Gov. Martin O'Malley Wednesday urged lawmakers to pass his offshore wind bill and find more money for transportation projects—though he offered no details on a gas tax initiative.
In his seventh State of the State speech, the Democratic governor also used his 35-minute address to remind legislators of what he sees as his major accomplishments since taking office in 2007.
In many ways, the speech seemed to lay the groundwork for what many expect will be a run for President in 2016.
Choice was a major theme in O'Malley's speech.
"Better choices. Better results. The proof is in our progress," O'Malley said.
O'Malley's Legislative Wish List
On the top of O'Malley's wish list are the passage of a bill creating a subsidy for an electricity-generating windmill farm off the coast of Ocean City, MD as well as stricter gun laws, the repeal of the death penalty and funding for transportation projects.
"There’s another important thing we can do this year to create jobs and that is off-shore wind," O'Malley said "Moving forward with off-shore wind could make Maryland, the new manufacturing hub for wind turbines. We will create jobs and we will generate abundant, clean, renewable energy, but only if we choose. Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, member of the General Assembly, let’s get this done this year."
O'Malley also urged lawmakers to deal with the growing list of unfunded transportation projects.
"There is no reason why we should be content with living with the worst traffic congestion in the country," O'Malley said.
Local jurisdictions have seen some of the biggest cuts in state transportion funding. Since 2007, most local governments have seen the amount of state money for road construction and repairs cut by 90 percent.
In his State of the State speech last year, the governor proposed a gas tax increase to fund those projects. O'Malley offered no such initiative this year.
Instead, he thanked Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller for his work on the issue.
Miller has called for a 3 percent tax on the wholesale price of gas in addition to the 23.5 cents per gallon Marylanders already pay.
The Senate president has also called for regional transportation authorities in the Baltimore and Washington areas that would oversee funding and construction of additional mass transit project such as the red and purple lines.
Miller's plan would also allow local jurisdictions to add a tax of 5 cents per gallon of gas to help fund local roads projects.
"I ask you to ban the sale of military assault weapons in Maryland," O'Malley said. "I ask you to require a license for the purchase of all handguns but not hunting rifles."
The governor is also calling for the repeal of the death penalty in Maryland.
O'Malley said the death penalty is not an effective deterrent and "cannot be administered without racial bias."
"The death penalty is expensive and it does not work and we should stop doing it," he said.
Maryland has not executed an inmate since Wesley Eugene Baker in December 2005. Five inmates remain on death row but the state has had a moratorium on executions since the Court of Appeals ruled that execution protocols were not properly adopted.
Those protocols have not been updated because one of the drugs used in the three-drug cocktail is no longer available.
O'Malley's speech was met with strong disapproval from House and Senate Republicans.
"He took credit for a lot of successes that don't exist," said Del. Anthony O'Donnell, House Minority Leader. "The people I know are all hurting and he wants to raise their taxes."
O'Donnell took issue with O'Malley's claim that job creation must be a top priority.
"It's all lip service," O'Donnell said. "He says that but then pushes policies that hurt businesses."
Rather than focusing on the specific needs of Marylanders, the policies O’Malley spelled out in his speech had more to do with Democrats’ national agenda of taxes and gun control, said Sen. E.J. Pipkin, an Upper Shore Republican and Senate Minority leader.
“He’s coming for your money…he’s coming for your guns,” Pipkin said.
White House Aspirations
For some, the speech was a prelude to O'Malley's expected run for President in 2016.
“Today wasn’t just a State of the State speech, it was an ‘I want your (presidential) nomination’ speech,” said Todd Eberly, assistant professor of political science and public policy at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.
As O’Malley, 50, enters the last half of his second term as governor, major speeches like the State of the State address can take on added significance.
O’Malley, who just completed two years as chairman of the Democratic Governors Association and was prominently featured at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, is widely believed to have national political aspirations.
His name has been mentioned along with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as possible 2016 candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination.
"When he runs for President he's going to be the best thing that's ever happened to the Maryland Republican party," said O'Donnell. "He's going to make Republicans look like mainstream moderates. This guy is to the left of [President Barack] Obama."
Capital News Service reporter Lucas High contributed to this report.