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MyEasternShoreMD.com: Franchot pitches himself as governor for Kent County Dems

CHESTERTOWN — Though the next gubernatorial election is still two years out, for Comptroller Peter Franchot it’s not too early to start outlining what he’d stand for if elected to serve as governor of Maryland.

Franchot was the speaker at the Thursday, Sept. 17 Democratic Club of Kent County meeting following Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh’s attendance at the August iteration. The meeting was held virtually through the video conferencing site Zoom.

By his own description, Franchot said he is a “proud Democrat,” but “not a robot for crying out loud." He said he opts to “do the right thing” versus taking action only to keep groups of like-minded people from being disappointed in him.

Franchot said he was elected to office as comptroller just as the Great Recession was hitting the country. He called it the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, but said COVID-19’s impact on the economy and subsequent economic crisis is “far worse” than what the country experienced in 2008.

Comptroller Peter Franchot attends a Thursday, Sept. 17, Democratic Club of Kent County meeting via Zoom. Franchot spoke about his plans to run for governor in the 2022 election as well as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

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“Once again, I’m not minimizing the public health issue — that is just the first priority and the greatest distress and tragedy — but right behind it is this unbelievable economic and financial fallout,” Franchot said.

In discussing the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, Franchot praised Gov. Larry Hogan but asserted more could be done. He also apologized for the handling of the pandemic at the national level, “just because I think somebody needs to apologize,” Franchot said.

“I think Gov. Hogan, who is a Republican, has done a commendable job with his team in trying to fill in what the federal government should have been doing, which is corralling the virus back in February and March,” Franchot said.

Calling the situation of COVID-19 in America “completely unnecessary, in my opinion,” Franchot said because of the nation’s status as a developed country, Americans should not be suffering as much as they are.

“I’d like to also apologize for the state that the country is in right now. Although it's not the responsibility of Maryland elected officials, we have never seen such incompetence from Washington as we have with this pandemic,” Franchot said. “As a result ... almost 200,000 people have lost their lives.”

That 200,000 milestone was hit this week.

Franchot said in an effort to help Marylanders endure the fiscal impact of COVID-19, the comptroller's office initiated a relief program in March delaying for 90 days all tax payments for businesses and Maryland residents.

He said he has advocated for Hogan to release $500 million from the state’s rainy day fund to assist struggling small businesses. The state currently has $1.2 billion in the rainy day fund, which was “designed exactly for the kind of experience we are going through right now,” he said.

“It is obviously heavily rainy outside,” Franchot said.

Further outlining his office's efforts, he said several alcohol regulations were suspended in Maryland including some to specifically support the craft beer industry.

Franchot said, as a member of the Board of Public Works — on which the governor, the comptroller and the treasurer serve — he blocked more than $280 million in budget cuts that would have impacted state employees, public education and “our most vulnerable communities." He said he thought the cuts "were premature.”

Still, Franchot said about $400 to $500 million had to be cut from the state’s current fiscal year budget.

Franchot was critical of the state’s past efforts to incentivize large businesses like Amazon to build here compared to the lack of support currently offered to small businesses during the pandemic.

“We love the corporate behemoths. We're willing to subsidize Amazon with $8½ billion for them to move to Maryland for their East Coast office,” Franchot said. “That was $8½ billion for one company, but for some reason we don’t seem to be able to come up with a relief program for the 180,000 small businesses in Maryland.”

After completing the accounting of last fiscal year, which ended June 30, Franchot said his office reported a $585.5 million general fund balance. That money, Franchot said, is not a surplus but a fund balance made out of unused unemployment funds. Franchot said the “quite successful” first federal stimulus plan kept Marylanders from needing state support.

“We want to preserve and protect who is left and if we don’t, we’re going to have to spend a lot more money reconstructing down the road,” Franchot said. “It’s the right thing to do because these small businesses have been amazingly loyal to the state of Maryland … in many instances for decades.”

Franchot said the next step is to figure out how to “win the recovery” from the COVID-19 pandemic’s fiscal storm.

He said as governor, he would run a three-point test for any new policy. The first point of the test being will the policy give money to Marylanders, will it support small businesses and will it make Maryland more attractive to “live, invest and most importantly retire.”

Franchot said in the upcoming fiscally challenging times, his experience and approach to governing is “what is required to rebuild our state and position it to succeed in the years ahead.”

“It’s having a devastating impact upon our communities, working families and small businesses across our state,” Franchot said. “Once again, I’m not minimizing the public health issue — that is just the first priority and the greatest distress and tragedy — but right behind it is this unbelievable economic and financial fallout.”

When questions were raised about police reform, Franchot said he would take a look at programs for education, transportation, the environment, health care and police reform “from the inside out and look exactly at what works and what doesn’t work.”

He said his views with police reform generally align with those of former vice president and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

“Look, we are in favor of peaceful protest. We’re in favor of fundamental reforms, but we’re not in favor of defunding the police and not having a police force and whatever the implication is there,” Franchot said.

During his talk, Franchot also remembered former longtime Chestertown Mayor Margo Bailey who passed away Sept. 1. Calling Bailey a “force of nature” and a “disrupter,” Franchot said he frequently met or called her when he was in the area.

“She was a disrupter, a little bit, like me in the sense that she ran against the political machine and gave it a good thrashing and never let them get back into power,” Franchot said. “And that’s what I am kind of known for in politics.”

Franchot said Bailey was an “independent Democrat” who believed in representing all people, not only those from the same political party, and “doing the right thing by” all she served.

“Margo was someone who loved Chestertown with every fiber in her body,” Franchot said. “We’ll miss her dearly.”

https://www.myeasternshoremd.com/kent_county_news/news/franchot-pitches-himself-as-governor-for-kent-county-dems/article_c1596ed0-773a-5344-9b46-b49018354d07.html

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