State of the State Address

January 23, 2008



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 Smithburg 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.

My friends, over the last year four State and local law enforcement officers and one firefighter gave their lives in the line of duty. And twenty 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. 

Thank you.  Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, Mr. Chief Judge, Mr. Attorney General, Mr. Comptroller, Madam Treasurer, Mayor of the District of Columbia Adrian Fenty, former Governors, former Attorney General Joseph Curran, Judge Katie O'Malley, Ambassador Collins, Ambassador Bruton, my colleagues in local Government, men and women of the Maryland General Assembly, my fellow citizens.

We gather today in the very building where, since Revolutionary times, generation after generation, the people of our State have come to assess our strengths and our weaknesses as a community and to decide how we will overcome the challenges of our times. 

The most important days are not always the easy days, but time and time 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 we are faced with times of great adversity. 

For these reasons Maryland has been a strong State and, in many respects, we're 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 hardworking and loving families that we have the honor and the responsibility to represent in this place. 

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 very, very hard to achieve. 

And 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 risen by just about 1 percent.  And, unfortunately, as all of us know, all of the other essential things that a family needs to survive have grown by a lot more than just 1 percent, haven't they?

Over the last seven years the price of a gallon of milk is up 30 percent, the price of a loaf of bread is up 20 percent, and yet real wages have only increased by 1 percent.  The price of a gallon of gasoline, up 100 percent over those last several years.  The price of health insurance is up 78 percent and yet real wages have increased in our nation by only about 1 percent. 

Our families are struggling to get ahead, our parents are working harder and harder as national forces and trends keep pulling them back.  A dollar that's being devalued by huge mounting national debt, rising unemployment in the nation, and look at the foreclosures -- unprecedented in modern times. 

Home foreclosures in our State alone are up 600 percent since last year.  And, of course, we didn't need those numbers to tell us that, did we?  We can see it in the eyes of the people that we serve, we can hear it in their voices.  People are concerned, and rightly so.

No wonder then that so many of us were frustrated when in the midst of this national economic downturn we were also forced to confront a long-neglected 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 that we get through this, the way that we get through these tough times together and the way that we get through them more quickly than other States in the union is not by abandoning our priorities, but by protecting our priorities. 

The Priorities That Unite Us in Maryland

The most important things in life are not always the easy days, but our State has weathered difficult times before and we're going to weather these difficult times now. 

And we're going to come through this more quickly than other States, but only if we can continue to protect the priorities of our people, to protect and strengthen our middle class, our family-owned businesses and our family farms.  To protect our communities so that we can improve public safety and public education in every 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 environment that we love, the Bay that we love – for more people rather than fewer.

Yes, to get through these tough times, my friends, 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's not easy and even when it's not politically popular. 

Restoring Fiscal Responsibility

At this same time last year you will recall that days after officially inheriting a crushing deficit, this new administration presented a budget to you that had been cut by $400 million.  Months later, we cut another $280 million out of that budget.  And over the last few months of important work, we were able to reduce spending growth by another $552 million.

The budget that we have now presented to you for consideration for this upcoming year actually comes in, for the second year in a row, under spending affordability.  And because of the $1.2 billion in cuts and spending reductions and because of the other difficult choices on revenues, we are able now 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 and we can stand up this year to end the fast track to foreclosure that has been allowed to exist in the law in Maryland and we can also help thousands of families slipping into foreclosure. (Applause)

We can also hold the line against the rising cost of college tuition.  Hardworking families in Maryland should be able to send their kids to schools in Maryland.  Don't you think?

Joining us in the gallery is a young man, returning Marine, proud son of our State, and he's going to be able to attend the University of Maryland College Park and he's going to be using the Veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq Scholarship Program that you created.  He has returned home, completing his third tour of duty for us in Iraq and he's with us.  I'd like you to acknowledge his presence here and the service of United States Marine Lance Corporal Will Amos.  (Applause)

It's all about protecting the priorities of our people and we have now the ability to do that. And we also have the ability to make our Government work again.  And to make our Government work on behalf of the best interest of the people of our State and that's what we're going to do. 

The people of our State deserve a State Government that works as hard as they do.

Working For a Stronger Maryland

Last year, we implemented performance-measured management and accountability on a level never before attempted in any other State, with the creation of StateStat. Today, 13 different departments or agencies are now participating in performance-measured Government in order to improve efficiency and service delivery for the people of our State.

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 on security.  We're not there yet, but one year later I can tell you that our port, the closest deep-water port to our nation's capital, is more secure, is better prepared and also better equipped to deal with threats than we were at this same time last year.  And I ask for your continued support as we bring in the best minds from around the country to take us to that next level of preparedness. 

Last year, we announced the formation of the BRAC subcabinet, led by Lt. Governor Anthony Brown.  And since that time, after countless meetings and collaborations with businesses and military leaders, with our congressional delegations and leaders of our towns and our cities and our counties, Lt. Governor Brown has allowed us not only to come together to publish a BRAC Action Plan for harnessing the opportunity of the thousands of jobs that are going to be coming to Maryland in the years ahead, but because of your help in restoring fiscal responsibility, we're now going to be able to make substantial progress towards implementing that plan.

Last year, this administration pledged to develop a statewide vision for transportation and because of the tough choices that you made, we are actually going to be able to move forward with making that vision happen.  Moving forward with action.  Action like resurfacing portions of I-58 and I-81 in Western Maryland.

Forward with the next phase of widening U.S. 113 on the Eastern Shore and the planning study to improve traffic flow and safety near Ocean Pines.  And in Southern Maryland, we're moving forward with major improvements in the Waldorf area. 

We will also move forward with a more balanced plan of action for the next generation of mass transit in Maryland. (Applause)

Like expanded MARC service, dedicated funding for Metro and also the next steps in creating the Purple Line and the corridor city transit roads. (Applause) 

And in Baltimore, Mayor Dixon will be moving forward with the Red and Green lines in Baltimore. (Applause) 

Last year, we also pledged to roll up our sleeves together to find ways to bring the rising costs of health care under control, while improving access for our people.  And the Health Care Reform Act, which you passed two months ago, will ultimately allow us to cover more than 100,000 Marylanders who currently don't have insurance.  (Applause)

And why is that important?  Well, it's important on a whole number of levels.  Certainly important for those 100,000 Marylanders and their families, but it's also important because it allows us to expand access to preventive care, which will, in turn, allow us to stabilize costs and provide incentives for many small family-owned businesses for the first time who want to join the ranks of the insured in our State.  Thank you, Delegate Hammen and Senator Middleton for your hard work on that.  (Applause)

Last year we also vowed to use Open Space dollars for the purchase of open space. But we started to do some other things as well.  We started to apply performance-measured management to the huge challenge of cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay with BayStat.  Hundreds of years ago, John Smith made the first map of the Chesapeake Bay; we're constructing the second one.  And this one will be a map that's parcelized, it allows GPS and that sort of coordination to bring together all of the efforts of agriculture, DNR, Department of Environment, Planning, and county governments in order to see what we are doing in this critical Bay watershed and how we can do a better job of restoring her health.

We have more cover crop enrollments than ever before, while continuing oyster restoration efforts to help the Bay and our watermen.  And with your creation of the Chesapeake Bay Trust Fund, we can do even more in the upcoming year.

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