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Germantown-Gaithersburg delegates not sure yet if new Republican

2014-11-12

No one knows yet how Republican governor-elect Larry Hogan of Anne Arundel County will allocate state money in the budget he will present to the General Assembly soon after it reconvenes on Jan. 14.

The three Democratic delegates representing District 39, which includes parts of Germantown, Montgomery Village and Clarksburg, say they are taking a wait-and-see attitude.

Democrats Charles Barkley and Kirill Reznik, both of Germantown, each won another four-year term, as did Democrat Shane Robinson of Montgomery Village.

Money to build more schools is a top priority for Montgomery County and for District 39, as is transportation, health, and the environment, said the delegates.

“I don’t know exactly where he is on money for school construction,” Barkley said. “The question is how much is he willing to commit to it?”

“That’s still our priority, but I don’t know that there will be money available to do that,” he said.

Barkley said Hogan has indicated that “he wants to get spending under control and then look at taxes.”

Hogan has also said he would choose both Republicans and Democrats to work in his administration.

“We’re all anxious to see who he appoints for his cabinet,” Barkley said.

A delegate since 1999, Barkley went through an earlier Republican administration when Bob Ehrlich sat in the governor’s seat from 2003 to 2007.

“We were definitely at odds with Ehrlich,” Barkley said. “He would veto bills, and we would override most of his vetoes.”

However, Barkley said he suspects Hogan will be more willing to work with the state’s Democratically-controlled House and Senate.

“Hopefully if he’s more accessible and more personable, I think he’ll have a better run,” Barkley said.

Reznik echoed Barkley’s sentiments about school construction.

“We add the equivalent of a high school every year,” he said about the county’s burgeoning student population. “Hogan has said he will fund schools but hasn’t made a commitment to Montgomery County directly.”

Also “a huge, huge issue,” especially for upcounty residents, is transportation, Reznik said.

“Hogan has not spoken kindly about mass transit – the Red Line and the Purple Line — and he doesn’t seem aware of the [proposed] Corridor Cities Transitway,” he said.

Originally envisioned to connect Shady Grove and Frederick, the CCT plan has been scaled back to a bus rapid transit line connecting Shady Grove and Metropolitan Grove, with Phase II to eventually connect Metropolitan Grove and Clarksburg.

“[Phase I] is a great option for business development in Gaithersburg,” but it doesn’t do much for Clarksburg residents, who can get to work faster by driving,” Reznik said.

“It has to be the right transit system that is efficient, effective and gets people where they need to go,” he said.

Thanks to voters on Nov. 4, elected officials will no longer be able to raid the state’s Transportation Trust Fund, largely used for road construction, to pay for other projects.

However, over time the fund, which is replenished by gas tax money, will likely dwindle as cars become more fuel efficient, Reznik said.

Other options need to be looked it, such as mass transit, telecommuting, and strategic business relocation to reduce commutes, he said.

“We’ll have to see how much money is available to spend on transportation as directed by the governor and his administration,” Reznik said.

Also an issue for the delegates is healthcare.

“During his campaign, Hogan made [doing something about] the heroin epidemic a priority,” but he can’t do that without allocating funds to the budget, Reznik said.

Robinson, who along with Reznik, is going into second term in Annapolis, said he was surprised by Hogan’s unexpected victory.

“It was a landmark election,” Robinson said. “It was clear ... that voters were frustrated with the status quo.”

Robinson said he plans to meet with constituents to learn more about their priorities in what has become a different political climate.

During his first term, Robinson focused on environmental issues, including cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay and the controversial issue of fracking — the extraction of natural gas from rocks — in Maryland.

“I’m keeping an open mind,” Robinson said. “Time will tell how well we work together.”

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