Good morning. What a wonderful way to kick off a gorgeous Autumn Friday in Ocean City. Thank you. Thank you Clara Floyd for that kind introduction and for your leadership on behalf of our children.
That’s who we’re here for today. That’s who we get out of bed for in the morning. And that’s who we all fought for last year on the campaign trail.
Friends, Martin O’Malley and I are eternally grateful for your support; for your commitment to restoring a dialogue of progress in State government; for your partnership in a brighter – in every sense of the word – future for our students.
And in the spirit of this celebration of solidarity – in the spirit of shared progressive priorities – let us remember that there is far more in this world that unites us than divides us; That our children’s success is not a partisan desire.
We share values that see the dignity in every person, including and especially the most vulnerable among us – our children, grandchildren and theirs. They’re values that teach us the work we do today is measured by the ability of future generations to get ahead. They’re values that embrace our diversity as our greatest strength. And they are values that guide our goals for progress.
Our work in Annapolis has been focused, from the day our campaign started nearly two years ago, on three goals. Three goals which serve as the framework for all the daily decisions we’re forced to make. Goals aimed to return progress to Maryland.
First: To strengthen and grow our middle class and support family-owned business and family-own farms.
Second: To improve public safety and public education.
And, lastly: To expand opportunity to more Marylanders – opportunities to learn, to earn and to enjoy the health of the people they love as well as the health of our environment.
And with those goals in mind, Governor O’Malley led Maryland out of the woods of stalled leadership. He reopened the lines of communication between the Executive Branch and the General Assembly and has allowed us to again build upon the strengths of our state and start moving us forward again.
In ensure our continued success and to remain the envy of our sister states, we must advance along three fronts:
Sustainability – preserving the air, the water, land of our fragile environment…
Security integration – coordinating our various criminal justice systems to work cohesively as a unit across county, departmental and even state lines…
And workforce creation, a topic I’d like to take just a few minutes to discuss.
We are a state of many dichotomies. At the same time that Maryland ranks first in Federal research grants, first in advanced degree attainment, and first in per capita wealth; one out of five Maryland adults are functionally illiterate. Our future deserves more.
At the same time that we rank first in the number of people over 25 with bachelor’s degrees, more than 600,000 Marylanders over 18 lack a high school diploma. Our future deserves more.
As BRAC delivers thousands of high-paying, high-skilled jobs to our state, we struggle to retain and recruit the best teachers and the best principals. Our future deserves more.
And while our unemployment rate is nearly a full percentage point below the national average, we are having trouble meeting many of our workforce needs. Our future deserves more.
We recognize that our workers need skills and that our employers need a trained workforce. And we understand the important role you play in that training. That’s why – because of your help and your leadership – we successfully increased funding for K-12 education by $580 million. That’s why we could dedicate $400 million for school construction. And that’s why we made a promise to your students and our children to build upon the work you’ve done, to build upon your example and dedication to learning:
We increased funding for community colleges by 16 percent – the largest single-year increase any of us can remember – and we froze tuition at our four-year schools so hard-working students aren’t taxed by their pursuit of knowledge.
Still, we recognize we need to do more. We need smaller class sizes and better pay for teachers. We need continued excellence that starts in Pre-K and carries through college and beyond. We need stronger career technical training at our middle and high schools. And we need to do more to support adult education and distance learning opportunities to bring greater progress and prospect to all parts of Maryland.
Friends, we’ve come a long way in the last 10 months. We are moving forward again and we’ve made great progress – progress that will open new opportunities to working families and their children; progress that reflects our values, our vision, and our hope and optimism for the future; progress that we must continue to fight for. And it’s progress that is being threatened.
Friends, you helped Governor O’Malley and I get where we are. You provided the muscle, the army of volunteers that got us through the coldest nights and the hottest days. The muscle and people-power that allowed us to pass the single largest increase in funding for K-12 education in state history – $580 million.
I was there when we started the fight for Thornton, with you by our side. And it’s a fight we’d take up again, I’m certain. Look at the results – scores have gone up ever year at every grade level in both math and reading.
Thorton is an investment that is bearing fruit – an investment worth protecting and making sustainable into the future.
Friends, we need your help again. We need your support, your strength and your solidarity to help us get Maryland back on a path prolonged progress.
We inherited a $1.4 billion structural deficit from the previous administration – a budget that was balanced in name only; balanced on the backs of working families; duct-taped together with tuition increases, tolls, levies and the robbing of transportation and education funding.
That $1.4 billion deficit we inherited in January is now a $1.7 billion deficit. And if we wait until next year, it’ll be a $2.3 billion deficit to which the solution will be far more devastating, far more draconian, and far more painful to our teachers, to our families, and, most importantly, to our students.
But we can’t allow ourselves to get caught in the middle of a blame game. We can’t simply fold the hand we were dealt. We’re all in this together and these times call for leadership.
We introduced a fiscally-responsible budget just 10 days after taking office – a budget that increased less than the rate of inflation and less than 9 of the last 10 budgets. We established StateStat to restore efficiency and accountability to state government. We reduced spending by $280 million earlier this year. And, starting at the end of last month, Governor O’Malley rolled out a comprehensive, responsible, long-term budget package that is fair to working families.
It’s a solution that will provide a majority of Marylanders with the modest tax-relief they need; that will maintain our commitment to public education, public safety, and public health; that allows us, for the first time in state history, begin the complete phase-in of the Geographic Cost of Education Index.
Friends, we understand some of you may have your concerns. Some of you may caution us against our proposal to temporarily delay the inflator in Thornton. And we understand those concerns and the Governor and I, and our staffs, are engaged in open, helpful, productive communication with MSTA. But, friends, let us look at the alternatives. Let us, for a minute, discuss the consequences of doing nothing.
We could default to the past. We could go back on Thornton. We could abandon our promise to our children – more students stuck in temporary learning shacks; cuts to teacher pay; larger class sizes. That’s the alternative we face if we’re not successful.
That’s not the future Martin O’Malley articulated last year. That’s not the future I envision for my children, nor is it the future you envision for yours.
Friends, we’re asking you to look at the entire package. Our plan continues to increase funding for K-12 education - $119 million next year. Our plan funds GCEI. Our plan preserves our competitive edge with our neighboring states.
We can’t afford to be anything short of successful. We can’t afford the Republican’s solution – a $600 million cut to Thornton – a cut we all fought against last year; a cut that would fail our children on a social and a moral level.
Our efforts won’t be easy, nor should they – lasting progress rarely is.
So we look to you with optimism and confidence that we can come together and move Maryland toward greater progress. We look to you because we need your help.
Friends, your delegates and your senators are coming back to work at the end of the month. Get them on the phone, get them in their office and let them know our children’s futures are too valuable to be used as ideological poker chips. Let them know it is time to come together, in the spirit of One Maryland, to pass a long-term, modern, comprehensive budget package. And let them know you won’t stand for anything less than an open mind to progress and a willingness to form consensus.
We are, in the all-to-true sense of the phrase, at our strongest when we are united. Let’s stand together as One Maryland and keep our great state moving forward…