By Josh Bollinger – 12/11/15 10:04 AM EDT – Star Democrat
EASTON — Gov. Larry Hogan addressed Maryland county officials in Cambridge on Thursday night, Dec. 10, at the annual Maryland Association of Counties winter conference, promising county officials that they’ll have a “friend in the governor’s office.”
“A governor cannot govern the state effectively without a true partnership between the state and all of our counties working together,” Hogan said.
Hogan spoke about the various accomplishments his administration has made since taking office in January.
He said Maryland has gone from last to first in job creation in the mid-Atlantic region, “and we’re adding jobs faster than any state in the nation.”
The governor’s administration has invested nearly $2 million in infrastructure, tackling every county’s top priorities, Hogan said. Among those Eastern Shore infrastructure improvements include the dualization of Route 404, something long advocated by locals for safety reasons and funded by Hogan’s administration in June.
Hogan said restoring counties’ Highway User Revenues remains a top priority of his administration, after transportation funding was “decimated” by more than $1 billion under the Gov. Martin O’Malley administration and “spent on things totally unrelated to transportation,” Hogan said.
He said his administration’s goal is to get state transportation funding to counties back to its high point of 30 percent. Restoring transportation funding has also been a top priority of MACo’s in recent years.
Hogan also spoke about other priorities, including education funding.
Through Hogan technically funded education in the state’s budget more than any other governor, something he and other Republicans often speak of, it wasn’t at the full annual increase as determined by the Geographic Cost of Education Index (GCEI).
Democratic lawmakers in the 2015 general session criticized that and called for full GCEI funding. They passed a law last legislative session that requires him to fully fund at the GCEI rate in his second year, or in his third year if he doesn’t in 2016.
“I was the first (Maryland) governor ever to provide any GCEI funding its first year, and I want you to know that I will be the first governor to ever fully fund GCEI in his second year,” Hogan said.
Hogan wasn’t the only politician speaking on education Thursday night.
Each year, MACo gives legislative awards to senators or delegates for their cooperation with the organization’s initiatives.
Sen. Addie Eckardt, R-37-Mid-Shore, won a MACo legislative award Thursday night for her effort in the last legislative session when she introduced a bill that proposed giving schools credit for certain initiatives, like making an investment in technology, and factoring that into school construction funding.
“Being a legislator is being a public servant, and I get my marching orders from my communities and it really is important to recognize those … when it comes to education funding,” Eckardt said. “We have a variety of strategies here in our local areas … and it’s important to recognize those and give credit where credit is due.”