Miller I-81 Crack Shows Western Maryland Democratic Disconnect
Senate President Mike Miller caused a bit of a row when he made comments last week about the I-81 expansion out in Hagerstown:
Miller said this week he believes widening I-81 is important for safety and economic development, and that he backs it “1,000 percent.”
But he chided Hogan for saying I-81 was among projects being cut because of the scoring system, then going to “Western Maryland dedicating a road saying we’re gonna build this road to West Virginia” while urban residents sat in gridlock.
“My point was (Hogan) said it would be canceled, but it’s funded,” he told Herald-Mail Media on Wednesday.
Only it isn’t, at least not the whole thing. The project is broken into several phases, only one of which (the bridge to West Virginia) has been fully funded — and that, Hogan’s office says, is why the whole highway’s improvement is on the list of projects that won’t be completed if the scoring system is implemented.
Miller’s inability to accurately report on the facts of the I-81 construction project brought some condemnation from the Hagerstown Herald-Mail editorial board, which also correctly chided Miller for his role in the necessity of I-81 to the Washington County jobs climate:
We also know Miller as something of a wiseacre, so we trust he was only joking when he dismissively referred to Interstate 81 this week as just a “road to West Virginia” on a radio talk show.
So we feel certain he will understand that we are just joking when we say that we need this road to West Virginia because that’s where a lot of people who work in Maryland live. And they do so because Maryland has raised taxes and fees to the point that the wages paid here aren’t enough to support people who, if they had a choice, would rather live closer to their jobs, as opposed to having to drive many miles to another state where they can afford a house or apartment.
Which brings up another point that we are just kidding about: We need this road to West Virginia because a massive new Procter & Gamble manufacturing plant is opening there soon, and our people will need to drive there for work because Maryland’s business and development people were not good enough or not interested enough to lure such a plum — or much of any other industry — to Western Maryland.
The op-ed correctly points out that Miller and the rest of Maryland’s Democrats created a jobs climate that made it easier for people to get jobs in West Virginia than in Maryland. Miller and his cohorts then further complicated matters by passing a a terrible transportation scoring bill and then lying about its impact on roads like I-81.
What Miller’s comments really point out is the continuing disconnect between Maryland Democrats and Western Maryland in general. Interstate 81 became a source of derision for Democrats who attacked Governor Larry Hogan’s remarks about them strictly because nobody from affected by the I-81 project is voting for a single member of Democratic leadership. Democratic interest groups like the Maryland Center on Economic Policy double-down on failed ideas that hurt workers and businesses because none of their supporters live west of Gaithersburg. Speaker Mike Busch goes to Hagerstown and says things that don’t provide comfort to Maryland Democrats because in state races Democrats don’t win their anymore. Maryland Democrats do not understand the needs of Western Maryland (or anybody outside of Baltimore City, Prince George’s County, and Montgomery County) because the Maryland Democratic Party has become a regional party interested only in the parochial interests of its narrow constituencies.
There is no better issue that shows this than fracking, which we will tackle in an upcoming post.