Maryland State of the State Address 2008
By Stateline Staff
Click here to visit the governor's web site and listen to the address.
Thank you. If you all would remain standing for just one second before I begin our talk here about the urgent business of building a better future for our state, there's some really important people here in the gallery and in the audience with us. I ran into the family of Officer Christopher Nicholson, the Smithsburg officer who died in the line of duty protecting us, and in addition to that, we're joined by the family of Maryland Transportation Authority Police Corporal Courtney Brooks, who was tragically taken from us, and we thank you for being here as well. Our hearts go out to you, and we'll never be able to repay the debt of gratitude we owe you, but we thank you for being here.
You know, my friends, over the last year 4 state and local law enforcement officers and 1 firefighter gave their lives in the line of duty, and 20 of our sons and daughters gave their lives for us fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. So I ask you to just join me before we talk here, in a moment of silence in their honor.
Thank you very much. Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, Mr. Chief Judge, Mr. Attorney General, Mr. Comptroller, Madame Treasurer, my colleagues in local government, men and women of the Maryland General Assembly, my fellow citizens:
We gather today in the very building where Marylanders, since the Revolution, have come -- generation after generation -- to assess our strengths and weaknesses as a community and to decide how we will rise to overcome the challenges of our time.
Though, time and again we have overcome challenges because of our respect for the dignity of every individual; because of our commitment to the common good; and because we have had the courage to protect our priorities especially when faced with great adversity.
For these reasons, Maryland has been a strong state. And in many respects we are stronger today than we were at this same time last year.
But the future of our State is very much determined by the strength and the security of the families of Maryland - the hard-working and loving families that we have the honor and responsibility to represent. And today, the vast majority of Maryland's families, like families throughout our country, are finding it harder and harder just to pay their bills and maintain the quality of life that they have worked so hard to achieve.
This is not just a Maryland problem, this is a national problem.
For the sad truth of our shared reality is that over the last seven years, real wages in our country have grown by only 1 percent. And unfortunately, the same cannot be said for everything else a family needs to survive.
Over the last seven years, the price of a gallon of milk is up 30 percent, the cost of a loaf of bread is up 20 percent, and yet real wages have increased by just 1 percent.
The cost of a gallon of gasoline is up almost 100 percent over that same time-frame.
And the cost of health insurance is up 78 percent, and yet real wages have by only 1 percent.
Our families are struggling to get ahead, our parents working harder and harder as national economic forces and policy trends keep pulling us back. Our dollar is being devalued by huge national debt; unemployment nationally is up; and home foreclosures are at levels unprecedented in modern times - up 600 percentin just one year in Maryland.
But we don't need those numbers and figures to tell us that people are hurting; we see it in their eyes, we hear it in their voices.
No wonder many of us are frustrated when - in the midst of this national economic downturn - we were also forced to confront a long neglected and huge structural deficit. The frustration is totally understandable. And there is good reason for all of us to be concerned and worried about our economic future.
But I submit to you that the way we get through these tough times - and the way we get through them more quickly than other states - is not by abandoning our priorities, but by protecting them.THE PRIORITIES THAT UNITE US IN MARYLAND
Our State has weathered difficult times before; and, we will come through this national downturn more quickly than most other states - but only if we can continue to come together to protect the priorities of the people of our State.
- To strengthen and protect our middle class, our family owned businesses and family farms,
- To protect our commitment to improve public safety and public education in every single part of our State,
- And to protect opportunity - the opportunity to learn, to earn, to enjoy the health of the people we love, as well as the health of the land, the water, the air and the Bay that we love - for more people rather than fewer.
To get through these tough times, the people of our State are working as hard as they can to protect their families and defend their quality of life. And in their hearts, they expect us to do the same - even when it is not easy or politically popular.
At this same time last year you will recall that days after officially inheriting a crushing deficit, this new administration presented a budget that had been cut by $400 million dollars. Months later we cut another $280 million. Then during the important and very difficult work of the last few months, together we reduced spending growth by another $552 million.
The budget now before you comes in under spending affordability limits for the second year in a row.
Because of the $1.2 billion in cuts and spending reductions, and because of the other difficult choices on revenues, we are able to protect the priorities of our people - the priority of public education and school construction; the priority of public safety; the priority of more affordable health care.
And because you had the courage to restrain spending and restore fiscal responsibility, we can stand up this year to end the fast track to foreclosure in Maryland and help thousands of families that are already slipping into foreclosure.
We can once again hold the line against the rising cost of college tuition: hard-working families in Maryland should be able to afford to send their children to Maryland colleges.
Joining us in the gallery is a returning Marine who will attend the University of Maryland, College Park, using the Veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq Conflicts Scholarship Program that you created. He is returning from his third tour of duty in Iraq, and I'd like us to acknowledge the presence today of United States Marine, Lance Corporal Will Amos.
We now have the ability to make our government work again on behalf of the best interests of the people of our State.
The people of our state deserve a state government that works as hard as they do.
Last year we implemented performance measured management and accountability on a level never before attempted in any state government with the creation of "StateStat". Today 13 different departments or agencies are now participants in performance measured government in order to improve efficiency and service delivery.
One year ago, I came before you and pledged to make our port - the Port of Baltimore - a leader in homeland security rather than a subject of ridicule. We are not there yet, but one year later, our Port (the closest deep water Port to our Nation's capital) is more secure, more prepared, and better equipped to deal with threats than we were at this same time last year. I ask for your support as we bring in the best minds in the Nation to take our preparedness to the next level.
Last year we announced the formation of the BRAC Subcabinet to be led by Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown. Since that time, after countless meetings and collaborations with businesses and military leaders, our congressional delegation, leaders of our towns and cities, we have not only published our BRAC action plan for harnessing the opportunity of the thousands of jobs coming to Maryland, but with your help, we will now be able to make substantial progress towards implementing that plan.
Last year, this new administration pledged to develop a statewide vision for transportation. This year, because of your hard work, we are able to move that vision forward with action.
We are moving forward with resurfacing portions of I-68 and I-81 in Western Maryland; Forward with the next phase of widening US 113 on the Eastern Shore and the planning study to improve traffic flow and safety near Ocean Pines; And in Southern Maryland, we are moving forward with major improvements in Waldorf.
We will also move forward with a more balanced plan of action for the next generation of mass transit in Maryland like expanded MARC service and dedicated funding for Metro, and the next steps in creating the Purple Line and the Corridor Cities Transitway in the Washington suburbs, and the Red and Green Lines in Baltimore.
Last year, we pledged to roll up our sleeves to find ways to bring the rising cost of health care under control while improving access. The Health Care Reform Act which you passed two months ago will ultimately allow us to cover more than 100,000 Marylanders - expanding access to preventive care, stabilizing costs, and providing incentives for many small and family owned businesses who want to join the ranks of the insured.
Last year we vowed to use open space dollars for the purchase of open space. We started to apply performance measured management to the huge challenge of cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay with "BayStat." We have more cover crop enrollments than ever before while continuing oyster restoration efforts to help the Bay and watermen. With your creation of the Chesapeake Bay Trust Fund, we can do even more this year.
But as we look to the year ahead, we begin with the most fundamental priority and responsibility of any government - the safety of our citizens, our neighborhoods and our communities.
Public safety is the foundation of civil society itself and in Maryland we have the opportunity to make our State one of the safest in the Union instead of allowing ourselves to be one of the most violent.
For too long we have allowed ourselves to look at violent crime as a socio-economic problem, or a cultural problem. A problem that defies a solution because that is "just the way it is." And most sadly of all, this defeatist attitude is often rooted in the low opinions we have of one another because of differences of race, or class or place.
But this problem of ours, this problem of Maryland's, is not the concern of one race or one city or one county. It is everyone's problem. As Robert Kennedy told us 40 years ago, "The victims of violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown, they are most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed,… Whenever any American life is taken by another American unnecessarily - whether it is done in the name of the law or in defiance of the law, by one man or a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence or in response to violence - whenever we tear at the fabric of the life which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, the whole nation is degraded,…"
My fellow citizens, we have allowed our One Maryland to be degraded by violence for far too long. One of our highest priorities this year will be to fight back against violent crime - wherever it occurs in Maryland.
One year ago I shared with you how deeply troubled our State's public safety departments were. Over the course of this year we have begun to make progress in turning this situation around so that our State gets back into the business of supporting local police departments and communities in the fight against violent crime.
- We have closed the House of Correction and opened safer and more modern facilities.
- We have overhauled Parole and Probation so that we can zero-in on the most violent predators with far more intensive supervision.
- We have better diagnostic tools in place at juvenile services to prevent violence and the loss of young lives to homicide.
- We have created a Violence Prevention Unit at Parole and Probation to partner with local police and prosecutors to legally and quickly remove the most violent offenders from our streets before they can murder again.
- We have created two regional Gun Task Forces with local governments and the District of Columbia to take guns off our streets - thank you Mayor Fenty for being here.
- Led by General Maynard and Colonel Sheridan we are systematizing the collection, analysis and relaying of gang intelligence to local police departments so they can act on it to save lives.
- And finally, last year we were able to knock out a shameful backlog of more than 24,000 DNA fingerprints that had been taken from those convicted of violent crimes but had never been analyzed by the state crime lab. Cases are now being solved and violence prevented as Maryland finally makes better use of DNA-fingerprinting and its potential to solve and prevent violent crimes.
- Add 50 additional officers to more closely and intensely supervise those in communities who are on parole or probation;
- To embark on a long overdue rebuilding of a minimal number of modern regional facilities for our long-ignored juvenile justice system;
- To expand the utilization of modern GPS technology to track very at-risk young offenders in some of our most violence-plagued neighborhoods in order to save their lives and rescue them from the clutches of hit-men and drug dealers;
- And to increase the availability of drug treatment programs as well as community based programs like Operation Safe Kids, so that we can better partner with local governments and their health departments to save young lives.
But most importantly, I urge your support for legislation that is supported by virtually every prosecutor and police chief in our State - and that is an expansion of our State's DNA-fingerprinting efforts so that we can solve more violent crimes more quickly and put murderers and rapists behind bars before they murder or rape again. Eleven other states, including Virginia, collect DNA prints from those charged with violent crimes. Given the level of violent crime in our state, there is no justifiable reason that Maryland should not be in the forefront of using this modern crime-solving tool, rather than lagging behind.
Yes, to come through these tough economic times as quickly as possible, we must protect the priorities of our families; for we have tremendous challenges ahead.
On health care, we need to advance health care IT and to extend dental care for children so that no child in any county ever dies again because of the inability to treat a toothache.
There are thousands of Marylanders returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan. They were there for us. We need to be there for them, and that is why I ask for your support and engagement on a series of bills to ensure that their health and well-being is protected when they come home to Maryland.
On improving Maryland's Homeland Security and Preparedness, many efforts are underway to better integrate emergency preparedness, emergency information sharing, and to finally bring into service our first statewide system of inter-operable communications. I ask for your support as we bring former FEMA Director James Lee Witt, who is with us today, to Maryland to assess our level of preparedness and make recommendations for making Maryland safer and better prepared in the face of natural and man-made threats.
For the health of the Bay, we must continue searching for ways to make farming more profitable, to upgrade water and waste-water treatment plants, and to fulfill our obligations in the Bay watershed with Pennsylvania and Virginia in order to preserve and ultimately expand forest cover. Last year, we passed the Stormwater Management Act and the Clean Cars law. This year, I will ask for your support and ideas as we search for ways to update our Critical Area Law - so massive developments like the Four Seasons project on Kent Island are prohibited at the first step in the process, not the last.
On education, we must find better ways to recruit great principals to our most challenged schools, to improve outcomes in science, technology, engineering and math. We must do a better job of listening to our teachers in a regular systematic way so that we can constantly improve the learning process and working conditions that are so essential to retaining quality teachers. And we must rededicate ourselves to reducing our drop-out rate with better career and technical programs available to high schools in every district.
On workforce creation, I ask for your support on our proposals to reduce the nursing shortage throughout our State, and on our broader efforts to equip the 750,000 chronically undereducated adults in Maryland with the skills they need to compete and win - and care for their families - in this new economy.
We can and must do better. Workforce is critically important to Maryland's economic future. We have to build a new system for educating our adults and harnessing the potential of our entire workforce. Every single person matters. There are Marylanders with disabilities who are talented, hardworking and want to get into the workforce with just a little bit of help and training. Also there are New Americans who remind us, in the words of Maryland's Harriet Tubman, that we were all once "strangers in strange land." We must also better align the education needs of our adults with the workforce needs of our employers. I urge you to support our proposal to bring our adult education system into the 21st Century.
In terms of our pursuit of a more sustainable future for the land, the air and the water that we share, I urge your support of new legislation to promote Transit Oriented Development. I also look forward to working with you in the development of the science, technology and the public education that it will take to combat climate change, improve energy conservation and energy efficiency; and to make Maryland a leader in the development of renewable energy and green building techniques of all kinds.
In order to protect Maryland's future, we must address Maryland's energy needs.
The task before us is to develop a long-term plan for energy generation, distribution and conservation, and it will not be easy. It will take a sustained commitment from our political leadership to turn that vision over time into reality. The days of cheap and abundant energy are past but that does not mean our only options are crippling energy bills and rolling brown outs
In the coming weeks, months and years ahead, we will be undertaking a number of efforts - legislative, regulatory -- and legal if need be -- to secure fair and reasonable energy rates while also ensuring an adequate supply for our future. Deregulation has failed us in Maryland and we cannot allow our future to be determined by that mistake.
In conclusion my friends, the most important days in life are not always the easy days.
As we work our way through the important and difficult days ahead, let's not forget the good in our lives, our family and friends, our neighbors, our fellow Marylanders.
Let's stay focused on the fact that people are counting on us to make these tough times more bearable. Let's work together - regardless of personality, party or place - to face the challenges ahead.
We know that Maryland is a stronger state than most. We can get through these tough economic times more quickly than other parts of our country, but only if we can continue to come together to protect the priorities that make us strong.
We come here to make a positive difference for our neighbors. That's what Senator Britt did. That's what Delegate Lawton did. And that's what we are going to do. Now we must take from here, Bishop Muse, striving to do all that we can for the hardworking people we have the privilege to serve and the One Maryland we carry in our hearts.