Thank you for providing me an opportunity to share my perspective on two significant policy issues facing Maryland: our fiscal outlook and growth and development related to BRAC. I frequently begin my remarks, regardless of the audience, regardless of the issue, by boldly stating a Maryland fact: Maryland is the greatest State in the Nation.
And we are because of two important facts: First, our proximity to the nation’s capital and the benefits that flow from our relationship with the federal government. And second, we have made important decisions at important times in our State’s history to invest in ourselves – Program Open Space, Transportation Trust Fund, Thornton.
We’ve made these investments because we understand that strong communities are built, they are not born. Strong communities, like ours in Maryland, are built from the down payments that are made in human capital and the investments that are made in physical and public infrastructure.
Martin O’Malley and I ran for office to maintain that strong community. And to do that we set three simple, yet ambitious goals: To strengthen and grow our middle class; To improve public safety and public education; To expand opportunity to more Marylanders.
During the last full General Assembly session, we made many of the necessary investments to meet those goals: We set aside $400 million for K-12 school construction; We increased funding for public K-12 education by $580 million, the largest increase in Maryland history.
And we rejuvenated a lagging commitment to higher education – a 17 percent increase in state support to our community colleges; increased funding for higher education by $113 million; and we froze tuition at Maryland’s public colleges and universities.
And we did it while at the same time restoring accountability and efficiency to state government. Within days of assuming office, we introduced a fiscally-sound budget that grew at a lower rate than inflation. We implemented State Stat, a performance-based measurement of government, to track and relentlessly follow up on government efficiency and effectiveness. And we reduced spending by $280 million, within five months of taking office and before we even considered calling the special session that recently convened in Annapolis to solve Maryland’s structural deficit.
Yet, we still faced a $1.7 billion budget deficit that was standing in the path of our continued progress, of our ability to pursue our goals for Maryland.
Governor O’Malley called a special session of the General Assembly and asked the legislature to find consensus around a comprehensive solution – including further adjustments to spending; revising our personal and corporate income tax; increasing the sales tax; providing property and other tax relief to seniors, low-income Marylanders and the middle class; and expanding gaming (or slots) in Maryland.
During those three weeks, we accomplished more than anyone thought possible, and more than many governments achieve in four years.
While the Governor’s proposal was amended by the legislature, the final product, which was signed into law eight days ago, got Maryland back on the path to making progress. What did we accomplish?
We are back on a path to progress. We are in a strong position to continue the work we are asked to do. And we now have the long-term stability to invest in our human capital and physical infrastructure to ensure that we stay ready for BRAC.
Two years ago, the Base Realignment and Closure Commission’s decisions resulted in Maryland assuming an even greater responsibility to our country. With the realignment of DoD missions and activities, Maryland has taken on an expanded role in our national security and homeland defense.
Many challenges come with this greater responsibility, and with these challenges also come more and exciting opportunities for our state. Our responsibility is enormous and Maryland is prepared for it. Our preparedness is based on the investments that we have made in ourselves over the years.
Maryland is ready for the single-largest job creation in our state since the end of World War II – as we create as many as 60,000 jobs in our state, as we welcome as many as 28,000 new households… new neighbors, new friends, new Marylanders.
Governor O’Malley, in partnership with the General Assembly, created the BRAC Subcabinet as part of this Administration’s priority agenda in January of this year. For the better part of five months, the Subcabinet traveled the state. We met with local officials and residents in the counties that will experience the greatest BRAC-related growth. We’ve covered a lot of ground. We’ve listened, learned and analyzed the terrain. And on December 17, we’ll present a comprehensive BRAC action plan to Gov. O’Malley that lays out a blue print for BRAC.
We recognize what’s on the horizon, what’s in store for Maryland come 2011. We understand our responsibility, and we’re ready.
In the coming years, we’ll build on the work that’s already been done.
We anticipate a major programmed investment of $370 million in the next five years to maintain MARC level of service and approximately $1 billion for expansion of services between now and 2015.
We’ll soon commission a study of MBE opportunities not only in State and federal procurement, but also in the multitude of private sector opportunities accompanying BRAC.
We’re developing new innovative programs in STEM, as well as recruiting the best teachers to deliver that instruction.
We’re establishing a competitive grant program for BRAC higher education initiatives.
We’re establishing BRAC-tailored “One-Stop” employment centers at the military facilities, realigning workforce and adult education to workforce creation, and streamlining Maryland’s occupational licensing requirements with those of BRAC “sending states” for employees transitioning to Maryland.
We’re ready because we are a strong state, our fundamentals are solid – the wealthiest state in the nation; the most educated state in the nation; a low employment rate that is nearly a full percentage below the national average. Because of our strength, our country can be confident in our success.
Still, we know that we must continue to work hard and work smart to maintain our readiness. And the plan that we present to Governor O’Malley next month is our playbook for the hard and smart work that lies ahead.
In the playbook, we lay out three specific legislative priorities:
The BRAC higher-education fund to promote educational and instructional programs in and around our BRAC communities.
A clarification on Enhanced Use Leases (EULs) that will provide more flexibility in balancing the needs of State and local governments to provide adequate infrastructure with the needs of private developers on the military installations.
And BRAC Zone legislation that will offer tax incentives to individuals and businesses who choose to locate to priority areas in Maryland such as our already developed communities such as Baltimore City.
As we move forward toward complete BRAC readiness, there are three things to remember:
First, Maryland has been successful in the past with a BRAC expansion – Patuxent Naval Air Station in Southern Maryland in the mid 1990s.
Second, while BRAC represents the single-largest component of our growth over the next several years, it makes up only 15 percent of our total growth and expansion, we have a robust economy and strong communities, and those are the factors that attract people to Maryland.
And finally, the Governor and I made a promise to the people of Maryland when we were elected – a promise to make progress and build on our strengths to mold a stronger community and a stronger state. That’s a promise we intend to keep.
Thank you very much.