MD Dem Hypocrisy on Environmental Cuts

Last week, leading Democrats in the Maryland General Assembly claimed that Governor Hogan was not doing enough to protect the Chesapeake Bay from budget cuts by the Federal Government. As Dan Menefee of Maryland Reporter related it,

Democrats in Annapolis Thursday railed against Republican Gov. Larry Hogan for not doing enough to protect the Chesapeake Bay under the Trump administration’s  proposed cuts to the Bay cleanup plan and under a new EPA administrator historically hostile to environmental regulations.

“The Bay can’t speak for itself obviously and needs a spokesperson,” said Senate President Mike Miller, leading a press conference of House and Senate Democratic leaders. “Obviously the person in the highest office in the state is not speaking out for the Chesapeake Bay, so we’re here to say this Bay is ours, it’s the largest estuary in the world…and we’re going to protect our Chesapeake Bay.”

This hyperbole is part and parcel of the Maryland Democratic Party’s obsession with Donald Trump and falsely tying Governor Hogan to the Trump administration no matter how absurd the claim.  Likewise, the reporting of these claims is a continuation of the “cheap journalism” which buoys these efforts.

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The reality is that Governor Hogan has done a great deal to improve Maryland’s environment generally and the health of the Chesapeake specifically.

First, since taking office, Governor Hogan has budgeted and spent over $3 billion in state funds to restore the Chesapeake Bay. According to the Maryland Department of Budget and Management, here is the spending breakdown by year:

  • FY 2016: $935,944,792
  • FY 2017: $932,397,885
  • FY 2018: $1,155,071,855  
  • TOTAL: $3,023,414,538
    (Maryland Budget Highlights: FY 2018, “Appendix S: Chesapeake Bay Restoration Activities Funded In The Budget,” Maryland Department Of Budget And Management, Pg. S1)

This spending is more in Governor Hogan’s first three years in office than the last three years of the O’Malley administration.  In fact, in his first three years in office, Governor Hogan has provided 27% more in state funds toward Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts that O’Malley did in the last three years of his administration.

What Maryland Democrats are not saying, and what the media is not reporting as part of the protest of President Trump’s budget cuts, is that the O’Malley administration transferred $290 Million from the Bay Restoration Fund to prop up spending elsewhere.  Mike Miller and Mike Busch supported these cuts in Chesapeake Bay restoration funds in supporting the O’Malley era budgets. These transfers had to be made up by state borrowing via bond funding in FY11 – FY13.

These facts, sadly, are relegated to the end of the news reports covering the grandstanding of Maryland Democrats and characterized as sarcastic, defensive push back:

The administration answered the Democratic leadership with a little sarcasm and it defended Hogan’s record on the Bay.

“With two weeks left in the session, we wish that the majority leadership would focus on doing their jobs here in Annapolis instead of focusing on Washington, D.C. partisan politics,” the statement said. “The governor has already made it clear that he will always fight for the Chesapeake Bay and that he opposes hypothetical cuts at the federal level.”

“Our administration will continue to support the Bay at record levels in the state budget, which has included over $3 billion for the Bay since taking office. We are happy to see that the presiding officers have seen the light on Bay restoration funding, given their support for the past administration raiding over $1 billion from restoration efforts.”

But the hypocrisy of Maryland Democrats on the environment doesn’t end just with the Chesapeake Bay.  During the O’Malley administration $783.9 million was raided from Program Open Space and Land Preservation Programs.  As we reported previously, is was the bipartisan efforts of the Hogan administration that restored much of these funds and permitted the conservation of Maryland’s open spaces. As we put it then:

With all the negativity and hyperbole going on in national politics these days it is easy for an important development in Maryland government to be ignored by the media. The reality, though, is that these decisions have far more impact on the day to day life of Marylanders than daily horse race of national politics.

Take, for example, the recent signing into law of HB 462, which restores and protects state funding to transfer tax funded land conservation, preservation and recreation programs such as Program Open Space.  This new law comes as the Maryland Board of Public Works announced this week that is was keeping the state’s property tax rate the same.

If you follow most local media outlets you probably did not hear about these events and you almost certainly would not have understood why the are so important. These two decisions, however, show a marked difference in how our state, under Governor Hogan, has found a way to promote and preserve our state’s open spaces without raising our state’s property tax.

During the O’Malley administration, monies set aside for various special funds, including programs like Project Open Space, were seized and diverted into general fund spending.  These funds, despite scores of tax and fee increases, were never replenished during O’Malley’s tenure. In fact, the state started issuing bonds to continue to fund open space spending raising the specter that the property tax, used to fund Maryland’s debt payments, would itself need to be increased by the next administration.

Governor Hogan’s fiscal leadership has enabled this replenishment of open space funds without any increases in the property tax rate or other tax increases. In fact, Governor Hogan for the last two years has limited state borrowing to under one billion dollars thereby reducing the difference between property tax proceeds and the amount from the general fund needed to cover debt payments.

It is a shame that this is not a bigger story.  Governor Hogan has managed to turn the state’s fiscal ship around and in the area of preserving our state’s open space managed to fully fund programs without the need for higher taxes. Governor Hogan has adopted the obvious balance between protecting taxpayers and environmental preservation that Martin O’Malley eschewed and did it in a bipartisan way that demonstrates his commitment to solving problems rather than scoring partisan political points.

So, the hypocrisy of Miller and Busch in accusing Governor Hogan of cutting environmental restoration funds is nothing new. It was Maryland Democrats who diverted these funds for years under Martin O’Malley and Governor Hogan who has restored them and actually increased spending on the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay and preserving Maryland’s open spaces, all we hasten to point out without raising taxes or adding to the state’s debt.

It is still sad that this isn’t a bigger story and that the local media still wants to focus on national politics, and doing the bidding of Maryland Democrats in the process, rather than report the true facts about the Hogan administration has done to protect our state’s environment.

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