Governor Martin O'Malley Delivers Third State of the State Address
Address focuses on protecting progress in public education, a strong safety net for families in tough economic times, improved public safety
ANNAPOLIS, MD (January 29, 2009) – Governor Martin O’Malley today delivered the 2009 State of the State address to the citizens of Maryland and the Maryland General Assembly. In his address, Governor O’Malley focused on the need to protect our shared priorities and strengthen Maryland’s safety net for families in need during these tough economic times.
The Governor was joined by Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, Congresswoman Donna Edwards, House Speaker Michael Busch, Senate President Mike Miller, State Treasurer Nancy Kopp, Comptroller Peter Franchot, Attorney General Doug Gansler, members of the General Assembly, members of the Executive Cabinet, honored guests and Maryland citizens for this third State of the State address.
“I would like to talk with you about our hard-won progress, the serious economic challenges at hand, and the choices and actions we must take today in order to stand up for the families of our State in these tough economic times,” said Governor O’Malley. “Finally, I want to talk with you about how, together, we will emerge from this recession with the real hope of a better future for all of Maryland’s children.”
“Thanks to the tough decisions we’ve made together over these last two years, the state of our State is once again strong enough to overcome the very challenging times at hand,” Governor O’Malley continued. “And with the inspired leadership of our new President Barack Obama, we finally have a federal partner who shares our commitment to progress.”
Noting that it is easy to overlook the progress we’ve made as One Maryland in a national recession this severe, Governor O’Malley outlined Maryland’s “measures of progress,” including:
- Maryland’s second largest single-year homicide reduction in 25 years with 66 fewer murders, 34 fewer fire deaths; and 60 fewer lives lost on our roads to traffic accidents last year.
- Expansion of affordable healthcare to 100,000 additional Maryland families;
- Conservation of nearly 21,000 ecologically valuable acres through Program Open Space – quintupling Maryland’s progress by more than 16,000 acres versus the previous administration; and
- Four straight years of zero percent increase for in-state college tuition, expanding affordable higher education to more Marylanders rather than fewer;
“We measure our progress in education by the number one ranking we received this year from Education Week Magazine. Let’s say it again shall we? Maryland has the best public schools in America,” Governor O’Malley declared. “Thank you Armistead Gardens – last year’s highest scoring elementary math class in Baltimore City – for being here to represent the generation which makes us so proud.”
In the midst of the most serious economic crisis in a generation, Governor O’Malley addressed the challenges that lie ahead for maintaining and expanding upon the progress we’ve made as a State by reading from letters he’s received from citizens struggling to make ends meet, including “Sandra” in Alleghany County:
“I have been blessed in many ways living in Maryland,... [but] I’m at a loss as to how I can keep a warm home and the food in my refrigerator properly cool with the high cost of electricity,” the letter read. “…I know you are working hard, but the situation is getting downright heart wrenching. What can you do to prevent my son and I from becoming homeless due to electricity?”
In his address, Governor O’Malley outlined ways Maryland has begun to protect working families during these difficult times:
- Passed what the Washington Post called “among the most sweeping [reforms] in the country” to help Maryland’s most vulnerable neighbors, assembled more than 700 volunteer lawyers to aid at-risk homeowners, and negotiated agreements with six loan servicers to help borrowers and lenders find alternatives to foreclosure;
- Created 33 One Stop Centers which provide résumé, computer training, and job search services;
- Expanded opportunity to more women and minority business owners by increasing State awards to MBE firms; and
- Recovered $1.2 million in unpaid wages owed to Maryland workers and passed the nation’s first living wage law.
Noting that there is still significant work to do, Governor O’Malley cited ways the General Assembly can help protect Maryland’s priorities and continue the progress already made:
“Our great challenge for this session is to redouble our efforts doing all that we can to stand up for Maryland families and to power through the other side of this recession ahead of other states,” said Governor O’Malley, outlining specific areas where the General Assembly can act to protect Maryland’s progress:
- Provide a record $132 million in State funding to assist more than 125,000 Marylanders who are struggling to afford their heating bills this cold winter;
- Invest $15 million to assist small businesses with obtaining health care coverage for their employees and keep 700,000 Marylanders insured by investing $5.5 billion in Medicaid and the Maryland Children’s Health Program;
- Support a legislative initiative expanding unemployment benefits to part-time workers who lose their job;
- Crack down on the shameful practice of cheating workers out of rights and benefits by fraudulently misclassifying employees as independent contractors;
- Guarantee a prevailing wage to workers on 118 more state-sponsored construction projects; and
- Give State workers the right to organize themselves by passing Fair Share enabling legislation.
Despite challenging economic times, Governor O’Malley’s proposed FY2010 budget includes modest increases in key priority areas, K-12 public education and school construction, higher education, public safety, and the health of Maryland’s future – our children and our environment. Governor O’Malley addressed these areas during his address citing the need to protect these key areas of Maryland’s future.
Public Education and School Construction
“In tough times we are investing $5.4 billion in K-12 education; and we’re investing more than one billion dollars over three years in school construction. Our children, teachers and parents have given us a strong return on our investments – the best public school system in America,” said Governor O’Malley as he introduced the fifth grade class of Armistead Gardens Elementary School, last year’s highest scoring elementary math class in Baltimore City.
“There is no single investment we can make that expands opportunity to more Marylanders like the investments we make to put the dreams of a college education within the grasp of more hard-working Maryland families,” said Governor O’Malley as he introduced two University of Maryland seniors who, due to four straight years of zero percent increase in college tuition, will graduate from college without a penny increase in their tuition. “This isn’t merely about trying to move up in some ranking, or generating another clip for a scrap book; this is about investing in our future.”
“This year we need to focus on the things that actually save lives in Maryland and prevent violent crime like solving crimes with better technology, better law enforcement coordination, better re-entry programs and better parole, probation and juvenile services. There is no reason why one of the smartest and most compassionate states in the union should content itself with being one of the most violent states in the union,” Governor O’Malley said. In the House Chambers for the Governor’s address was Benjamin R. Civiletti, former U.S. Attorney General and Chair of the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment whose final report recently recommended abolition of the death penalty in Maryland, a measure supported by a bill introduced this session by the O’Malley-Brown Administration.
Health of Maryland’s Future
“Let this year be the year that our great State becomes the first in the nation to humbly acknowledge this important duality,” said Governor O’Malley, referring to the interrelated challenges of protecting the health of Maryland’s children and its environment. “Not only by pledging to redouble our efforts on land, water, and air to save the Chesapeake Bay, but let this also be the year that we together become the first State in the union to commit ourselves to eradicating childhood hunger by 2015 through the Maryland Partnership to End Childhood Hunger. This is not a pipe dream or the stuff of old songs. It is a matter of choosing and doing. Not only do we have a President and a Congress who want to help, but more importantly, we serve a people who want to help.”
Governor O’Malley concluded his address with a reference to this challenging but hopeful time in America’s history:
“For there is a truth that thundered across the Mall in Washington, DC last week, and we hear it rumbling still – a growing and renewed sense of hope and optimism, based on the values of our community and our sense of personal responsibility. A reaffirmation that we are all in this together, and that tough times don’t last but tough people do,” Governor O’Malley concluded. “The road is steep, but our legs are strong. And just as our challenges cannot be underestimated, neither can our strengths.”