- - Thursday, February 12, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Losing is no fun, in baseball, football and particularly in politics. Maryland’s Democrats, who have been in a surly mood since losing the statehouse to Larry Hogan in November, might better have followed the example of Davy Crockett to relieve their anger and frustration. When his Tennessee constituents threw him out of Congress after only one term, Davy told them: “I’m going to Texas, and you can go to hell.”

Unaccustomed to working with a Republican governor, the Democrats in the General Assembly are taking out their pout on the voters. The state Senate is delaying the consideration and confirmation of Gov. Hogan’s first five Cabinet nominees, including his budget and health secretaries. Senate President Pro Tem Nathaniel McFadden of Baltimore, a Democrat, thinks it’s a clever way to let the new governor know who’s in charge in Annapolis. (If only.)

“I’m an agent of change,” Mr. Hogan said in reply, “and they’re defending the status quo.”

The wiser Democrats in the legislature know they’ll have to get over their pout, and for the good of everyone they might as well get over it now. The governor pulled off his stunning upset with a promise to change that status quo, and in his State of the State address last week he repeated his promise to roll back the “high taxes, over-regulation and … anti-business attitude” of his liberal Democratic predecessor, Martin O’Malley. He said he aims to stop “the exodus of taxpayers fleeing our state.”

This is called “speaking truth to power,” and the newly trimmed rarely want to hear it. Despite having lost two seats in the state Senate and seven in the House of Delegates as well as the governorship, the Democrats still hold large majorities in both houses, and they’re making it clear that the grudging talk of bipartisanship and “working across the aisle” is mostly bunk. Mr. Hogan gets no honeymoon.

Not quite three weeks into his administration, the obstructionists have told him that his tax cuts are dead on arrival, and that his legislative priorities are misplaced, meaning “they’re not the same as ours.” But the Hogan priorities are obviously the priorities of the Maryland voters. Mr. Hogan did not mince words in his campaign. He sounded his promise to cut taxes loud and clear, that he would reverse the tax, spend and regulate obsessions of Mr. O’Malley. Despite the 2 to 1 Democratic majority of registered voters in Maryland, Mr. Hogan won decisively.

One tax-cut pledge Mr. Hogan promises to pursue over the objections of the Democrats is to repeal the automatic annual increases in the state gasoline tax, pegged to inflation to pay for transportation projects. The governor is correct, it is a dishonest way avoid tough and unpopular votes to raise taxes.

Before the General Assembly begins to debate the level of education spending he proposes, Mr. Hogan has won a broader victory in the budget wars. Democratic legislators say their top goal is to defeat the governor’s proposal to restrain the rate of growth in funding K-12 education. Mr. Hogan proposes to spend a record sum of state spending for primary and secondary education next year, but that’s $144 million less than called for by current funding formulas. The big spenders will no longer get away with calling a reduction in the rate of growth of spending a “cut.”

These are small first steps, but they’re important in a long and difficult effort to restore fiscal sanity in Maryland. Making the hogs squeal is never easy, but always delicious fun.

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