- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 25, 2015

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Maryland’s Senate president said Wednesday he wants to work with Gov. Larry Hogan on some of his tax relief proposals, as Democrats who control the Legislature work to compromise with the Republican governor on the state’s $40.4 billion budget.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller’s comments marked a change in tone from seven weeks ago. That’s when legislative leaders were angered by the governor’s State of the State speech for saying the state’s economy was “floundering,” and they doubted much of Hogan’s agenda would pass the Democratic-led Legislature. Still, it remains to be seen how much of the governor’s initial proposals will remain unchanged, when and if they are approved.

“I’m just asking the House and the Senate to continue to work with this administration as we move forward so that the House can declare a victory, the Senate can declare victory, and at the closing of session, the governor can say to the people who voted for him that he can declare victory as well,” Miller, D-Calvert, said.

Miller said he wanted to work for a personal property tax exemption backed by Hogan. He also said lawmakers will consider reducing an automatic increase the state’s gas tax to adjust for inflation - a tax Hogan has targeted. Miller, who adamantly opposed touching the gas tax increase seven weeks ago, said he would now be open to downsizing the automatic increase to a point where it would only be increased by a small amount each year.

Lawmakers also are working on Hogan’s proposal to expand charter schools.

The state budget, which already has passed the House of Delegates, restores scaled back education funding in Hogan’s initial proposal in January, as well as a 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment for state employees.

However, Hogan will still need to approve those changes for them to take effect.

“He’s going to do that, but there’s an understanding also from the governor that we’re going to look at his agenda and move some of his agenda forward,” Miller said during the session as senators considered the budget legislation.

The Senate president also noted a spirit of compromise between Democrats and the Hogan administration on farm fertilizer regulations. The issue had divided Democrats and Republicans in Annapolis.

“The governor has worked with us remarkably well in moving forward a Democratic agenda, especially on health care, especially on community colleges, especially on Medicaid workers …” Miller said.

Last week, the Senate unanimously voted to end state-mandated stormwater fees - a priority of Hogan’s. Though the measure was the Senate president’s bill and not the governor’s own specific proposal for repeal, it would enable Hogan to claim a victory against what critics have derided as the “rain tax,” if the bill makes it through the House of Delegates.


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