- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 18, 2016

ANNAPOLIS — The rift between Democratic legislators and Gov. Larry Hogan grew wider Thursday, as black lawmakers criticized him for not funding minority priorities, and Mr. Hogan compared the legislature to students on spring break “throwing beer bottles off the balcony.”

The Legislative Black Caucus ripped into the first-term Republican governor for pushing initiatives that have left black communities out in the cold, an unusually harsh criticism from Democrats who had not before accused Mr. Hogan of racial bias.

During a news conference, black lawmakers criticized Mr. Hogan for what they called objectionable actions during his tenure. They highlighted his decisions to kill the Red Line transportation project in Baltimore and to withhold extra money for schools in many districts with large minority populations, such as Baltimore and Prince George’s County. They also noted that he favored areas of the state that voted for him in 2014.

“There are assaults going on [in] our black communities across the state. We are not going to take it anymore,” said Delegate Curt Anderson, Baltimore Democrat. “We know what’s going on, and we are going to retaliate.”

Delegate Barbara A. Robinson, chair of the caucus, said it was “unconscionable” that Mr. Hogan planned $480 million to build a jail in Baltimore but would not fund two historically black colleges.

A Hogan spokesman, Douglass Mayer, said: “Members of the General Assembly have just accused the governor of racism. This is the last, desperate act of legislators who refuse to discuss actual policy or solutions to real problems.”

He said Mr. Hogan has spent more time in Baltimore than anywhere else in the state and pointed out that his immediate family is Korean-American and his lieutenant governor, Boyd Rutherford, is black.

In an appearance on WBAL Radio as the news conference was proceeding, Mr. Hogan touted his 69 percent approval rating and blasted lawmakers for pushing a “naked power grab” with a series of bills that would limit his power with transportation projects and appointing a superintendent of education.

“They come into town, it’s like they’re on spring break, they come here for a few weeks and they start breaking up the furniture and throwing beer bottles off the balcony and all kinds of crazy stuff,” Mr. Hogan said. “Luckily, in a few weeks they’re going to go home, and we go back to running the state and making progress like we have been for the past year.”

He took issue with Ms. Robinson’s claim that he would rather build a jail than fund a college.

“The idea that I want to take money away from kids to incarcerate people and build a jail is simply nonsense,” he said, adding that he would nix the plan if lawmakers did not want it.

The back and forth intensifies an ongoing dispute between the Democratic-controlled General Assembly and the Republican governor over budget priorities and, more recently, granting voting rights to felons before they have completed parole or probation. It comes shortly after his State of the State address, in which Mr. Hogan made a plea for bipartisanship.

His comments drew sharp rebukes from Democrats.

Sen. Robert A. Zirkin of Baltimore County took to the floor to describe testimony by rape survivors and heroin addicts in the Judicial Proceedings Committee.

“I don’t recall that being my spring break from college. I’m insulted, and I think every one of us should be insulted,” he said, adding that Mr. Hogan owes the General Assembly and Marylanders “yet another apology.”

Delegate Cheryl D. Glenn, Baltimore Democrat, called Mr. Hogan’s comments “offensive beyond the pale.”

“If he feels that poorly about the legislature, he needs to rethink whether or not he wants to remain as governor, because you can’t be governor without working with the legislature,” she said.

Mr. Mayer, the governor’s spokesman, said: “Governor Hogan was making a very serious policy point about the nearly 20 bills being pushed by the majority leadership in the General Assembly that only have one purpose — to limit executive authority and damage the office of the governor.”

House Minority Leader Nicholaus R. Kipke said he interpreted Mr. Hogan’s comments as a joke.

“It was obviously a joke making fun of the silly political stunts being orchestrated by the majority party,” the Anne Arundel Republican said. “I find it odd that some Democrats are trying to twist this into an offensive thing when they’ve been so busy throwing personal and political attacks at our governor. It’s a good thing our governor has such a thick skin and a sense of humor.”

Some Democratic lawmakers responded with sarcasm, tweeting from hearing rooms with the hashtag #notspringbreak.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller downplayed the dispute.

“Everybody has a bad day, and this was not a good day for the governor,” said Mr. Miller, Calvert Democrat.

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