In Salisbury visit, Hogan applauds economy


Following hearty applause for his remarks at the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon, filming of a Ravens promotion and photos with constituents, Gov. Larry Hogan was in hurry to get his next stop at Matech Inc.

But when Clinton Wilmer, a local man who had been jailed for distributing drugs, and homeless for years, stepped in front of him on the Riverwalk to tell him about his struggles and how important it is to get opioid abuse under control, the governor gave him his full attention.

As Wilmer spoke, telling Hogan he “spent almost five years living in the woods like an animal,” the governor, in a light blue shirt open at the collar, tan slacks and dark blue jacket, listened intently, nodding.

“I’m sorry you’ve been through such a tough time, but I believe in second chances,” he said, encouraging Wilmer, who was smiling after the brief chat.

An hour earlier, Hogan, popular for being personable, joked that he only got a few bites of lunch at the La Quinta in Downtown Salisbury, where the luncheon was, because he sat with WBOC-TV General Manager Craig Jahelka and anchorman Steve Hammond, who “grilled me during lunch.”

“We’ve got a lot going on,” the governor said before an audience that filled the room and included state, county and city officials.

When he was running for office he promised areas that had been neglected, like the Eastern Shore, would no longer be ignored. “We meant exactly what we said. We’ve made countless trips, very productive trips, here to the Eastern Shore,” he said.

“For two years, our entire administration has been focused, like a laser beam, on creating new jobs and turning our economy around,” he said.

Last year was the best for business and job growth in 15 years, with a drop in unemployment that brought it to 4.2 percent, Hogan said to applause.

“We went from losing 100,000 jobs to gaining 100,000 jobs in just two years,” he said, adding Maryland’s rating for business rose from No. 49 to No. 10

As candidate for governor, he promised to put Maryland on a new path and make it friendlier for business, “and we’ve been doing exactly what I said we would do,” he said.

“As I was taking the oath of office on that snowy day in Annapolis, at 12:01 we changed all the highway signs to say Welcome to Maryland. Let’s Do Business. I think that was quite a change because I think they used to say What’s In Your Wallet?” he said to laughter.

He immediately cut job-killing regulations and have continued to delete them, he said.

His administration has completed three budgets that include tax cuts, a move that was formerly “unthinkable in Maryland,” he said.

Not only have taxes been sliced, but so has $120 million in fees and $270 million in tolls at every facility. “This is the first time tolls have been reduced in more than 50 years in our state,” he said.

“We’re investing in projects that support the revitalization of our downtown communities, including $1 million right here for the Salisbury Downtown Revitalization Project,” he said.

He promised to rebuild the state’s transportation infrastructure after what he characterized as “eight years of neglect and mismanagement.”

“Maryland had crumbling roads and bridges.  We’re now moving forward on nearly all top priority road projects in every single jurisdiction all across the state,” he said.

All of the 69 structurally deficient bridges are being repaired and work is being done on the Salisbury bypass and Worcester Highway, which will become a four-lane divided highway. Nearly 1,000 transportation projects have been tackled, he said.

“It’s unprecedented and historic. Maryland was recently ranked as the most innovative state in the nation,” he said.

The state is second in the country for its high share of technology companies, has the second lowest percentage of people living below poverty level and the highest median income in the country.

“Together, with your help, we have created an exciting economic resurgence here. Maryland truly is open for business. It’s being done together with all of you — because the business community is really the one creating jobs and making all this progress possible. Three-quarters of the people in Maryland are supportive of the progress we’ve been making. We’re going to do everything we can to come here, to locate here and to entice .a more business friendly jobs climate in Maryland,” he said.

Audience members clapped again when he said he vetoed the legislature’s paid sick leave bill because it was poorly written and inflexible and would have hurt small businesses. He ran for governor to protect jobs and if it had become law,it would have been irresponsible, he said.

“Every single decision I make as governor is put to a simple test. I just say ‘Will this law or this bill make it easier for families or businesses to stay in Maryland?’ If the answer is no, it’s not going to happen on my watch,” he said.

An 18-month battle with cancer, as he had, “has a way of making you refocus,” Hogan said.

“Life is much too short and we need to make the most of it. All of us do,” he said.

“I want to promise each and every one of you that I’m going to continue to work as hard as I possibly can at this job,” he said.

When he introduced Hogan, Bill Chambers, president of the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce, said the region is poised to be the next gold rush for Maryland. “This is the future of our region and we’ll work together to make sure we protect our jobs and families,” Chambers said. Hogan, he said, has the highest approval rating of any Maryland governor since the 1990s.

“Thank you, Bill, for making up all those nice things about me,” Hogan joked.

 

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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