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Act on Climate and Help Us All Breathe Easier


Climate change and climate disruption are real — 97 percent of climate scientists agree. As Marylanders, we believe that we do better when we embrace and acknowledge the science, the truth and the reality of our situation. We know that we must be willing to stand up for what we believe in and work together to make the better choices needed to achieve better results in improving the health and security of our people and improving the sustainability of our way of life.

As we continue to recognize Earth Day during the month of April and the actions of those everywhere working to protect and improve our planet; it is what the Maryland League of Conservation Voters work toward all year round. People all around the world are coming to a deeper understanding that to protect our planet we need to move from economies of global depletion to local economies of renewal and regeneration. That’s true for the food we eat, the way we protect our health, the way we fuel the needs of our economy, our buildings, our vehicles, and our way of life. Solar power, wind power and other renewable energies will help us to embrace this better and more prosperous way of moving forward.

As Governor O’Malley has said time and again, Maryland is among the states most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, including severe weather and sea-level rise. Maryland has an obligation to do all we can to protect our land, infrastructure and, most importantly, our citizens, and to make sure we are safe and prepared.

For the past seven years, the people of Maryland have been taking strong actions to reduce our carbon footprint, improve our air quality, invest in clean technology and create green jobs. Under the leadership of the O’Malley-Brown Administration, Maryland has set some of the most ambitious goals in the nation for reducing greenhouse emissions, advancing cleaner, renewable energy, protecting the health of our children and elderly, rebuilding our shorelines and creating green jobs.

Maryland has also advanced offshore wind, on-shore wind and solar energy policies. Maryland partnered with eight other Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states on the nation’s first cap-and-trade auction of greenhouse gas emissions, reduced harmful pollutants in our air by more than 80 percent, passed landmark clean cars legislation, created a sustainable communities tax credit and created incentives to help homeowners and businesses utilize clean energy and buy zero emission vehicles.

We are also making the better choice of planning and mitigating for the inevitability of sea level rise and increases in different types of extreme weather. Through Governor O’Malley’s Executive Order and his work on the President Obama’s resilience task force, Maryland is working together with stakeholders to find solutions.

Recently, Climate Central ranked Maryland as sixth in the nation for power outages due to extreme weather. Climate change is increasing instances where heat waves are hotter, rain events are heavier and winter storms are colder, more frequent and more intense.

This extreme weather affects millions of people and causes extensive, costly damage. We must be prepared for the increase of extreme weather as it puts our people, our economy and our health at risk. And we must continue to support those that working to mitigate against and plan for these potentially catastrophic events.

Marylanders recognize the connections between the changes in our climate and our air quality and health during Air Quality Awareness week, April 28 through May 3, 2014. We urge all Marylanders to be prepared for the changes in our air quality and our climate. With spring upon us, not only are our days getting longer, but as the temperatures rise, smog forms more readily and acts as a trigger for asthma and other respiratory problems. While climate change is poised to worsen air pollution and respiratory diseases, we can all take actions that will both protect our health and benefit the climate.

Since climate change and air pollution have many of the same sources (such as fossil fuel combustion and emissions), actions that we take to curb greenhouse gas emissions also help improve our local air quality and ultimately our health.

For all these reasons, during Earth Month, Air Quality Awareness week and every day take action to protect our air, health and our climate:

  1. Urge your elected officials to act on climate today: Visit our website and sign our petition urging Maryland legislators to invest in clean energy and green our grid, creating thousands of good Maryland jobs in the process.
  2. Invest in Clean Energy:  One way to reduce the amount of air pollution we have is to invest in clean energy and green our grid. Maryland’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) requires that 20 percent of Maryland’s Electricity be generated from renewable energy sources by 2022. Governor O’Malley’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan calls for it to be increased to 25 percent by 2020. You can ask your utility provider to invest in clean electricity from solar and wind or if you own your home, you can look into alternative forms of clean energy through grants.
  3. Breathe Easier: Air pollution doesn’t have to make you sick – you can do something about it. Learn more about what days sensitive populations should avoid pollution exposure by referring to the Maryland Air Quality Index (AQI). 
  4. Walk or Bike Where You Go: We all know that vehicles contribute to air pollution. Take a few minutes to think about how you contribute to air pollution and how you can limit your impact. If you can, try to walk or bike to the store, to school or to work or try other alternatives.

Learn more about Maryland’s comprehensive Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan and what Maryland is doing to #ActonClimate at

Karla Raettig
Executive Director
Maryland League of Conservation Voters

A Sustainable Trust


When Governor Martin O’Malley took office in 2007, he vowed to make the environment and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay a top priority of his administration. By ensuring more accountability and measurable goals through numerous State programs, he has kept his promise. Of these programs, one of the more important tools for water quality in the region is the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund.

Created by the Maryland General Assembly under O’Malley’s leadership, this financing program allows State and local partners to identify innovative, cost-effective approaches to meet our Bay restoration goals. Once identified, the Fund then provides the financial and technical resources for these projects to drive real results.

By targeting nonpoint source pollution locally, focusing on small but effective projects that improve stormwater infrastructure, better managing  runoff through enhanced technologies, and establishing cover crops on farms in critical areas, Maryland has made great strides towards the “bigger picture Bay problem,” reducing the amount of pollutants that run off into waterways.   As one of the biggest challenges to restoration, this runoff leads to harmful algae blooms and dead zones that threaten important Bay grasses, aquatic life and the overall health of the Bay.

For example, in Baltimore City, the recently completed New Broadway East Community Park project helped beautify a neighborhood, enhance quality of life, and contribute to cleaner waterways. Replacing a group of abandoned row houses with an urban park, the project used innovative concrete for park paths and a parking lot that prevents polluted rainwater runoff from flowing into local streams.

Through projects like this one,  the State has prevented 2.2 million pounds of nitrogen, 240,000 pounds of phosphorus and 17,500 pounds of sediment from entering Maryland waterways to date. The Fund has also  supported planting of 1,180 acres of forest on State land and restoration of 312 acres of wetlands .

As we continue to expand environmental education opportunities, schools are leveraging these projects as a learning opportunity; by the end of the year, 32,000 students from across the State will have engage in Trust Fund projects, planting trees near local streams and creating rain gardens to enhance water quality.

In addition to supporting environmental education, Trust Fund projects support our economy, sustaining an estimated 885 jobs both directly and indirectly through construction, project management and other green industries.

As part of Governor O’Malley’s goal to ensure accountability and measure our progress, all projects are monitored via the Trust Fund Tracker to allow Marylanders to discover details about restoration projects in their region.

The Fund, which is administered by the Department of Natural Resources and  financed in large part through the State’s motor fuel and rental car tax,  has been further augmented by Governor O’Malley’s direction of $100 million in Capital Funds to accelerate the State’s efforts. Some Trust Fund revenues have been used for other budget priorities during the recession, but we recognize that overall, a $256 million investment in the Chesapeake Bay cleanup effort is substantial, and has enabled us to make significant progress. We hope as the economy strengthens the state will allocate more of the revenues for the clean-up.

In total, from FY 2009 through the upcoming FY 2015, Maryland is directing more than $256 million to local governments and organizations to improve water quality through approximately 1,000 projects (488 completed, 402 in progress, and more than 100 pending).   Next year’s significant projects currently in design include retrofits, impervious pavement removal, permeable surface installation, stream restoration, urban greening and other stormwater management practices.

These continued investments make it clear that Governor O’Malley’s commitment to Bay restoration is unmatched. And while Maryland and other Bay states still have much work to do, the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund is an exciting innovative tool that is making a difference.

Alison Prost, Esq.
Maryland Executive Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Stewardship for the Next Generation


Over the past seven years, environmental educators in Maryland have worked closely – and tirelessly – with Governor Martin O’Malley to build upon his steadfast commitment to our natural resources and our children.  Our alliance began in 2008 with the Governor’s creation of the Maryland Partnership for Children in Nature, a first-of-its-kind collaboration of public and private experts tasked with creating new and innovative ways to connect young people with their natural world and help them grow to become responsible adult stewards.

While the Partnership’s journey is far from over, we have made much progress along our path, expanding opportunities for learning and inspiration through unstructured play in natural settings, structured outdoor learning through park and public lands programs, and exposure to nature and environmental learning as part of their school day.

To date, the Maryland Green Schools program includes 425 certified schools with an additional 170 applications being processed this year.  After applying for this distinction from the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education, schools are selected by demonstrating that students, teachers, staff, parents and community partners are incorporating green, sustainable practices into the classroom, and tackling environmental projects in their neighborhoods.

Under Governor O’Malley’s 2012 Stream Restoration Challenge — a 3-year grants program that marries buffer planting with service learning and environmental literacy opportunities — students are improving water quality and supporting tree planting goals. Last spring 2,800 students earned more than 7,500 service learning credits, planting 46,000 trees.  In the fall students planted approximately 100 acres of trees at 60 sites.  And their work continues.

Taking stream restoration lessons to the next level, in 2013 Governor O’Malley launched Explore and Restore your SchoolShed, through which students use the streams and creeks on or near their properties as outdoor classrooms, learning about water quality and taking steps to improve it.  More than 100 schools are now participating statewide, and students are seeing measurable results on the ground.

Teaching green job skills along with an appreciation for nature, the Governor’s Conservation Jobs Corps has graduated 1,800 at-risk youth from a summer employment program at Maryland State Parks over the past 5 years.

And, lest we forget the indelible impact of time spent outdoors on a child’s health and well-being, the Maryland Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights continues to encourage parents, teachers and mentors to simply spend time with young people enjoying our great outdoors through activities like fishing, swimming, camping and exploring.  State and local parks in every county offer spaces, trails and programs to support these activities.

Together we realized our most important accomplishment to date in 2011, when Maryland became the first state in the nation to adopt an environmental literacy graduation requirement.  The environmental education community remains fully committed to this effort, working with local school systems to infuse core subjects with lessons about conservation, the Chesapeake Bay, Smart Growth and natural resource management, and use the environment to meet emerging new requirements in science, technology, engineering, math, social studies and more.

Our investments in environmental education today are ensuring that our young people graduate high school not only with the intellectual ability to tackle complex environmental challenges – but also with the will and desire to care for our natural world.

Along with our commitment to our natural resources, these investments will determine not only what type of planet we leave our children, but also what kind of stewards we leave our planet.

There are innumerable partners – parents, teachers, non-formal educators, and others — who work every day to support these efforts and this week, in honor of Earth Day and Environmental Education Month, we salute them, and the leadership and commitment of Governor Martin O’Malley.

Laura Johnson Collard
Executive Director
Maryland Association of Environmental & Outdoor Education

Ed. Note: Each day this week, we will post a different blog from environmental stakeholders from around the State. These blogs will provide various perspectives on environmental issues in Maryland.

Moving Education Forward

Education is a ladder to middle class success. So over the course of the O’Malley-Brown Administration, we’ve focused on creating opportunity by investing in our schools. We’ve made record investments in Maryland’s top ranked public schools, and since 2007-08 we’ve done more than any other state in the nation to hold down the cost of college.

Today, we’re moving education forward again for Maryland students by expanding pre-kindergarten to more families across our State. I was proud to sign a bill into law today that will expand PreK to an additional 1,600 children across Maryland. The bill, Senate Bill 332, also moves our State one step closer to universal PreK by ensuring that the State’s long-term plan for education funding accounts for expanded access to PreK for all Maryland children.

I invite you to share this good news with your friends, family, and anyone interested in expanding early childhood learning in Maryland. Please share via Facebook, Twitter, email, etc.

Pre-K progress

Research shows that investments in early childhood education make a huge difference as children move through the later stages of their education. And when our students succeed, Maryland succeeds.

As part of our 16 strategic goals, we have focused on boosting the number of children in Maryland who enter kindergarten fully ready to learn.

With these better choices, we continue to get better results. Eighty-three percent of Maryland’s kindergarteners entered school lasts year fully ready to learn — that is up 38% (from 60%) since 2005. By opening more opportunities to more students, we’re going to build on this record of success and create a brighter, better future for our One Maryland.

Trees are the Answer

Ask a question about our environment – the Chesapeake Bay, air quality, wildlife habitat, even climate change – and more likely than not, trees are a big  part of the answer.

JW Parks EMS

Trees clean the air we breathe and filter the water we drink.  They provide homes for all types of birds and animals.  They help cool temperatures, reducing energy costs and the greenhouse gases caused by burning fossil fuels.  They beautify our neighborhoods and highways, increase property values, and contribute to safer communities.

Here in Maryland, we have worked hard to earn our reputation as leaders and innovators in forestry practices.  Citizens have planted and registered more than 110,000 trees through our Marylanders Plant Trees program, and that number continues to climb.  In the space three years the Maryland inmates’ Forest Brigade planted a record one million trees on public lands.   Students are now planting buffers along stream sides near their schools, through the Stream Restoration Challenge.

Last year, our General Assembly passed a no-net-loss of forest law, first-of-its-kind legislation committing us to maintaining or expanding our current 40 percent tree canopy.  Last month, we launched Lawn to Woodland, a program to provide free trees, planting and technical services for landowners who agree to convert one to four acres of unused lawn to forest cover.

Still, with so much progress, challenges remain, especially when it comes to our urban tree canopy – street trees and patch forests located in and around our cities.  Wednesday we celebrated Arbor Day in Maryland and on Friday, I met with more than 20 experts on this critical issue, including representatives from municipal governments, non-governmental organizations and State agencies. Together we identified a host of opportunities for escalating doing more and doing better.

Because this work is happening at every level, we agreed on the urgent need to develop a cohesive statewide strategy for protecting and expanding our urban tree cover. Standards, specifications, performance measures, monitoring requirements and protection ordinances will be key components of our overall new common platform.  And I committed to using State resources – BayStat, the Cabinet at large, and our mapping technologies – to help get us there.

Additional grow-out stations managed by Maryland inmates can help us meet the demand for native species, the trees that are best suited to perform environmental services here.  Increasing incentives – coupons, free trees, planting assistance and technical advice – will help us engage more citizens. Targeting priority neighborhoods and committing to maintenance for at least the first two growing seasons can significantly improve the survival rate of new trees.  And of course, at the crux of every environmental effort is encouraging citizen stewardship — individuals taking action toward the common good.

Parks and People Roundtable Discussion on Urban Trees

All this talk of trees reminds me of an experience I had a long time ago, when a friend showed me an enormous pine tree on his family’s property.

“It’s hard to believe that grew from a Christmas tree we replanted one year,” he said.

Awed by tree’s size and stature, I had to ask, “How does that make you feel?”

I will never forget his response.

“It makes me feel like I should have planted more trees.”

As Marylanders, we take pride in working together to create a smarter, greener more sustainable state.  Planting and maintaining trees are by far the easiest, least expensive and longest lasting contributions we can make. And I hope you will join us as this conversation continues and our work progresses.

New Data Indicates Reduction in Uncompensated Care from Affordable Care Act

We are three days away from the end of Maryland Health Connection’s first open enrollment period, and as Governor O’Malley announced today, more than 270,000 Marylanders have enrolled in coverage – either in private health plans or Medicaid. I want to personally thank the hundreds of consumer assistance workers who are logging long hours to help everyone who still wants to enroll.

Among the 270,000 are 96,000 Marylanders who transitioned from limited benefits under the Primary Adult Care program, to full-benefit Medicaid coverage as part of the Affordable Care Act Medicaid expansion. This means that, in addition to some basic and preventive care benefits, these Marylanders now have coverage for a full range of health care services – including hospital services.

Just this morning, the Health Services Cost Review Commission sent me an analysis of the cost of uncompensated hospital care in fiscal year 2013 for these 96,000 Marylanders who are now enrolled in Medicaid, but weren’t last year.

That amount was $164.4 million. That means that Maryland hospitals provided $164.4 million worth of care last year for which they were not directly paid.

Instead, this care was funded by a surcharge on every single hospital bill in the state. That is, the rest of us covered the cost through higher insurance premiums and higher hospital bills.

The data shows just how important the Medicaid expansion is, not only for those who are now covered, but for the long-term affordability of our healthcare system for businesses and families.

PAC Enrollees Who Received Hospital Care, FY 2013

3-28-2014 Blog Chart

Everyone who needs coverage should visit to get started or finish an application or call 1-855-642-8572 for assistance.

Congressman Cummings and Governor O’Malley will host a healthcare enrollment fair March 29, 2014, at the Baltimore Convention Center, 1 West Pratt Street, from 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM.

Working Together to End Childhood Hunger

Across the country today, schools and school nutrition personnel are celebrating National School Breakfast Week, an opportunity to shine a light on the importance of school breakfast and its role in preparing our students to learn each morning.  In Maryland, while we have made record investments in our public schools and worked to ensure that our educators are prepared to teach students to succeed in a 21st Century economic climate, this week also serves as an important reminder that all of those efforts are for nothing if we are unable to meet one of a child’s most basic needs: proper nutrition.

When the O’Malley-Brown Administration launched the Partnership to End Childhood Hunger in Maryland in 2008, we did so because we believed that it was within our capacity and our compassion as Marylanders to ensure that no child goes hungry in this state. Recognizing that hunger can manifest itself in our youngest citizens in so many different ways, including in our classrooms, we have implemented a variety of strategies to increase school breakfast participation in an effort to ensure that children who may arrive at school without eating breakfast at home are still equipped to succeed.

Schools throughout Maryland have worked with us to introduce new methods of serving breakfast, allowing students to eat together in the classroom or stop by a central kiosk to pick up a breakfast on the way to first period. With a diverse group of partners, from non-profits to members of the private sector, we have come together to ensure more than 63,000 additional children are now receiving a free or reduced-price breakfast at school each morning, an increase of 74 percent.

Now, other states are beginning to take notice, looking to Maryland as a leader in the effort to address childhood hunger.  The state-funded Maryland Meals for Achievement program has come to serve as a national model for states seeking to close the participation gap in the School Breakfast Program, and according to the Food Research and Action Center, Maryland’s growth rate in school breakfast participation has been amongst the top five states in the country the last two years, one of only two states to achieve that feat.

The March issue of Governing magazine recognizes Maryland’s accomplishments in the work to connect children with nutrition resources, but perhaps more importantly, our willingness to set ending childhood hunger as a policy goal and to hold ourselves accountable to that goal through StateStat.  It is due to this consistent evaluation of our efforts that we can tell you not only how far we have come, but also helps us identify the work we have left to do.

In the words of Frederick Douglass, “it is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”  Here in Maryland, we have made a commitment to ensuring every child is strong and free from the effects of hunger. Together we can continue to lead the way in addressing issues that truly matter.

To find out more about our efforts to end childhood hunger in Maryland, visit

Aiding and Abetting Bad Behavior

Chesapeake Bay Pic 2014-03-04 (Compressed)

The Chesapeake Bay is not only an essential natural resource for Maryland, but also for the United States. It is a recognized national treasure. Here in our great State, we’ve taken on this moral imperative by making a commitment to restore the Bay and ensure that it’s an economically and ecologically viable resource for our children and our grandchildren. We have made these commitments in partnership with the other jurisdictions of the Bay’s watershed.

Maryland, Virginia, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia and the federal government are, together, committed to restoring and protecting our nation’s largest estuary.

Despite the pressures that come with population growth and the challenges of economic crises, we have made great progress in conserving thousands of acres of land, reducing levels of harmful nutrient pollution, providing farmers with millions of dollars to implement water quality protection practices. But we still have more work to do.

Now, our years of hard work and partnership efforts are being challenged and threatened by other states objecting to what we have done and plan to do to preserve and protect the Chesapeake Bay.

Recently, the Attorneys General of twenty-one states sued to stop the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from working with Maryland and the other Bay watershed states to restore the Chesapeake Bay. While Maryland certainly wouldn’t consider fighting Florida’s efforts to restore the Everglades or Utah’s efforts to protect the Great Salt Lake, they seem more than willing to challenge our efforts to restore the Chesapeake.

Quite frankly, we do not appreciate their trespassing on our turf.

We are part of the most ambitious, scientifically-driven ecosystem clean-up effort in the nation if not the world.  We are working across a watershed of 64,000 square miles to stop polluted runoff from extinguishing our fisheries, suffocating our oysters, and making our waters unswimmable.  With wastewater treatment plants incorporating state of the art technology, local governments controlling stormwater runoff, citizens limiting fertilizer applications on their lawns, and farmers planting cover crops, we are taking action to restore the Chesapeake.

Other ecosystem restoration efforts can learn a lot from Maryland’s work on the Chesapeake Bay. We know that there is a vital link between how we use our land and the condition of our waters.  We cannot become more prosperous if we are not more mindful of the other living systems upon which our prosperity depends.

What good is it for us to spur innovation or make the next major biotechnology discovery if we no longer have a Chesapeake Bay or a Red River? A Lake Michigan or a Missouri River? If we can’t swim or fish in our waters? If we no longer have clean air to breathe? If sea-level rise destroys that which we have fought to preserve?

The urgent transformation of the Chesapeake Bay is not just about Maryland or even just the United States. It’s about all of us. We need to move from global economies of depletion to local economies of regeneration.

The leaders of these twenty-one states who want to stop the work of Maryland, its sister states, the District of Columbia, and EPA on restoring the Chesapeake Bay could better spend their time preserving the waters in their own backyards.  Stop aiding and abetting the polluters who want to prevent us from bringing back the Bay to the glory that we know it offers our citizens.  Rather than standing in our way, we encourage them to join us in doing more, together, for the future of our children and for our planet.

Please join the tens of thousands of Marylanders who have voiced their support of the EPA and Bay states efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay by clicking here.

An Economy with a Human Purpose

state of state photo

Maryland’s Nation-Leading Progress

Yesterday, Governor O’Malley delivered his eighth State of the State address, focused on our work as a State over the last seven years to be fiscally-responsible, strengthen and grow our middle class and create jobs for more Maryland families.

Throughout the speech, the Governor spoke about a central pillar to our progress as a State: accountability.  He pointed out that the test of any policy, action, or expenditure has been whether or not it is actually working to produce the intended results.

We see the results of that test in the presence of a Maryland family, an Eastern Shore manufacturer, and a community college president, all of whom have benefited from strategic policy actions established just last year: The Veteran’s Full Employment Act and the EARN Maryland Program.

Better Choices for Families

Sandra Rolph, an active-duty Army nurse, came to Maryland with her husband, Rob and daughter, Megan, from North Carolina, where she was previously stationed.  They chose Maryland for the top-rated schools, but Rob faced challenges using his master electrician’s license in their new home state.  Their situation was further complicated by their daughter’s fight against Lupus, an autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body, including skin, joints, and/or organs inside the body.

The Veteran’s Full Employment Act ensures that we do right by veterans who sacrificed so much for us overseas, by removing the bureaucratic barriers to full employment here at home.  Thanks to the VFEA, which covers veterans and their spouses, Rob secured his Master Electrician License in just two days.  The license enabled Rob to have a schedule flexible enough for him to take Megan to critical doctors appointments during the day.  Today, Megan is enjoying her junior year in Montgomery County Public Schools and their family is thriving.

The Right to EARN

In a presentation on income disparities yesterday, Mark Zandi, a nationally-recognized voice in economics, cited strategic partnerships and skills training as essential tools to growing local economies and addressing income disparities.  On the Eastern Shore, we’re taking charge of jobs training programs by directly connecting employers, community colleges and worker advocate groups in partnership.  The EARN (Employment Advancement Right Now) program equips students at community colleges such as Chesapeake College with training tailored to the needs of manufacturers like Cambridge International.  Strategic collaborations like EARN empower Marylanders with the skills they need to find family-sustaining jobs in our new economy.

Our Work Continues

While we’ve made tremendous progress, there’s still more work to be done to honor the dignity of Maryland families.  That work continues in our mission to raise the minimum wage; together, we can forge consensus and continue to grow Maryland’s economy from the middle out.

Realizing the Dream

Biotechnical Institute of Maryland

Today I join the people of Maryland, and the entire nation, in celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life. Dr. King’s enduring legacy of fighting for civil rights, workers’ rights, and economic justice was written in far too short a time, but we strive to carry on his memory and work every day here in the State of Maryland.

In the speech that changed the course of our history, Dr. King spoke of a nation where many lived “on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.”

Too many of our people are still stranded on that island.  In recent decades, we’ve seen people work harder and harder, only to fall further and further behind — while, at the same time, incomes in the top 1 percent have skyrocketed.

The way we grow our country and the way we grow our economy is to grow our middle class.

If workers don’t have money, businesses won’t have customers.  Better pay for workers means more consumer demand.  More consumer demand means more customers for businesses.  And more customers for our businesses mean a better and stronger economy.

We have an opportunity here in Maryland to do something that makes a difference.  It makes a difference in putting food on the table.  It makes a difference for kids and their moms and dads to be able to put a roof over their heads.

This year, we are taking an important step to grow our middle class and reward hard work: passing a $10.10 minimum wage and indexing it to inflation.  Twenty-one states have minimum wages higher than Maryland’s—while we have the highest median income in the country, and one of the most highly educated workforces.

This effort is important to protecting the dignity of hard-working Marylanders who are more productive than they’ve ever been, yet are falling further behind.  And it’s important to a strong economy.  A thriving middle class isn’t a consequence of growth…it’s the source of growth.

With his life and his words, Dr. King called us to action.  The work he set in motion is not finished.  The dream is not yet realized.

But we are united in our belief in the dignity of work, the dignity of home, and the dignity of every individual. We have a shared belief that each of us can make a difference and that all of us must try.  We believe that our children deserve a future of more opportunity, not less.