Maryland Economic Development Association Annual Legislative Conference Keynote Speech
January 14, 2010
It’s an honor to join you here today. To everyone with the Maryland Economic Development Association, let me just say that Anthony Brown and myself greatly appreciate the things that you are doing, day in and day out, to put our fellow citizens to work, and strengthen our economy.
I’m sure that no one needs to be reminded of the painful truth that despite signs our national economy is starting a slow turnaround, things are still very, very tough. There is not a day which goes by when I don’t speak to a businesses owner who is struggling to make payroll or keep the doors open, or a fellow citizen who’s been out of work for months and is now using credit cards to pay for simple auto repairs or rising health care expenses.
That’s why our urgent focus in this session and beyond has to be on creating jobs, protecting jobs, strengthening our small businesses, and creating the conditions which allow us to create and save jobs.
While none of us would say we are out of the woods yet, I’m able to report to you today that there is some encouraging economic news on the horizon. Our latest Board of Revenue Estimates show that things are starting to stabilize. Our rate of unemployment continues to be 26% lower than the national average. We’re able to face down this recession as one of only 7 states in America which continues to defend a Triple A Bond Rating – a seal of fiscal responsibility certified by all three major rating agencies.
And although we’ve lost jobs in the past year, only two other states have held onto their jobs as well as Maryland has in this recession, and we’re actually gaining jobs in some key sectors – sectors like Computer Systems Design where we’ve had the best growth in the United States of America.
When you consider all of this, and you consider that Education Week magazine says we have the #1 best public schools in America – and therefore we have one of America’s most highly skilled workforces – it’s clear that there isn’t a stronger ship in America’s fleet than the good ship Maryland.
None of this is a result of chance, it’s a result of choice – the tough choices we continue to make together in tough times. And if we’re going to power through this recession more quickly than other States, it’s going to be because we choose to focus on three big priorities. And what are they?
Jobs, Jobs, Jobs.
For everything that we’re trying to accomplish in this session and beyond, we’re asking the fundamental question: how does this help us create the conditions which create and protect jobs – and how does this connect to that big, overarching goal we continue to share of strengthening and growing the ranks of an increasingly diverse, upwardly mobile middle class – including our family businesses and farms.
We’d likely all agree that there is no government program that can be as effective as a job in helping a family put a roof over their head or send their kids to college.
Therefore we need all of you. Lt. Governor Brown and I can’t do this alone. We’re all in this together, and we continue to need your help in putting our citizens back to work, protecting the jobs we have, and creating the conditions that create jobs – things like advancing innovation and strengthening the skills of our workforce.
I want to talk to you today about some of the things we’re doing to support your efforts to create and save Maryland jobs – and some of the things we hope to have your help and support on in this upcoming session
Let me start with those two all important words which are fundamental to everything we are doing to create the conditions which allow us to create and protect jobs: fiscal responsibility.
Just three years ago, we were coming off a period in which state spending had climbed by more than 30%, our citizens were being asked to shell out for more than $3 billion in hidden taxes and fees, the Transportation Trust Fund and Program Open space were regularly raided to fill budget holes, and as a State, we had run up a structural deficit of $1.7 billion – even in easier economic times.
But we came together as One Maryland and put partisanship aside for citizenship. And by making a lot of tough decisions we’ve cut state spending by some $4.6 billion these past three years. In fact today, for the first time this side of the Great Depression, state spending is lower than it was four years ago. And at the same time, we’ve been able to strategically reform our state government, shrinking it by more than 3,300 positions and making it more accountable to the people it works for.
Because of these tough choices, we’ve been able to make progress toward the things that support jobs and opportunity – things like K-12 Education, college affordability, safer streets, and the advancement of innovation in areas like bioscience and green energy.
Creating the Conditions Which Create Jobs
Let me share with you a few details about three of the strategies we’re implementing – with your help – to create the conditions that are conducive to creating and protecting jobs.
First and foremost, we are working to strengthen the skills of our workforce and prepare our people for the challenges of the 21st century global economy. It’s not by chance, but by choice that we have the nation’s best public schools – the choices we’ve made together as One Maryland to make record investments in K-12 education – even in tough times.
What’s more, it’s not by chance but by choice that the University of Maryland is now ranked as the 8th best value in public education, when just four years ago it was ranked 18th. It’s because we’ve chosen together to be the only State in America to go not one, not two, not three, but four years in a row with no increase in in-state college tuition.
The Milken Institute ranks us #1 in America in the investments we make in the talents and skills of our people – and we’re working through things like our P-20 counsel to make sure we’re investing these resources in the right way – bringing stakeholders from businesses, education, and government out of their silos – making the connections which allow us to make progress.
We’re also putting a renewed priority on things like Career and Technology Education and STEM, Science Technology Engineering and Math – these areas where American students are falling behind other countries, but which we need our people to have so that we can compete in the new, increasingly information-based global economy.
Second, we’re working to support and grow the high-tech, high potential sectors of Maryland’s Innovation Economy – these areas which hold such create potential both for creating jobs and for revolutionizing the way we feed, fuel, and heal our fellow citizens across our planet – and our planet itself.
Earlier this week we announced a new strategy for supporting our emerging Cyber Security Sector. We believe that Maryland can be the Silicon Valley of this emerging field and in many ways we already are the national epicenter. This is a sector which has the potential to create tens of thousands of new Maryland jobs.
Through our Bio2020 initiative, we’re working to continue to grow our bioscience sector – with its vast job-creating potential and it’s potential for allowing us to proliferate what Dr. Jeffrey Sachs calls “weapons of mass salvation” – those new cures, treatments, and technologies which can save lives of our neighbors here in Maryland and our global neighbors in far off places halfway around the world.
Another area of Maryland’s innovation economy is our emerging green sector, where we’ve set the big goal of creating and protecting 100,000 green jobs by 2015. Whether it’s through our nation-leading climate change legislation or our push for the nation’s first cap-and-trade auction of greenhouse emissions credits, we’re leading the way in green here in Maryland, and it has a great potential not only to heal our planet but to help us reach our goals for creating and sustaining quality jobs.
Third, we’re working to strengthen the small and family-owned businesses which are the backbone of Maryland’s economy. In November, we rolled out our Ten Point Strategy for Strengthening Small Business, which is helping us better support our vital small businesses – where more than 60% of Marylanders go to work each day.
Jobs and the 2010 Session
That brings me to a few of the things we hope to have your help and support with this session.
To help strengthen our small businesses, we’re proposing immediate relief by shoring up our UI system, and concurrently, we are proposing the creation of a Maryland Small Business Credit Recovery Program, which will get businesses the credit they need to create and sustain jobs. No one here needs to be reminded that credit is the lifeblood of any business and when credit markets dry up, small businesses are often the first to be affected.
As a concurrent part of this strategy, we’re proposing a Job Creation Tax Credit to help more Marylanders get back to work, and off the unemployment rolls. It’s a $3,000 tax credit for each unemployed Marylander that a business hires. We believe this one-year initiative can put thousands of people in our state back to work.
And to drive progress toward the connected goals of supporting our construction industry, which had a very tough year, and strengthening our communities, we’re proposing a Sustainable Communities Tax Credit, which we believe will put Marylanders back to work rehabilitating sites in historic areas and main streets.
Throughout our great Revolutionary history, as Marylanders, we have always led the way in times of great adversity, setting an example for other states to rally round. We don’t make excuses, we make progress, progress that is the product not of chance, but of choice – oftentimes tough choices.
Our economic downturn is unlike anything we have faced in generations. But the challenges we are facing are also opening up our minds to the connections that are all around us – like the connections between difficult challenges and new, innovative solutions, and the connections between our individual efforts and the lives of our families and communities.
And our task is to strengthen those connections that drive progress in our state:
Connections which advance progress in science – that is, how do we figure out new ways to heal, to feed and to fuel this increasingly hot, crowded and flat world of ours?
Connections which advance progress in security, protecting our streets, our neighborhoods, protecting our people from pandemic challenges, protecting our homeland from threats old and new.
Connections which advance progress in the skills and education of our people. This is surely the foundation of primary ingredients of why we are in a better competitive position that other states in the Union.
Science, security, skills, new ideas for new jobs in Maryland. They’re all connected. And they’re connected to our need to invest in one another, and work together toward the stronger future we all prefer.