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In his harshest critique to date, Montgomery County Executive Marc B. Elrich (D) accused Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) of “abdicating” his responsibility to tend to Maryland’s economy.
Instead of making sure the state has the resources it needs to flourish, Elrich said, Hogan would rather stick to the “no taxes” pledge that spurred his unlikely rise.
Elrich made the comments in an interview with Maryland Matters Monday evening, shortly after taking part in a transportation briefing led by Pete K. Rahn, head of the state Department of Transportation, in Rockville.
During the briefing, Elrich and other leaders strongly urged Rahn to restore the long-planned Corridor Cities Transitway, a bus rapid transit project that would link Clarksburg with the Shady Grove Metro Station, connecting firms and universities considered vital to the county’s booming biotech industry along the way.
“The reality is we don’t have the resources to continue our investments in much,” Rahn responded. “Forty two percent of the [transportation] trust fund is going to transit and we have to draw the line somewhere.”
That plainly rankled Elrich, who said in a separate interview on Monday afternoon, that he is prepared to modify the CCT’s design to make it more appealing to commuters — and to Rahn. [See related story.]
Following the briefing, the executive called the governor’s unwillingness to discuss new revenues “stunning.”
“I’m like in disbelief. When you take on the responsibility of a government, that requires that sometimes you find the money. To say it’s not his job and he’s not going to do it is stunning. It’s like a total abdication of responsibility,” Elrich said.
MDOT hosts a “road show” every year, offering local officials and the public the opportunity to learn about and offer comments on the updated Consolidated Transportation Program for each jurisdiction.
A particular theme this year, as Rahn and his team have traveled the state, is the public’s push for new transit — at least in its most populous jurisdictions.
Elrich said Hogan should be responding more substantively to these pleas.
“He could go out to the voters and say: ‘You’ve asked for projects in multiple jurisdictions that I agree need to be done. We’re going to have to come up with a funding package,’ and ask people to recognize this is the price of things they want. He’s not even willing to do that.”
Elrich said commercial property owners in Virginia agreed to the establishment of special taxing districts because they knew it would accelerate construction of the Silver Line, a Metrorail line that will eventually extend to Dulles International Airport. He advocates a similar approach to the CCT.
Hogan “is more interested in the ideology of no taxes than the responsibility of governing,” Elrich said. “Everything is driven by this no-tax problem. None of it is driven by, ‘I’m going to be the best governor the state’s ever had and I’m going to make sure the state moves forward.’”
“He’s basically saying ‘I’m going to grind the state to a halt because I don’t have any money.’ And I’m just like, ‘wow.’”
Hogan won the 2014 race for governor in an upset by tapping the public’s anxiety about tax hikes that were enacted under his predecessor, former Gov. Martin J. O’Malley (D).
Rahn appeared to acknowledge this in his reply to Elrich. “You [say] we should be looking for additional resources. I can tell you, as an administration, I think everyone knows where the governor is at. The governor has said no increases in taxes, no increases in fees.”
In response to Elrich’s blistering attack on the governor, Michael Ricci, Hogan’s spokesman, said, “The County Executive has had a rough last couple of days, so it’s understandable that he’s lashing out. But he’s also just wrong. Our administration is investing a record $14 billion in transit — including the Purple Line, which is the largest transit project of its kind on the continent — and advancing hundreds of projects across the state.”
“Meanwhile,” Ricci continued, “County leaders have been aware for a year that the CCT would be transferred, but appear to have done nothing to prepare. And the County Executive shows no urgency about fixing some of the worst traffic in the country. It must be awfully frustrating for county residents to see their leaders more focused on complaints instead of solutions.”