- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 12, 2016

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Thursday announced cuts to 155 state fees that are expected to save $60 million in taxpayer funds over the next five years.

Among the targeted fees are a $1.50 reduction in E-ZPass prices, an elimination of the $300 application fee for hospice care and a waived entrance charge to state parks for veterans on Veterans Day. Mr. Hogan said none of the reductions would diminish service at any affected agency.

“We believe this money will do more good in the hands of the taxpayers than in the hands of the government,” the Republican governor said during a press conference in Annapolis.

His announcement marks the second time Mr. Hogan has cut agency fees without the Democrat-run General Assembly, which did not approve some of his tax-relief proposals in the legislative session that ended last month.

At a bill-signing ceremony earlier this week, the governor lamented that tax relief would have to wait for the next Assembly session in January, as he declined to call a special session on the matter.

Mr. Hogan said military veterans will benefit “as quickly as possible” from Thursday’s announcement, as they now will pay half price to enter state parks every day and pay nothing to get in on Veterans Day.

He also noted a reduction in birth and death certificate costs, adding that homeless people will be able to obtain birth certificates for no charge.

“These fee reductions cover nearly everything, from cradle to grave,” Mr. Hogan said, adding that legislative approval was unnecessary to reduce the agency fees.

Mr. Hogan based his surprisingly successful gubernatorial campaign on tax relief and fiscal responsibility, and he has riled some Democratic lawmakers in his bid to fulfill his promises. (Registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans 2-to-1 in Maryland.) He cut fees in dozens of state agencies to produce an estimated $50 million in savings in September, and reduced highway and bridge tolls last May.

“Reducing and eliminating taxes, tolls and fees not only helps to streamline state government, it has a direct impact on the livelihood of Maryland citizens,” the governor said Thursday. “This is another step our administration is taking to follow through and do exactly what we said we would do.”

As for fiscal responsibility, Mr. Hogan earlier this week announced that he has hired former Anne Arundel County Executive Robert Neall to lead an effort to reorganize the state’s government.

Mr. Neall, who also has served as a senator and a delegate in the General Assembly, will begin the new job on July 1, The Associated Press reported. He’s being tasked with reviewing the state government and recommending ways to make it more efficient. The state government hasn’t been substantially revamped since the 1970s.

Mr. Hogan said Mr. Neall’s work could complement other efforts to improve government, like the Regulatory Reform Commission and procurement commission he created, the AP reported.

The governor didn’t say how Mr. Neall would gather input for his review of state government, or how long it would take.

Mr. Neall will serve as an informal adviser to Mr. Hogan before beginning the job. His salary hasn’t yet been finalized, according to the AP.

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