Remarks of Comptroller Peter Franchot

"The Lighted Path Forward"

Swearing-In as the 33rd Comptroller of Maryland

January 28, 2019  |  University of Baltimore

To my good friend, Governor Larry Hogan,  thank you for everything. 


For your determination to manage taxpayer dollars every bit as carefully as your own, for your insistence on creating a more competitive business climate in our state, and for bringing those values to the Board of Public Works.


You truly are a breath of fresh air.


For showing the people of Maryland that, all evidence to the contrary, it is possible for a Republican and a Democrat to disagree without rancor.


To find solutions in that vast middle ground, and to remain friends despite our honest differences. 


Our collaboration has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career, and it has provided real hope for people who are sick and tired of the partisan sniping and simply want their government to work again.


Let’s give Governor Hogan a warm round of applause.


To Comptroller Joan Pratt, thank you for serving as today’s Master of Ceremonies, and for your longstanding commitment to fiscal stewardship as the Comptroller of Baltimore City.


To my friends and colleagues in elected life – Mayor Day, Senator McCray, Delegate Ivey, and Chairwoman Causey, I am genuinely grateful to each of you for your kind words and for the quality of your public service. 


Each of you, in your own unique ways, are setting a higher bar for transparent and independent leadership.


Please – don’t ever change.


To our host, President Kurt Schmoke, I’m deeply appreciative of the hospitality that you and your amazing team at the University of Baltimore have extended to all of us on this special day. 


After all these years, Kurt Schmoke’s mission remains the same – to give a hand, to provide an opportunity to our kids and to those who might otherwise lead a life on the social and economic margins for want of a fair chance to succeed. 


President Schmoke, we are thankful for your service.


To my close, personal friend, The Reverend Dr. Alvin C. Hathaway, Sr., words cannot do justice to the passion and tenacity of your fight for the restoration of this great city, which remains and will always be the beating heart of the great State of Maryland. 


I cannot think of Rev. Hathaway without remembering the words of St. Paul, who wrote in Scripture that “I have fought a good fight…I have finished the course…I have kept the faith.”


He is truly doing the work of God, and the fruits of his labor will continue to be felt long after he is gone.


To Rabbi Peter Hyman of the Temple B’nai Israel in Easton, thank you, my friend, for your willingness to make the drive to Baltimore this morning and conclude our ceremony with prayer. 


You are a gentleman of exceptional humility in a bombastic age and, at a time when far lesser men are preoccupied with erecting walls, you have dedicated your life to tearing down those barriers that divide us. 


For your embodiment of the possibilities of a more loving and tolerant society than the one we have today, I thank you. 


To everyone on today’s program who has given your time and talents to this ritual of passage, thank you. 


This is a very special day for me, and you have made this event one that I’ll always remember.


Finally, I must recognize my extraordinary wife, Anne, for a lifetime of love, support and wisdom. 


Without her, I wouldn’t be taking the oath of office again today as Maryland’s 33rd Comptroller, and for that reason this is every bit as much her day as it is mine.


I look out across this beautiful performing arts center and see so many people who have contributed so much to my success as your Comptroller.


Can I please now ask for a round of applause for my chief of staff, the incomparable Len Foxwell.


Life’s serendipitous turns brought us together many years ago, and for that, I am eternally grateful.


I see my brilliant and accomplished Deputy Comptroller, Sharonne Bonardi, who could be making a fortune in the private sector but has, instead, chosen to lead the agency she has served with such distinction for 21 years. 


Thanks to her boundless knowledge and commitment, we have made the Maryland Comptroller’s Office the best in the entire nation.


One that is capable of returning tax refunds to the people of Maryland within three business days of receiving their return.


An office that is using state-of-the-art technology and the best people in the business to recapture more than six billion dollars from those who have tried to avoid paying what they owe.


One that is now employing the most sophisticated analytics available in the marketplace to protect the taxpayers of Maryland from the devastating consequences of tax fraud and identity theft. 


And one that, even as I speak, is busily installing “COMPASS” – a next-generation tax system that will fundamentally transform the way in which the people of Maryland pay their taxes. 


I see dear friends like Lily Rowe, Michael Darenberg, Denise Avara and Valerie Radomsky – with whom I have worked for so long, and in the face of so much senseless resistance from those in power to provide 50,000 children in Baltimore City and Baltimore County with the same climate-controlled schools that other children rightfully take for granted.


I can assure each of you that we will not stop until EVERY CHILD in our state - regardless of their income level or zip code – can learn in safe, healthy classrooms.

I can also assure my detractors in back rooms of Annapolis, who have exercised every legislative parlor trick in the book to thwart this effort for the sake of protecting the prerogatives of other political insiders, that there is nothing you can say or do to stop this movement.


Because it isn’t about ME. 


This movement is powered by moms, dads, grandparents, teachers and preachers who are sick and tired of seeing innocent children get sick and tired just by going to school. 


People who will no longer accept the disingenuous and self-serving excuses from those who are just marking time on the taxpayers’ dime, and whose own offices are suitably chilled during the hot months and cozy throughout the cold winter.


I see Jay Falstad, my dear friend from Queen Anne’s County who I regard as Maryland’s Thoreau. 


A farmer who finds peace and purpose from the land, and who has committed his life to protecting the waterways and vulnerable open spaces of his beloved Eastern Shore from the encroachment of irresponsible sprawl development. 


Jay, it has been a privilege to use my seat on the Board of Public Works to advocate for the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, and to fight for those communities that inevitably suffer from the collateral damages of overdevelopment. 


Finally, I see craft brewers across the state with us today – from the irrepressible Jim Caruso of Flying Dog Brewery to Steve Demczuk of Baltimore’s own RavenBeer. 


It has been one of the great honors of my career to stand with this amazing community of innovators who are creating jobs, reinvesting in their local communities and putting nearly $700 million per year back into the Maryland economy.


Indeed, each of you here has been with me on the path that has brought us here today.


Each of you, in ways great and small, enabled me to make history on November 6, 2018. 


A night when I was re-elected with 72 percent of the vote, carried 21 of Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions and earned the most votes of any candidate for state office in history. 


After all these years, I remain profoundly honored by the chance to occupy the very office once held by Millard Tawes, Louis Goldstein and William Donald Schaefer. 


As I enter this, my fourth term, I am more grateful than ever before for your confidence in my ability to follow in their storied footsteps and to take the Maryland Comptroller’s Office to an even higher level.


While I am proud of the path we have carved together through the years, I am so much more exhilarated by what lies ahead. 


Because, as we come together today, the Maryland situation is one defined by great fiscal, economic and political contradictions.


Ours is, by many indicators, the most prosperous state in the Union, yet our fortunes remain conjoined with a federal government that is mired in dysfunction, held hostage by a low-rent con man, and was closed due to a political stunt – a border wall - gone wrong.


Ours is arguably the best educated state in the nation, one whose colleges, universities, medical schools and research laboratories are consistently resetting the limits of human understanding. 


Yet far too many of our public school students earn a diploma without the ability to balance a checkbook, establish a personal budget or appreciate the difference between good credit and bad - in other words, those basic skills they will need for a lifetime of success and security. 


Ours is a state where too many of our elected officials prefer loyalty to the special interests over service to the people; who waste so much time and energy to vanquish ideas that have proven to be so popular and so beneficial to the public; and who would rather lecture the people on what they need instead of listening to what they want. 


How else could one possibly explain the behavior of those who stand in pointless opposition to long summers and cold Maryland beer?


Ours is a state that purportedly treasures its small businesses, yet consistently drains their entrepreneurial spirit with onerous occupational licensing procedures, and with vague and cumbersome regulations. 


Maryland’s craft brew industry is Exhibit A. 


Our current laws are skewed against them, in favor of the corporate alcohol monopolies who hire the best lobbyists.


Instead, I believe Maryland’s laws and policies should be encouraging their innovative spirit.


Finally, ours is a state founded by reformers, and Maryland’s history is glorified by those who had the courage to disrupt the status quo. 


To this day, however, the politics of our state remain in the grip of the Annapolis Machine – the remnants of a bygone age when a handful of bosses retired to the privacy of a smoke-filled room and handed their priorities down to the rest of us, in secrecy.


Some might see these contradictions as threats to our hard-earned reputation as a leader among states. 


I don’t. 


I see a golden opportunity to adapt to the future.


To realize the true potential of a culture that is powered by ideas, transparency and citizen engagement, and not by the muscle of machine politics.


Through the detritus of the past I see a lighted path forward.


What does that mean? 


The lighted path forward is embodied by a new approach to public policy – one that measures one’s commitment to an issue not by the amount of taxpayer money that we are willing to spend, but by the results that we demand in return.


It takes the form of a state government that is less preoccupied with grandiose promises than it is with answering the phone, greeting our taxpaying customers with respect, and pulling out all the stops to solve the problem.


It is a political culture where our leaders place genuine trust in the wisdom and common sense of those who have hired us and who pay our salaries. 


It is an economic approach that devotes less time and energy to competing for global corporations that demand billions of dollars of taxpayer money, and devotes more time and energy to tearing down barriers for those small, local businesses that ask for nothing more than an honest chance to succeed in the marketplace.


It is the wholesale rejection of an educational policy that wastes irretrievable classroom time and hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on our society’s obsession with standardized tests.  


It is the embrace of a radical new approach – one that provides sensible standards of progress while giving good teachers the freedom to teach and inspiring students to learn.


It means an end to the corrupt practice by which self-interested elected officials choose their voters and, through independent redistricting, a return to the democratic ideal of allowing neighborhoods and communities of shared interest to choose their leaders.


It even means putting an end to the disenfranchisement of those non-affiliated or independent voters that are gaining traction at a rate faster than that of either of our two major political parties. 


By allowing independent voters to vote in Democratic primaries, I believe we would expand our market share by opening doors to voters that we have, heretofore, excluded from the most consequential elections in our state.


We will also produce candidates who are capable of speaking to the aspirations of a broader spectrum of Marylanders and who, therefore, are better equipped to win in both June AND November.  


For all of the years I’ve had the privilege of serving as your Comptroller, I am more energized than ever by the inevitability of progress and the opportunity to join each of you as we carve this lighted path forward. 


These next four years promise to be the most rewarding of my career. 


I thank you for your friendship and for the opportunity to be a part of the change. 


Let’s get to work. 


God bless.


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