Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, Distinguished Minority Leaders, Lieutenant Governor Brown, Treasurer Kopp, Governor Hughes, Governor Glendening, Attorney General Gansler, Attorney General Curran; colleagues in city and county government; Congressman Cummings, Congresswoman Edwards; Mayor Vincent Gray, from our neighbors in New Columbia; Ambassador Darmanovic, Ambassador Schnepf, Ambassador Negodic, Ambassador Al-Rumaihi, Ambassador Collins; Members of the most effective cabinet in the United States of America; Katie O'Malley, men and women of the Maryland General Assembly.
There is more that unites us than divides us, and one of those things is the mighty, mighty Baltimore Ravens!!!
All of us are familiar with the Ravens story, but there are also a number of remarkable people with us here today in the Gallery and I wanted to share a few of their stories with all of you.
First, one of our nation's leading minds and most prominent advocates for science, technology, engineering, and math education. Some of you may know him as a member of our State School Board. Later this week, President Obama will be awarding him the National Medal of Science for his achievement in physics -- Dr. James Gates.
Two years ago, this next Marylander and her children were homeless. Today, she's turned a temporary work placement into a good, full-time job. Please welcome Janice Spanish from Caroline County and the dedicated state employee from our Department of Human Resources who helped her secure this opportunity, Melissa Jones-Harris.\
Within the heart of every individual is a spirit and dignity that yearns to be recognized. Twelve months ago, just outside these doors, we officially recognized for the first time in 380 years the Piscataway people, in a ceremony none of us will soon forget. Please welcome Tribal Chair Mervin Savoy of the Piscataway Conoy Tribe. Miss Mervin, thank you for being here.
We are also joined by finally a great Mayor, who, because of budget constraints also found himself doing the job of City Manager. When his own home was flooded during Hurricane Sandy, he set aside his personal needs and instead worked day and night to help the families of his city through the crisis. From the courageous City of Crisfield -- Mayor P.J. Purnell.
My fellow Marylanders: the story of Dr. Gates, the story of Janice and Melissa, the story of Tribal Chair Savoy and all the Piscataway people, the story of Crisfield and Mayor Purnell, the sacrifices of our fallen heroes -- these are our stories. Stories of courage. Stories of perseverance.
It is a tremendous honor to serve the people of Maryland with all of you.
When faced with the adversity of the national recession, the people of our State did not make excuses. Instead, they started businesses. They enrolled in night school. They made difficult decisions around the kitchen table about how to do more for their children. They volunteered through churches, and synagogues, and mosques. They pulled their neighbors through Hurricane Sandy and the heavy blizzard that struck Garrett County.
What we have experienced, together, over these last several years what we have shared with one another, was not denial and it was not fear. Nor was it merely hope. It was belief. It was belief in the dignity of every individual. Our belief in our own responsibility to advance the common good. And our understanding and belief that we are all in this together, and that tomorrow can be better than today -- if, with God's grace, we choose to make it so.
Progress is a choice. Job creation is a choice. Whether we give our children a future of more or a future of less -- this, too, is a choice.
Our story, Maryland's story, is the story of better choices and better results.
No other state can say at once, and hold your applause, that they are #1 in education five years in a row. #1 in holding down the cost of college tuition. #1 in innovation and entrepreneurship. #1 in human capital capacity. #1 in access to dental care for all children, regardless of income. #1 in PHD scientists and researchers. #1 in Research and Development. #1 in businesses owned by women. #1 in median family income. And we're not done yet.
As we emerge, and we still have a long ways to go, but as we emerge from the toughest of economic times, the State of our State is strong, and we are growing stronger still.
And none of this, none of this happened by chance. So many of you have had to cast the tough votes in order to make it possible.
Better Choices; Better Results
Remember seven years ago? Our State had veered off course. We started following the same, never-mind-the-math approach that created our federal deficits at the national level. Democrats and Republicans alike -- in this very Chamber -- had voted to cut taxes for millionaires, and to greatly increase state spending, without paying for either one.
The result: a $1.7 billion structural deficit. That's how math works. What's less, we were paying taxes for a government that was not working; that was failing to deliver results. Underperforming schools. Tuition hikes approaching 40%. Rising crime outside of Baltimore.
But in 2007, together, we started making better choices. We cut spending growth. We added a penny to the sales tax to improve our children's education. We restored revenues by making our tax code more progressive and more fair. We took concrete action to close our structural deficit.
When the national recession hit -- wiping out jobs and revenues all across our country including here -- other states tried to cut their way to prosperity. Many found this only made things worse. Laying off police officers, fire fighters and teachers. Cutting public education. Hiking up college tuition by double digits every year. Continuing down the merry path of cutting taxes for the very wealthy, hoping against cruel experience that somehow it would trickle down to the rest of us.
But in Maryland, here, we made better choices.
We used the pressure of sinking revenues to make government more efficient and effective. For the first time, we started setting public goals with more immediate deadlines. We started measuring weekly performance to make government more effective, to make it work.
We constrained budget growth and made government smaller. We strengthened our Rainy Day Fund and protected our Triple A Bond Rating.
We fixed our pension system and it wasn't easy. We reformed hundreds of pages of regulations, we streamlined permitting, and we fast tracked jobs projects. We eliminated paperwork, simplified applications for business licenses, and reduced waiting times, in some cases, from months to days.
We advanced public-private partnerships like the one at the Port that's created thousands of jobs.
We put real-time information about the people's government into the people's hands by using the internet, posting the information on the internet, converted paper notecards to digital files, and used smart maps to better target our limited resources.
We cut more state spending than any administration in modern history.
Recognizing that our diversity is our greatest strength, we move forward toward the most ambitious goal in America from empowering women and minority owned businesses. And this year, for the first time we exceeded that goal.
Knowing that we could not cut our way to prosperity, we balanced record budget cuts with modern investments. Investments in the very priorities that create jobs and expand opportunity: educating, innovating, and rebuilding for a better economic future.
Better choices. Better results. The proof is in our progress.
Progress recovering jobs at the fastest rate of any state in the region. Progress helping more of our neighbors transition from welfare to work -- 12,000 just last year. Partnering with businesses large, medium and small to create more jobs -- 30,300 jobs over the most recent twelve months.
Together with courageous law enforcement officers and firefighters, we are driving down violent crime, driving down homicide, driving down fire deaths -- all to historic lows.
We are doing more than any other state to hold down the cost of college tuition so more families can afford to send their kids to college.
We are helping more families to save their homes from foreclosure.
We are reducing infant mortality to record lows. We are now feeding tens of thousands of Maryland children who would otherwise would go hungry. We are doing more than ever before to shelter the homeless. We are helping families, and helping our neighbors free themselves from the despair of substance abuse.
We are moving record cargo through our Port, and record passengers through Baltimore-Washington's Thurgood Marshall Airport.
Our actions are making the waters, Governor Hughes, Governor Glendening, of the Chesapeake Bay healthier -- rescuing the Blue Crab; reviving our Native Oyster; more farmers planting cover crops than ever before in order to improve the waters of our Bay.
And our record investments in public education are delivering record high student achievement. Record high graduation rates. An historic closing of the achievement gaps between white and non-white students. The best Advanced Placement scores in science, technology, engineering, and math our students have ever achieved. The best overall AP scores of any state in the nation.
And this is where you can clap, for not one, not two, not three, not four, but five years in a row -- the #1 best public schools in America!
Jobs and Education
These are the choices, these are the choices these are the choices we have already made. Now to the choices ahead of us.
Job creation must be our top priority, always. While we are recovering jobs faster than any other state in our region, there are still too many moms and dads who are out of work, who are still searching for work.
Therefore, this year's budget is a jobs budget: it invests in 43,000 jobs rebuilding roads, bridges, tunnels, community colleges, affordable housing units, clean water infrastructure, and other forward-looking projects with your help. It protects nearly 26,000 law enforcement jobs throughout our State. It supports over 114,000 jobs educating our children.
This budget invests to improve public education and to build new schools. It accelerates the transition from chalk and textbooks in our classrooms, to iPads, laptops and smart-boards, and 21st century digital learning tools and your vote will accelerate those innovations. And once again, it holds down the cost of college tuition.
This progress, as you well know, is only possible with fiscal responsibility and a balanced approach.
The budget before you saves more than recommended by the Spending Affordability Guidelines. It increases both our Rainy Day Fund and our Cash Reserves. It protects our Triple A Bond Rating. It very nearly eliminates the structural deficit. And, it brings our total spending cuts to $8.3 billion dollars over the life of this administration.
These are the choices which enable us to invest in a stronger and better future, the future that all of us prefer for our children: more job creation, more opportunity, a stronger, growing middle class.
Innovation & Entrepreneurship
Three stories, all with a common theme:
We are joined today in the Gallery by an inventor and an entrepreneur. He reached out to 200 colleges and professors asking for lab space. And guess what, 199 turned him down. He went on to invent an inexpensive tool for detecting pancreatic and ovarian cancers -- which he has now patented. 8,500 of our fellow citizens selected him as the winner of our MDForward contest. What's more, the people at Intel selected him, this Marylander, for their top International Science and Engineering prize. He happens to be 15 years old. Buy stock in this guy and please welcome Jack Andraka and his proud mom, Jane who are with us.
We're also joined by a small business owner from Havre de Grace, who also happens to be a courageous, disabled veteran. She moved her business out of her own dining room and into a store front on South Union Avenue. And now she's tripled her customers. Please welcome Sergeant Leana Nishimura-Stewart.
Now Senator Young had occasion to introduce me to this gentleman and I visited with him in Frederick. He started a company called Nexus EnergyHomes. They build houses at market prices -- and get this, these homes are designed to consume net zero energy. For families, that means electricity bills, energy bills as low as $3 or $4 a month. For the people of Frederick, it means hundreds of jobs. Nexus EnergyHomes was named a national "home builder of the year" last year. Their CEO, Paul Zanecki also joins us in the Gallery.
Now what do these stories have in common? Innovation and entrepreneurship. The United States Chamber of Commerce has named Maryland #1 in innovation and entrepreneurship and they've done so for a reason. And it's a reason to do more, not a reason to do less.
From net zero homes, to mapping the human genome, Marylanders are doing remarkable work that is remaking this world of ours. The life sciences, bio-tech, clean-tech, green-tech, information technology, cyber security, aerospace, and advanced manufacturing -- these sectors are all creating jobs right here in Maryland.
Creating jobs through innovation is not just the responsibility though of the private sector. There are things we can do together -- through that common platform of our government -- to accelerate innovation and improve the business climate: Attracting venture capital, as you are doing, through InvestMaryland. Moving more new technologies and ideas out of our great university labs, but moving them into the marketplace where the can create jobs and new opportunities. Leveraging our first-in-the-nation health-IT network. Supporting Lt. Governor Brown's tremendous efforts to advance more creative uses of public-private partnerships to rebuild our critical infrastructure. Expanding our successful job creation tax credits for biotech, and research and development. And, by this year creating a new cyber security tax credit.
There's another important thing we can do this year that will also create jobs, and that is off-shore wind. Moving forward with off-shore wind.
Moving forward with off-shore wind could make Maryland, the new regional manufacturing hub for wind turbines. We will create jobs and we will generate abundant and clean, renewable energy, but only if we choose, Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, member of the General Assembly let's get this done this year, shall we?
Ultimately, the greatest assets we have, as you all know, as demonstrated by the votes you've cast, are the talents and skills of our people. Maryland has built up one of the most highly skilled workforces in the country. Better choices; better results. But the reality is that too many of the new jobs being created in our new economy still go unfilled. Why? Because too many of our people lack the skills to fill them.
Your vote on the EARN bill, will allow us to partner with business to equip more workers with the skills they need to fill jobs that are in highest demand.
Speaking of skilled workers, veterans, many of them with tremendous skill, who are returning from active duty service often find they face barriers to employment in every state. And oftentimes, this barrier is the state's own licensing system. In Maryland, we can remove those barriers to veterans and their spouses, with your vote for the Veterans Full Employment Act.
We've made solid progress expanding Career & Technology Education in our high schools. But there is so much more that we can do and we must do. If lifelong learningis the new reality, then we must give our high school graduates the skills they need for life long earning.
Prince George's County has a tremendous community college. And Prince George's Community College has partnered with the County's public schools with an innovative solution: they let motivated high schools students work toward both their two-year Associates Degree and their high school diploma -- at the same time. With your vote, for another innovation fund, we can make this sort of early access to affordable college credit a reality for more families across our State.
Which now brings me to the ongoing challenge of college completion.
You've met with them I've met with them, all across our state the business leaders I meet will tell me we are simply not producing enough college graduates -- especially in science, technology, engineering, and math. We have done a good job of getting more of our children to college. But we must do a better job of getting more of our students through college.
And we're seeing things that actually work. Our community colleges are already delivering results: last year they graduated 49% more students than they were five years ago. That's some pretty impressive progress. They've increased production, and that's why this year I'm asking you to increase their funding so they can do even more.
But we need to pick up the pace at our four-year colleges.
Here are some things we can do, together with our university system, that actually work: we can redesign college curricula and more courses to better promote completion. We can move our system toward rewarding a student's competency, and not merely the number of years he or she spends sitting in a lecture hall. We can rework financial aid so that more students can afford to carry full course loads to complete their degrees on or ahead of time. And we can give students more online options for earning college credit.
We can reach our goals, but we're going to have to make better choices if we want better results.
A Modern Transportation Network
There's another major job creation action we could take, but so far the consensus has eluded us.
We have the worst traffic congestion in the country. And you all have cast a lot of difficult votes time and time again to move us from the back of the pack to the front of the pack in some cases. There is no reason why we should be content with having the worst traffic congestion in the country. Building a 21st century transportation network won't happen by itself. I greatly appreciate the work the President has been doing as we begin this session and also the conversations with the Speaker. We could be creating thousands of jobs and alleviating traffic congestion at the same time. We can either figure this out together, for every citizen of our State, and we can do this now and end our session, or all of us are going to waste more time and money sitting in more and worse traffic.
To govern is to choose.
The most fundamental responsibility of any government is public safety. It is the passion for improving public safety that drove me into public service.
Thanks to the brave work of law enforcement officers, thanks to better technology, thanks to better strategies, together we have driven violent crime down nearly 25% since 2006.
Every life is needed. Every life is important. And every day there is more that we must do.
We lose far too many American lives to gun violence.
Who can watch the sad images of the last several weeks, who can see the pictures of those young faces, and honestly say that we are doing enough?
Louis in Montgomery County, who joins us also the Gallery, writes this letter, quote: "My wife Dorothy,
and I urgently request your ardent support for a comprehensive ban on all deadly assault weapons,
I am a 92-year old veteran of WWII who spent four years in the service of my beloved country. I believe fervently in our Constitution. What I do not believe in is this,
the right to own weapons which should only be used by the military,
Four years ago, with Lt. Governor Brown's leadership, this Assembly took action to protect the victims of domestic violence from the threat of guns. This year, I ask that you take further action, and in a comprehensive way.
I ask you to ban the sale of military assault weapons in Maryland. I ask you to require a license for the purchase of all handguns -- but not hunting rifles. I ask that you help improve mental health treatment and information sharing, and to expand crisis intervention. I also ask that you invest in security upgrades in our schools.
Last year, speaking of what works, the people of Prince George's County teamed with their police department to save 31 more lives, driving down homicides in just one year period of time by 33%. Effective tactics and strategies, rapid deployment, relentless follow-up -- there are things we can do they work, they save lives.
Since 2007, because of your support and your vote, we have used forensic DNA technology to take 520 murderers, rapists, and other violent criminals off of our streets. We need to renew our DNA law this year, because DNA technology is a strategy that works.
Performance measured policing, the Violence Prevention Initiative at Parole & Probation, license plate readers, digital fingerprinting technology -- these things work, and when the things are working, when they are effective, when they work, we should do more of them. But when we realize that something isn't working and it's also expensive, we should stop doing it.
The death penalty is expensive and it does not work and we should stop doing it. Research in our own commission has shown that it is not a deterrent. It cannot be administered without racial bias. It costs three times as much as locking someone up for life without parole. And it cannot be reversed if an innocent person is executed.
It is time to repeal the death penalty in Maryland and replace it with life without parole.
Consider this, consider this: all across our ever-more-closely connected world, the majority of executions now take place in just seven countries: Iran. Iraq. The People's Republic of China. North Korea. Saudi Arabia. Yemen. And the United States of America.
I leave you with these thoughts:
Life is an ever evolving story of change and choice --letting go of things and ways that were, in order to reach for that which we have yet to achieve.
It is not some random shuffling of the deck, or a tossing of cards. Life is an intentional process, and it calls for the goodness of our own intentions.
We, here in Maryland, are called to work at the center of this intentional movement. For every decision we make, there is a future foretold.
Jobs and opportunity; public safety, public education, public transportation, the health of our people and the health of our planet. These are our concerns; and they are also the world's concerns.
And it comes to this: do we believe the challenges facing our State and our country are things that are happening "to us," or things that are happening "for us?" If we believe that they are happening to us, then we are victims. If, on the other hand, we believe they are happening for us, then every problem is actually a means to deeper understanding, to greater growth in the highest sense, to more security, and more opportunity.
Let me be specific.
We are one of the most vulnerable states in our country to the impact of sea-level rise. Climate disruption is real. Climate change is not an ideological issue any more than gravity is. It is physics, pure and simple.
Maryland might not be able to change what people in India or China do with respect to climate. We can, however, use the prospect of a carbon constrained world as the means to invent a more prosperous future, and to drive innovation, and education, and industry, and jobs, and growth.
We are a state, yes; but, we can also act like the heart of a forward-moving country whose eyes and ears are open to the world.
I believe that all of us here in Maryland are truly covered by the shield of His goodness. We need only the courage to let go. To let go of the falsehoods, the vengeance, the short-sightedness of rash and oftentimes imbalanced decisions -- the things of our past that no longer serve.
And once leaving them behind, we shall have the reach to make a new world -- free from fear, and worthy of our children's love and trust.
Thank you all very, very much.