Hogan Makes Good Use of Line Item Veto
By Nick Peang-Meth
The prevailing headline out of Annapolis last week was Gov. Larry Hogan’s decision to stand by the $150 million commitment he made to the state pension program in his initial budget proposal. The move caught the ire of teachers unions and Democratic legislators who had wanted the money to go to education instead. Amid the heated back and forth about this issue, another equally important story was overlooked.
It was Gov. Hogan’s announcement that he would proceed with his plan to reopen the Annapolis State Police Barracks and add 100 troopers to the force. Initially proposed during the legislative session, the proposal died in the legislature when Hogan’s second supplemental budget did not advance.
However, last Friday he announced that he would move forward with the plan, which he will fund by a line item veto of a pet project of House Speaker Mike Busch, namely funding for a renovation of the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, which is located in Busch’s Annapolis legislative district.
This was not the first time that Busch has funneled state dollars to the arts center. According to the Capital Gazette, the center has received over $6 million in capital funding, which puts it behind funding only for wastewater treatment plants and schools, although this most recent $2 million allocation was by far the largest.
Busch was not pleased by Hogan’s move, to say the least. “He took a swing at me and hit the people of Anne Arundel County and Annapolis,” he complained.
In a statement, Hogan justified the move by saying, “We are going to move forward with our plan, despite the Speaker of the House’s refusal to introduce a supplemental budget that would have put more State Troopers on Maryland’s highways and funded the re-opening of the Annapolis barrack.”
There is still a long way to go before the barrack, which closed in 2008 under Gov. Martin O’Malley, is reopened. For one, estimates are that the project is likely to cost much more than the $2 million saved by Hogan’s veto. And Speaker Busch has fired back by saying that the savings, which come from the capital budget, cannot be used for the State Police budget (Hogan says the move is just one example of him creating general savings in the budget which will offset the costs of reopening the barrack).
But Hogan’s move on Friday was an encouraging first step. He is right in pushing for the increase in the number of Maryland State Police. The events in Baltimore are further proof that they play a very important role in keeping Maryland safe. He is also right in cutting expensive pork barrel projects like the arts center (which benefits such a small portion of Marylanders) in favor of more pressing needs like more state police. And he is right for fighting the status quo in Annapolis. His move Friday should be another reminder to legislators that there is a new sheriff in town, and the fiscal recklessness of yesterday will no longer be tolerated.
Keep up the good work, Governor.