For those whoâ€™ve been around for a while, weâ€™ve long since established that Larry Hogan doesnâ€™t understand the Maryland budget process very well at all. Today we learn that heâ€™s not very good at math, either. And heâ€™s still got some anger management issues, too - but not because he has cancer, Barry Rascovar.
The Baltimore Sun has the mathy details. But first, a little background without the numbers.
When Hogan cancelled the Red Line and slashed the state contribution to the Purple Line, he also announced a bunch of transportation projects that he was funding instead. But the numbers didnâ€™t add up. Wanting to know if there was any money left over - since Baltimore got precisely none of it, a Baltimore delegate, Sandy Rosenberg, asked the Department of Legislative Services (DLS) to calculate if there was money left over, and if so, how much.
Long story short, DLS - a respected nonpartisan agency on number crunching, among other things, calculated that there was $223 million unaccounted for. So Baltimore elected officials said, reasonably, well, letâ€™s develop a Baltimore transportation plan with that money.
“If there is money that is not dedicated, there are possibilities for projects in Baltimore,” said Del. Maggie McIntosh, a Baltimore Democrat and the budget chief in the House of Delegates. “We want to have a transportation map that doesnâ€™t leave any jurisdiction off, including Baltimore. We need to get back on the Hogan map,” she said.
Back to the editorial.
All of this should really have been a simple matter to clear up. If DLSâ€™ math was wrong, the Hogan administration could simply have explained how. Indeed, a spokeswoman for MDOT sought to do that on Wednesday. She provided a few more clues as to whatâ€™s going on â€” it turns out the $1.35 billion in new projects includes $90 million in federal funds, making the new state funding equal the savings from the Red and Purple lines. But she still doesnâ€™t explain precisely how you get from the $1.04 billion in projects the administration has listed to the $1.35 billion he promised.
Instead, Hogan did what he does best - he went on the attack. From the news story.
Doug Mayer, a spokesman for the governor, accused analysts in the Department of Legislative Services of misleading the public with phony numbers at the behest of Democrats, especially House Speaker Michael Busch.
“Itâ€™s deeply concerning that during a very important discussion about the future of Baltimoreâ€™s transit system, the speakerâ€™s analysts were busy concocting totally bogus numbers only intended to drive a known political agenda,” Mayer said. “This is the second time in as many weeks that these analysts have gone out of their way to muddy the waters by purposefully misleading the press, the public, and both Democratic and Republican legislators. Itâ€™s not productive and it needs to stop.”
The editorial this afternoon gets right to the heart of the matter.
The next iteration of the stateâ€™s Consolidated Transportation Plan â€” a six-year forecast of revenues and spending â€” is due on Sept. 1, and thereâ€™s no doubt that every penny will be accounted for once itâ€™s released. If all those decisions have already been made, the Hogan administration should say what they are. If not, it would be worth knowing so Baltimore officials can lobby for some of the funds.
Thatâ€™s all this was about. There was no reason for the Hogan administration to use the occasion to impugn an agency that has for decades been treated by Democrats and Republicans alike as an honest broker in researching the fiscal and policy implications of legislation. DLS has its idiosyncrasies, but we doubt that during all the years that its analysts were poking holes in the Oâ€™Malley administrationâ€™s claims of fiscal restraint that many in his party thought partisanship toward Democrats was one of them. This week, a legislator asked DLS a question, as lawmakers from both parties routinely do. Analysts answered it to the best of their ability based on the information that was available. That wasnâ€™t spin; it was just math, and trying to blame the messenger is just another way of avoiding addressing the substance of what he said. If the Hogan administration is going to accuse people of purposely attempting to “muddy the waters,” as a spokesman accused DLS of doing Wednesday, it should look in the mirror.
These guys really donâ€™t know what theyâ€™re doing. Budgets, math, politics, doesnâ€™t matter. Theyâ€™re bad at all of it.
Watch when the transportation plan comes out, and thereâ€™s a whole bunch of projects that nobody has ever heard about on the list. Then weâ€™ll hear “gosh, you should have given us some ideas if you wanted some of the money.” The mendacity and hypocrisy and obfuscation is stunning, and Iâ€™ve been around the block a time or two. Somebody pass the popcorn.