MD politics: Wes Moore’s second session will test his public messaging, political capital

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Now past his “honeymoon” and facing questions about balancing the state’s budget amid dramatic fiscal upheavals, Democratic Gov. Wes Moore’s second legislative session will be a test of his team’s messaging strategy and the political capital he built up in his first year. in the office.

The state’s top Democrats have issued a largely public message of unity with Moore, though privately some are questioning the political newcomer’s handling of the administration and are concerned about administration members’ lack of experience in state government.

Eye on AnnapolisWith six weeks to go before lawmakers begin a 90-day legislative session in Annapolis, Moore has yet to publicly outline his policy agenda. It is expected to include about 15 bills covering various topics, a senior administration official said.

Senior officials have been debating when to announce the administration’s legislative priorities, the official said in mid-November.

A handful of top Democratic lawmakers, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said they were concerned about the administration’s lack of experience in state government.

Longtime lawmakers recognize growing pains for a new administration, but they may be more open with their criticism in the second year of his term.

State Sen. Jim Rossappe, Senate Vice Chairman of Budget and Taxation, said Gov. Wes Moore told his office:
State Sen. Jim Rosape, the Senate’s vice chairman of budget and taxation, said Gov. Wes Moore brought a “real sense of humility” to the office. (Daily Record/File Photo)

Senior Democratic lawmakers said they were particularly confused The decision of the administration to distribute on the scoreboard of the central field at Camden Yards as he reached an agreement with the Orioles to keep the team in Baltimore. It is understood that the two parties have reached an agreement on a non-binding memorandum of understanding and have yet to sign a lease.

He also pointed to Moore’s decision to join Republicans in publicly supporting an automatic increase in the state’s gas tax, which has been the primary source of funding for the state’s transportation projects. It is expected to generate less income As fuel efficiency and sales of electric vehicles increase.

Lawmakers say Moore’s support for rolling back the gas tax runs counter to some policy issues, including East-West reform. The Red Line transportation project in Baltimore is expected to cost several billion dollars At a time when the region’s capital transportation plan is expected to have a significant funding gap in the coming years.

Moore’s office declined to be interviewed for this article.

Publicly, several top Democrats remain Moore supporters and have praised the governor for the changes he says he will bring to state government after eight years with Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.

State Sen. Jim Rossappe, vice chairman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee and chairman of the Legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee, will play a significant role in how the state deals with the proposed structural deficit, said Moore.

“He wants to work with people. He makes that clear.

Last session, Rosapepe said, members of the administration worked closely with lawmakers to integrate one of the governor’s top priorities — Service year option for recent high school graduates – with an existing program that had yet to get off the ground.

“This was a completely collaborative effort,” Rosapepe said. “That’s their style, which I think is great.”

Mileah Kromer.  (Featured photo)
Mileah Kromer. (Featured photo)

State Sen. Sheryl Kagan, vice chair of the Senate Education, Energy and Environment Committee, said the administration is off to an “unusual start” and has “made great progress in cooperation with the General Assembly.”

Moore’s cabinet, Kagan said, is “filled with exceptional thought leaders who are passionate about making a difference and moving Maryland forward,” she pointed out to members of the administration — many of whom previously worked in the federal government, nonprofit organizations and/or in the private sector. Industries – had a steep learning curve.

Moore shares a party with majorities in the state Senate and House of Representatives, although he is facing a particularly progressive legislature that is expected to be more adept at using the power to increase, decrease and move money around the governor’s proposed budget.

In the year The 2023 session was the first in which the Legislature could do more than cut the governor’s budget.

The state’s fiscal outlook has raised questions about which issues state lawmakers are prioritizing in the nearly $63 billion budget and how structurally flawed it is. It is expected to increase to 320 million dollars in the next fiscal year About $2.1 billion by 2029 — impacting Moore’s campaign promises.

Top democratic legislators They expressed their confidence in the budget position of the region. And even if the legislature can balance the budget He refused to rule out the possibility of raising taxes..

Mike Ritchie, Hogan’s former communications director and now a partner at the strategic communications firm, said Moore needs to be smart about the ideas he chooses to press on lawmakers.

The Hogan administration, Ricci said, tended to focus on three to five “big things,” talk about them relentlessly and seek to deliver political victories consistent with central policies while avoiding “distractions, shiny balls (and) distractions” along the way.

“Now the legislature will structure it differently. And they would say, ‘Well, they weren’t focused on the legislature, they weren’t involved in all of our bills,'” Ricci said. This was part of the election. The choice was to focus on the issues we felt were most important to Marylanders at the time.

Joe Bryce, a former senior legal adviser to Democratic Govs., said it’s important to balance seeking input early in the policymaking process. Martin O’Malley and Paris Glending, and currently with the Orioles, are involved in state negotiations as board members for the Maryland Stadium Authority.

“It’s not a secret,” Brees said of when the administration will release its agenda for the upcoming session. “Again, it’s about preparation and you don’t want to come out with a half-baked idea.”

Moore is entering his second term with strong approval ratings — 60%, according to a September poll — and Popularity among Republicans is increasing.

Voters don’t expect change overnight, and more progress will resonate with them, as will images and headlines from the executive and legislative branches, said Mileh Cromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Center for Politics at Goucher College.

Mike Ritchie, former communications director for Gov. Larry Hogan and now a partner at Strategic Communications, said Gov. Wes Moore needs to be smart about the ideas he chooses to push on lawmakers (provided photo).
Mike Ritchie, former communications director for Gov. Larry Hogan and now a partner at Strategic Communications, said Gov. Wes Moore needs to be smart about the ideas he chooses to push on lawmakers (provided photo).

“I’m interested to see how Moore’s team does the public face part of this,” she said. “Can it effectively communicate what they’re doing and what they’re trying to do in a difficult budget environment?”

According to Goucher Poll results for several years now, Marylanders feel the government pays them enough, so Moore will have to be careful about his message about the economy and the deficit.

Moore has yet to say whether he will propose a tax increase next year or in subsequent years to balance the budget while advancing his priority policies and projects, and Cromer expects the administration to do everything possible to avoid that path.

“No one wants to be governor who raises taxes,” she said, especially eight years after Hogan beat his predecessor, O’Malley, to do so.

If Moore decides to propose a tax increase to balance the budget, he said, he would have to do so in order to avoid stymieing Democrats in the upcoming session or the next gubernatorial election year.

A tax increase in the upcoming session will give voters time to digest the change before they go to the polls, said Todd Eberly, a political science and public policy professor at the College of Maryland’s St. Mary’s, a close follower of state government.

It’s also unclear whether the governor will choose to roll back Maryland’s Blueprint for the Future, the state’s plan to transform public education systems by increasing annual school funding by about $3.8 billion over 10 years, totaling nearly $40 billion and leading to an expected deficit. .

Republicans have pushed for the state to scale back the blueprint, though Eberly acknowledged that Democrats have returned their pledges and “promised too much” on one issue — improving public schools — along with reducing crime, which has political implications. What is seen is very important to Maryland voters.

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