ANNAPOLIS – Governor-elect Larry J. Hogan Jr. named Robert Neall, a Democrat and former state senator, delegate and Anne Arundel County executive, to his transition team Wednesday afternoon.
Neall will head up Hogan’s budget and tax team, making the appointment one of the most important during his transition. The Republican Hogan’s surprise win in a majority-Democrat state was based largely on a campaign message of fiscal restraint.
“He’s the most respected fiscal mind in the state of Maryland,” Hogan said. “There’s nobody in the state that knows tax and fiscal budget issues better than Bobby Neall.”
Neall said that the transition team will look at the remaining seven months of fiscal 2015 to “see if there are any mid-course corrections that the governor-elect could do if he chose to in landing that budget in a different place than where the trajectory is.”
Hogan won’t have an opportunity to present a budget entirely of his own making until fiscal 2017, as most state budgets, which run based on a July-June fiscal year, are prepared by the previous Christmastime.
“There will be precious few opportunities for the new governor to tweak a budget that was really put together by his predecessor’s staff,” said Neall.
Hogan, who ran on a policy of cutting spending and taxes, has crossed the aisle by selecting Neall, a Democrat who switched parties during his state senate tenure in 1999 due to feeling increasingly “uncomfortable and unwelcome” within the Republican party, according to Capital News Service reports from the time.
Neall served in the state House of Delegates from 1975 to 1987, was Anne Arundel County executive from 1990 to 1994, and then a senator from late 1997 until early 2003.
Hogan also named Carville Collins, a Baltimore lawyer with DLA Piper, as general counsel to his transition team. Collins has represented clients in the energy, water, telecommunications and transportation sectors, according to a profile on the DLA Piper website.
Matthew Crenson, professor emeritus with the Department of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University, said that Neall’s appointment is a clear signal that Hogan is reaching out to Democrats.
“I would expect that the transition team will include other Democrats as well,” Crenson said.
By creating a bi-partisan transition team, it becomes harder for Maryland Democrats to take shots at Hogan, Crenson said.
Hogan has reached out to key state Democrats, he said, having scheduled meetings with Comptroller Peter Franchot, and Speaker of the House of Delegates Michael E. Busch (Anne Arundel).
He also had a breakfast meeting with Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (Calvert and Prince George’s), on Wednesday but did not offer up any details of what was discussed.
“We had a frank, open and honest discussion,” Hogan said.
The governor-elect continues to decline to offer up any specific policy platform, saying that it doesn’t make any sense to roll out policy initiatives until he’s assembled a team of advisers to help him make those decisions.
“I think you’re trying to put the cart before the horse,” Hogan said.