In my role as the Senate Republican Leader, a position bestowed upon me by my fellow Republican colleagues, I am here today to communicate our collective vision for the State of Maryland. This vision encompasses both an acknowledgment of where we stand currently and an approach for where we believe we should be heading in this new chapter for our state.
As you have just heard, Governor Moore has put forth a bold and ambitious plan for Maryland, one that is built on the promise that no Marylander will be left behind. This is a vision we can certainly support; after all, our ultimate goal is the success and well-being of every single Marylander.
However, we must underscore that achieving such a lofty goal requires much more than grand declarations.
It necessitates concrete actions and collaborative efforts. To this end, we are fully prepared to work alongside Governor Moore and his administration to seek and find common ground that will advance the interests and welfare of all Marylanders.
As we embark on this journey of collaboration, it is also our duty to raise concerns whenever we perceive that the actions taken may NOT be in the best interest of our constituents.
Governor Moore has rightly stated that Marylanders should not have to choose between safety and justice. We wholeheartedly agree. The safety of our citizens in their homes, vehicles, schools, and communities is of paramount importance.
We believe Governor Moore is sincere when he says that public safety is a top priority of his administration. However, the Governor’s recently unveiled package of bills focusing on crime in our state merely addresses enhancing victim compensation, expanding apprenticeship programs to recruit law enforcement and creating an Obama/Biden schemed Center for Firearm Violence Prevention and Intervention.
To make a real difference, the Governor will have to push for a more proactive plan that defines swift and certain consequences for violent criminals thus preventing Marylanders from becoming victims in the first place.
Our vision for Maryland is one where public safety is not just a priority but the foundation upon which all other aspects of society rest. It is impossible to envision a thriving state without a strong commitment to ensuring that repeat violent offenders are held accountable and that our communities are protected from harm.
This vision requires a balanced approach that supports law enforcement and the judicial system in their critical roles. This is why the Joint Republican Caucus has introduced the Safe Communities Act which will eliminate diminution, or “good time credits” for those convicted of 1st and 2nd degree murder.
For other crimes of violence, this bill will cap diminution credits to know more than a 10% reduction in the sentence, as determined by a judge and prohibit bail for an individual charge with a crime of violence, similar pending charges are evident.
We have also introduced the Violent Firearms Offenders Act which increases penalties for committing crimes with a stolen firearm, creates penalties for an individual who gives or sells someone a firearm knowing they will use it to commit a crime, and closes the drug dealer loophole.
Not surprisingly, 89% of Marylanders support making the theft of a handgun a felony from a simple misdemeanor. This commonsense measure was discussed by the Governor, but not included in his public safety agenda. We have supported this legislation for the last four years and have once again introduced the Gun Theft Felony Act this year.
Maryland’s Looming Budget Deficit
In little over one year, Maryland has gone from a $2 billion budget surplus to a $761 million shortfall that is only projected to grow worse in upcoming years.
While it’s a relief that Governor Moore’s initial $63.1 billion FY25 Budget proposal does not include tax increases, long-term spending is still outpacing revenues, and this budget does not identify a solution to this ongoing dilemma.
An exorbitant part of the blame for Maryland’s multi-billion dehicit can be put at the feet of the Democrat leadership which advanced the one-sized hits all education reform known as the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future also referred to as “Kirwan”.
This alone increased the state’s $9.2 billion annual spending on public schools by an additional $40 billion over the next ten years.
In an attempt to make up for undisciplined spending, Democrat legislators are now proposing an omnibus tax increase proposal that would raise taxes on job-creating corporations, raise the state’s so- called death tax and increase the capital gains taxes. Even if these tax hikes were passed, this $1.6 billion annual projection does not incorporate how much revenue would be lost from individuals, businesses and jobs leaving the state as a result of them.
Conversely, Republicans have introduced the Economic Prosperity Act which would lower the income tax rates and rate brackets reducing the amount of income taxes paid by all Marylanders. Our bill will increase take home pay and put more of the hard-earned money back in the hands of Marylanders.
Additionally, we will continue to build on our previous year’s successes to alleviate the tax pressures on our retirees and those who have served in the military.
We recognize that tax cuts are only achievable if we address the expensive mandates from the past and refrain from adding new ones that will further weigh down the budget. We must be disciplined in prioritizing the programs that are cost-effectively achieving their intended results while eliminating or scaling back the ones that are no longer necessary.
In the early days of the Moore Administration, we have observed, with growing concern, certain decisions and policies that, in our view, could potentially leave some Maryland children at a disadvantage.
This is especially true in the realm of education.
Maryland prides itself on making record investments in public education, with taxpayer money being allocated in unprecedented amounts. Yet, despite these significant financial commitments, the results we are seeing do not seem to align with the level of investment.
This discrepancy raises important questions about efficiency and effectiveness in how our educational resources are being utilized. Furthermore, it is crucial to recognize the diverse needs and circumstances of Maryland families when it comes to education.
While some have the means to choose private education for their children, many do not.
This disparity led to the establishment of the Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today (BOOST) Program, aimed at providing scholarships to some of Maryland’s most economically- disadvantaged students to attend private schools that better meet their needs.
The success of the BOOST program is evident in its reach and impact, benefiting thousands of students, including a significant number of children of color and English-language learners.
Over the stringent opposition of the Maryland Teacher’s Union, Republicans have led the efforts to fully fund and expand BOOST. It’s never been more clear in Annapolis, the Democrats represent the Teacher’s Union while the Republicans represent the Parents and Students.
Maryland’s Economic Climate
A thriving economy is crucial for the well-being of everyone in Maryland.
Unfortunately, our state ranks amongst the lowest in the nation regarding tax rates, regulatory challenges, and the climate for fostering private sector growth. It’s unsustainable to keep imposing heavy burdens on our businesses without expecting some to relocate.
Early last month, the Comptroller released Maryland’s State of the Economy Report, which underscored that Maryland is at a 1.6% GDP growth rate while neighboring states and the national average are just below 14%. According to the Maryland Chamber of Commerce’s Redbook, which provides key indicators of Maryland’s Business Climate, Maryland ranks 47th in the county for the cost of doing business.
This is why Maryland Republicans have introduced the Economic Competitive Act which will reduce Maryland’s corporate income tax from 8.25% to 6.25% over the next four years. With one of the highest corporate tax rates in the region, it’s imperative that we lower these taxes to boost our competitiveness.
Lastly, Maryland should reconsider its approach to environmental policies, particularly the proposal to blindly follow California vehicle emission standards that will ban the sale of gasoline-powered vehicles in Maryland by model year 2035, a move that is sure to have detrimental economic consequences for automotive dealerships and repair shops across the state. Adopting such extreme measures without pragmatic considerations once again puts Maryland at an economic disadvantage compared to our neighboring states.
To allow time for thoughtful consideration, we have introduced legislation prohibiting Maryland from implementing the new California Advanced Clean Cars Act regulations for an additional two years.
Under the previous administration, Maryland Republicans were able to demonstrate a clear and irrefutable commitment to hiscal balance, reducing regulations, and cutting taxes. Empirical data illustrates those states with lower taxes, pro-business policies, reasonable regulatory environments outperform other states in job growth, population growth and income growth.
In closing, while we share Governor Moore’s desire to transcend partisan divisions and work together for the betterment of Maryland, it is imperative that we also present alternative solutions and ideas.
The Republican Caucus is committed to advancing legislation that addresses the critical issues facing our state, from ensuring public safety and improving educational outcomes to revitalizing our economy. Our proposals are grounded in practical, common-sense approaches that we believe will make a positive difference in the lives of Marylanders.
We believe that by working together, in a spirit of bipartisanship and mutual respect, we can achieve a Maryland that is safe for all its citizens, offers unparalleled opportunities for education, and boasts a dynamic and inclusive economy.
Senate Minority Leader Steve Hershey is proudly representing District 36 and the Upper Eastern Shore constituents of Caroline, Cecil, Kent, and Queen Anne’s Counties.