At the final session of the 2015 MACo Summer Conference on August 15, Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford provided the closing remarks. The Lt. Governor opened his comments with an update on Governor Larry Hogan, who was unable to participate following his latest round of chemotherapy for non-hodgkins lymphoma cancer. “Governor Hogan is doing very well, particularly in the eyes of the doctors,” Rutherford said. He also noted that the Governor is asking people to think about others who are also battling cancer.
“[The Hogan Administration] is more energized now than ever,” Rutherford said, “and is wholly focused on changing Maryland for the better. And that change starts here [at the local level.]” Rutherford ran through a list of accomplishments of the Administration during the 2015 Session following months, including: (1) proposing a structurally balanced budget; (2) breaking a “string of 40 tax and fee increases”; (3) with bipartisan support reducing income tax for military retirees; (4) repealing the “rain tax” mandate; (5) reaching an agreement on agricultural phosphorus runoff into the Chesapeake Bay; and (6) rolling back road and bridge tolls for the first time in 50 years.
“Our administration is putting economic development first,” Rutherford declared, “We haven’t been the flagship for the region for economic development.” After noting several Japan and United Kingdom-based firms were increasing their Maryland presence, he stated, “The word is spreading – Maryland is open for business.”
The Lt. Governor also cited the ongoing work of the Maryland Economic Development and Business Climate Commission (also known as the Augustine Commission) in fixing the state’s “antiquated regulatory environment.” He stressed the importance of partnering with the counties as the State moves forward with reform to ensure employers and entrepreneurs do not face the same regulatory hurdles at the local level.
Rutherford noted the Administration investing $2 billion for road, bridge, and highway projects in every county in the state, including: (1) widening 404 on the Eastern Shore; (2) widening 270 in Frederick County; (3) widening Route 4 in Southern Maryland; and (4) upgrading a 495 DC Beltway/Metro intersection in Prince George’s County. He also noted that the Administration was moving forward with Purple Line transit project for the DC/Metro region.
Rutherford reiterated the Administration’s commitment to addressing Maryland’s heroin challenge, citing the work of the Interagency Heroin-Opiate Coordinating Council and the Heroin and Opioid Emergency Task Force. He noted the Task Force’s preliminary report was due in 2 weeks and its final report due December 1. He also complimented “MACo’s leadership on this issue.”
The Lt. Governor noted that the Administration spent a record $6.1 billion for education, which was a $109 million increase over FY 2015.
Rutherford praised Governor Hogan for creating the Maryland Redistricting Reform Commission to address the gerrymandering of election districts. After describing the convoluted boundaries of his own district (District 3), the Lt. Governor joked that it “looks like a bad intestine.”
While declining to offer many specifics on future Administration initiatives, Rutherford did close his speech with several broad pronouncements. He indicated that the Administration remained committed to investing in Baltimore City and we “must encourage new thinking and new ideas and challenge the status quo.” He also stressed that the “disconnect between Annapolis and the rest of the state has to stop.” Finally, he stated that the Hogan Administration will continue to fight for fiscal responsibility, will work to have a structurally balanced budget for the 2016 Session, and will be looking to provide tax relief for all Marylanders.
The Lt. Governor was introduced by MACo President and Montgomery County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett. Leggett also led an audience shout out of “Get well Governor Hogan!” which he recorded on his cellphone to send to the Governor. Many well-wishers also signed a #HoganStrong sheet that was posted during the session.