first executive order, on the first full day of his term as governor, provided a nice wrap on the ways that Larry Hogan was able to block many options that would have in fact left the state in better shape – releasing the money that Hogan had refused to spend. Despite enabling laws providing training to healthcare workers to prepare for women seeking reproductive health outside their deep-red home states, Hogan withheld the funds. 

Hogan in fact has had eight years – more, considering his social media-heavy first campaign – to make a mess of Maryland in the name of GOP fantasies. As he sniped at Donald Trump, who became Prez halfway through Hogan’s first term, he found it made him “popular” and presidential tinnitus addled him further. But he never really strayed from the GOP baseline.

Hogan’s first crowd-pleasing campaign move, in 2014, was a Republican standby – taxes are too damn high. His subterfuge, as PG County comrade Ralph C notes, was “convincing voters they were being taxed for the rain. The lie worked and he was elected. In his time, necessary stormwater mitigation efforts were diminished, until places like Ellicott City were flooded and destroyed.” As a real estate guy at heart, Hogan must not have brooded very long about the millions of dollars it cost – and continues to cost – to remedy that damage all over the state, every time that tax-free rain falls. 

Hogan kept his approval ratings high with his base by beating up on Baltimore wherever possible, just as southern members of Congress love to mistreat the District of Columbia for the enjoyment of their home folks. Cancellation of Baltimore’s Red Line light rail project was a serious regret that our what-me-worry departing governor seems not to have absorbed; our MoCo comrade Frankie S-F said between that and botching the Purple Line rollout with chiseling economies, “Hogan put us a decade behind on transportation and climate.” He also fed into broader racial fears, churlishly refusing to accept Syrian refugees in 2016.

A Maryland Sierra Club staffer who focuses on transportation policy scored not only Hogan’s cancellation of the Red Line light rail, but proposed cuts to core bus service in Baltimore, failure to follow the Maryland 2007 Advanced Clean Cars II rule, matching California’s emission standards, and his flawed proposal to expand I-495 and I-270 with toll lanes.

Of all the initiatives in his time in office, Hogan’s transportation sins of omission and commission may keep a long trail of consequences following him. His biggest disasters – turning the Purple Line into a years-late nothingburger and finagling and cronyism on the I-270/Beltway toll lanes fiasco – both were public-private partnerships that illustrated all the ways those can go wrong at the public’s cost.

Never-Trumper Hogan actually owed a significant debt to the Orange Menace even though he has used Trump as a foil to claim the “regular GOP” mantle. After he canceled the Red Line, Hogan was facing a Title VI civil rights lawsuit from the Obama administration. Aron Levy wrote in StreetsBlog “The racial discrimination implicit in canceling the Red Line but not the Purple Line prompted a Title VI civil rights lawsuit, and a federal investigation under the Obama administration. However, [MD transportation secretary Pete] Rahn himself mocked supporters of transit equity by saying that the federal government’s letter warning of a Title VI case came on January 19, a day before Trump’s inauguration, and that the Trump administration would not investigate Maryland for possible racial bias...” That turned out to be a correct if cynical call by Rahn, who later left the Hogan corral under an ethical cloud himself.

The Beltway-I270 toll lane proposal had a bait-and-switch mass transit component that was casually dropped from the project after it got some initial traction. The state’s cozy arrangements on the toll lane contract with some of Hogan’s favorite Aussie connections also had a distinct smell as our comrade Ben Ross has pointed out.  And the contrast between canceling the crucial Red Line in Baltimore – a boon to low-income working families – before proposing the toll lanes after an interval was a clearly racist play to white commuters in the view of working families all around the state. 

Hogan did plenty of sniping about police reform but the issue was so fraught even in a Democratic Assembly -- looking over its shoulder at the police unions back in the district – that he could watch from the sidelines. But our comrade Emily F from PG County put the finger on  this unforgiveable tweet:

Hogan poses in front of a blue lives matter flag in a 2019 tweet.

In addition to setting back climate remediation, the offshore wind initiative dating back to the O’Malley administration has dallied for eight years under Hogan and will probably lag behind progress on more recent wind projects up and down the Atlantic seaboard. Despite its vast potential, the O’Malley administration put offshore wind in the hands of private finance, a bad idea from the start, and Hogan’s energy people hardly had to lift a finger to do nothing at all. The Worcester County Chamber of Commerce battalions endlessly (and expensively) contested the tall offshore turbines as disfiguring the Ocean City seascape. Of course the wall to wall high-rise disfigurement of OC itself is exempted from the view question. Keep your eyes on the ocean, please, not the architectural carnage behind you.

Another MoCo comrade, Nicole Z, echoed both leaders of Assembly chambers in scoring Hogan for the attrition of the state government workforce and the hollowing out of state government which should be on the top of Hogan's regrets. The Moore administration has said there are currently around 10,000 vacancies in state government -- which can be attributed to a failure to recruit and retain employees by the Hogan administration, poor pay and poor working conditions. 

From that deliberate but stealthy stripping-down of the state workforce has proceeded a host of subpar performances by overworked employees including the catastrophic failure of the unemployment system at the height of COVID's disruption.

Think drug prices remain high in Maryland? Hogan personally dragged his feet back in 2019 on plans he was legally required to pursue on lowering drug prices – again by refusing to release funds. 

That behavior was reinforced when Hogan, late last year, refused to release funds for the training of health workers to provide reproductive care after the Dobbs decision, as the legislature required. That dereliction, as noted above, was reversed on Moore’s first day in office.

Cronyism as well as staff shortages probably had a role in the breakdown of the state’s 529 college savings system that saw families unable to draw their own money from their savings accounts.

Over his eight years (he hopes we would forget) Hogan has taken covert and overt opportunities to bend spending his way despite the budget guidelines passed in each Assembly session. After he won a second term, it became clear to retired Treasurer Nancy Kopp, for instance, that Trump-like behavior from the Gov. became more common: “Hogan, as Kopp acutely suggests, is becoming rapidly more Trump-like as he wallows in second-term freedom, acting out the Maryland equivalent of the Obama-obsessed Trump’s attempt to erase the work of his predecessor, in Hogan’s case Democrat Martin O’Malley.” 

Right from his first term Hogan has tried to divert precious public school funds to private schools, twisting and turning his approach each year. Each year the Assembly has restored most of that money to public schools, but he has steadily chipped away at the base. Now, even Moore is being cautious about rolling back the state funding for elite parents of private-school kids.

Our PG County comrade Kurt S, a longtime fighter for returning citizens – and returning citizenship – voiced “regret that Hogan vetoed legislation to allow people to vote immediately after release from prison. Instead, he preferred that the old rule remain in which formerly incarcerated individuals in Maryland could not vote while on probation -- which usually meant five years.  To its credit, the Assembly overturned his veto, but that action showed that our former Governor respected neither the persons nor the rights of those already penalized by our justice system, that he did not believe in rehabilitation.” Overturning the carefully timed veto delayed implementation an extra year.

One of the few good things about Hogan’s tenure is that (notably, after the retirement and death  of long-reigning Senate President Mike Miller) the outraged Assembly finally moved to gain more control over the budget process. Maryland’s executive had wielded more authority over the budget than that of nearly any other state, until Hogan exhausted the tolerance for it.

If Hogan makes an unlikely stab at a presidential campaign, Maryland voters will note with fury that the stealthily tight-fisted budgeting that characterized his tenure will be top of the list when he presents himself to GOP primary voters as a “real Republican.” He has faithfully executed the GOP game plan – convince people that government is powerless to help them by making government powerless to help them. Even the Marylanders who were falling for his claims of moderation and compromise must agree that Hoganism was just a less overt version of “owning the libs.” Only in the far east and west of Maryland would Hogan’s distinctly uncharismatic demeanor be palatable. 

He may in fact be running for vice-president. 

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