- Associated Press - Monday, April 6, 2015

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Republican Gov. Larry Hogan said Monday that he is concerned about how his legislative agenda and Maryland budget measures are progressing, as the Democratic-led Legislature enters the last week of its annual session.

Hogan said he was elected in November because voters want more fiscal responsibility and tax relief, and he plans to keep pushing for those goals.

“Some folks downstairs haven’t quite gotten that message yet,” Hogan said in an interview with The Associated Press in his second-floor statehouse office. “Some of them don’t want to change anything. They want to keep doing the same things they’ve been doing for the past eight years.”

The governor, who took office about two and a half months ago, said he has been open to budget adjustments important to Democrats in the Legislature.

“Our administration has been working closely with them, but, you know, we haven’t agreed on everything, and we’re concerned about some of the things that they’re talking about doing, and we’re concerned that basically at this point we need to send a search party out for our legislative package,” Hogan said.

Hogan’s comments were made as his office delivered a proclamation to the Legislature, reminding lawmakers that a balanced budget has yet to be passed. The proclamation is issued on the 83rd day of the 90-day session, if a budget has yet to be approved. It provides that the session should be extended by 10 days, if the budget isn’t resolved in time. The 90th day is April 13.

“So, we’re a long way from having a budget resolved,” Hogan said.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller has said he is committed to working with Hogan. Miller sponsored a bill to end state-mandated stormwater management fees, a priority of the governor’s. The Senate has passed some revised versions of Hogan’s tax-relief measures.

Democrats have restored funding for education that Hogan pared back to help address a $750 million budget hole. Democrats also have restored a 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment that wasn’t in the governor’s budget. While Democrats have put a fence around the money so it can only be used for those purposes, Hogan still would need to sign off on the spending.

But Hogan said he has concerns about the Legislature’s plan to tap about $75 million set aside to help shore up the state’s pension system. He also is not happy about several pared-back versions of his proposals. For example, Hogan was particularly critical of a change the Senate added to his proposal for a tax break for small businesses. The changed added an audit of personal property tax returns filed by businesses on taxes they have paid.

“We’re not going to go for that,” Hogan said. “It’s a nonstarter. I mean, our idea was to provide relief to small businesses, and what they’re talking about is actually making it more onerous on small businesses, which is the opposite of what has to happen.”

House Speaker Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel, pointed out that a panel of Senate and House negotiators have been named to a conference committee to work out differences between the two chambers on the budget. The speaker said late last week he’s hopeful the governor and the Legislature all will have accomplishments by session’s end.

“This is a give and take process,” Busch said.

Hogan, however, remains unsatisfied about extensive revisions to his proposal to expand charter schools. Hogan also is standing firm on a proposal to provide tax breaks to businesses that donate money to private and public schools.

“It’s certainly something that’s going to be part of the negotiations on everything, including the budget,” Hogan said, referring to the charter schools bill. “That and the tax credits for public and private schools.”

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