Gov. Larry Hogan and Sen. Barbara Mikulski on Wednesday said Maryland lawmakers should focus their efforts on education funding, job creation and stopping the epidemic of heroin addiction that has spread in the state. Hogan and Mikulski outlined the trio of priorities at the 13th annual Annapolis Summit where state leaders gathered as the Legislature opened its 2016 session. The Summit aired live on The Marc Steiner Show on WEAA radio.
Hogan also discussed his plans for tax cuts related to education, health care, and public safety. "We have to get our young people ready for these jobs, bring more jobs to this state and at the same time we have to deal with the heroin epidemic,” said Mikulski. “If you don’t have a college education or a skill training, you’re going to be minimum wage.” Hogan repeatedly denounced predictions and speculation that he would cut education funding, saying his administration has added $250 million to the operating budget for K-12 education and added over $600 million to school construction. “Education has been and will be our No. 1 priority,” the governor said. However, Hogan declined to go into great detail about his tax plan because he said his legislative proposal will not be submitted for several weeks. However, he said the process was going well, indicating 90 percent of the state's deficit has been addressed by the plan so far. “We’re several weeks ahead of schedule. Because we believe in transparency, we wanted to set the tone, we wanted to get the legislature to know at least the broad themes that we’re interested in having a discussion on for the next 90 days,” said Hogan. He said the tax cut plan is focused on helping the most vulnerable citizens in Maryland. “Our tax cuts are focused on helping people at the lowest end of the income circle,” said Hogan. “We’re trying to help the most vulnerable, the lowest income folks, and the smallest businesses.” Mikulski, who will retire as the longest serving woman in the U.S. Senate when her term ends this year, said she plans to continue working with Hogan to help with the heroin epidemic in Maryland. “I will always find a way to give something back,” said Mikulski.