Speeches by Governor Martin O'Malley

State of the State Address

January 31, 2007

To my wife Katie and our kids, to my mom Barbara O'Malley, and to Joe Curran, one of the great public servants in our state's history, thank you all very much for being here and thank you all for your support.

Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Chief Judge, Mr. Attorney General, Mr. Comptroller, Madame Treasurer, my colleagues in government of the Maryland General Assembly, my colleagues in county and municipal government, my fellow citizens and friends.

Today, we assess our strengths and weaknesses and set out an agenda for making progress towards our shared goals.

Because of the values that we share as Marylanders fortunately, I think you will agree that there is a tremendous amount of consensus around the timeless goals that together we choose to pursue as a State:

A Strong State

These are our goals, and fourteen days into the four years that the people of our State have given to us to make progress, I am glad to join you today and report that thanks to the hard work of our fellow citizens for decades, maybe even indeed centuries past – and despite the drift of recent years – the state of our state, today, is strong.

Today, Maryland is the 2 nd wealthiest state in the union. Today, our institutions of scientific and healing discovery – known throughout the world – are among the largest recipients of research grants in the nation. And today, we are blessed with a variety of natural beauty, of land and water, that is unrivaled in any state our size.

But, you know, in many ways, for all our achievements and for all of our blessings, we are also a state of extremes, aren't we?

Yes, we are a strong state, today. But not as strong as we should be – and certainly not as strong as our country needs for us to be.

E.B. White once wrote that we are torn by two powerful drives: The desire to enjoy the world and the urge to set it straight. And so it is with Maryland. We know that to sustain those things which we so love about our state – our Bay, our neighborhoods, our places of higher thought, our quality of life – we must set things straight or they will be irreparably harmed and perhaps in some cases, forever lost.

We have consensus around the goals we share. Now it is our job to forge consensus around the obligations that we must meet in order to sustain progress toward those goals.

Strengthen and Grow Our Middle Class

To strengthen and grow our middle class – especially as we face our budget challenges – it is time to apply our strengths to solving the problems of our day. Time to apply our strengths to addressing our weaknesses – if you will.

Time to improve public education at all levels. Time to simultaneously improve public safety and homeland security. Time to extend health care coverage to more hard-working Marylanders. Time to conserve, protect and improve the environmental health of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Time to strengthen women and minority owned businesses in our state where our diversity is our strength. Time to advance and realize a statewide vision for transportation that includes mass transit, as well as roads. Time to stand up again, when necessary, to powerful wealthy special interests whenever they try to profiteer on the backs of the working people of our State.

Making Our Government Work Again

And my friends, since all of these endeavors will require a working government, let us first resolve to make our government work again.

Facing structural deficits amounting to more than $4 billion in the years to come, I ask you to approve a rate of growth in this year's budget that is just 2.5% – now that is lower than the rate of inflation, and it is lower than last year's 12% rate of growth in government spending, and it is lower than 9 of the last 10 state budgets.

I also ask for your support in confirming the best leaders we can possibly find to run the very complex and costly departments of our government. Lieutenant Governor Brown and I are very grateful for your patience, President Miller, as we assemble a professional cabinet with the ability, the expertise, and the professionalism to work with each member of this Assembly – regardless of party.

And in order to make our government work with greater efficiency and effectiveness, we will be implementing StateStat. What is that? It is a system of open and transparent administration that actually sets goals and has guts to measure progress towards achieving those goals. All of that with relentless follow-up.

In order to make our government work more effectively, I also ask for your cooperation in creating a new sub-cabinet on Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) chaired by Lieutenant Governor Brown . You know, in trying to get our heads around the challenge of the sort of growth that is coming to us because of BRAC, imagine this: We are going to be absorbing some 25,000 households in the State of Maryland, just because of BRAC, in just a few short years. Which is about the equivalent of having to absorb the city of Bowie in a very short period of time.

But, Maryland has been called upon to play a bigger and more important role in the defense of our nation. I mean that's why we are growing because of BRAC is because our country's security needs for us to grow around these institutions. And so we have to bring a greater coordination and cooperation to this effort. And our State government must work much more effectively with our county governments – to defend our quality of life in Anne Arundel, in Frederick, in Montgomery County and Harford and all other counties affected by BRAC – while we answer America's urgent security needs.

In order to make our government work, I will also be asking for your cooperation in elevating the importance of information technology in the management of our state government. This will mean better coordinating of IT functions and creating, for the first time, a cabinet level Department of Information Technology.

And in order to make our government work, we must also restore the regulatory framework of our state government. Which means that to protect consumers and to restore stability and predictability for businesses, we now have an opportunity to put professional regulators back on the job at our Public Service Commission.

And by making our government work, my friends, we are also going to start making regular, measurable strides towards increasing the participation of minority and women-owned businesses in the economy of our State. With a government that works, we are going to build around the competitive economic strengths that we have in this great State in science, and technology, and security and increasingly renewable energy and green buildings to expand earning opportunities for all our citizens.

Improving Public Education and Public Safety

But, you know, beyond the means – the means – of having a working government are the goals, right? The reasons why all of us come here. The reason why our colleagues work so hard in local government. The goals of improving public safety and public education – the very foundations of strong neighborhoods, strong counties and cities, and a stronger and growing middle class.

So to improve public education in every part of our State:

And along with those investments, I ask for your support, this year, of SB 108 and HB 134 to freeze any further increase in tuition, this year, for in-state students. Now my colleagues, we all know that this is a short-term fix, but hopefully there is a longer-term fix that is coming and this will give families some relief, after all of the increases they've seen, while Lieutenant Governor Brown works with the Hogan Commission, led by Senator Hogan, on a long-term solution to keep higher education affordable for working people of our State. Working families must be able to send their children to Maryland colleges.

Let's talk a little bit about Public Safety and Homeland Security. And when it comes to improving Public Safety and Homeland Security, we most definitely have our work cut out for us.

Our Department of Corrections, Parole and Probation, and Juvenile Services – despite dedicated public employees throughout those various entities – are deeply troubled. All are in urgent need of reform and they have been for some time. It is little wonder that Maryland is the 5 th most violent state in the union.

Now, compounding that challenge is the relatively new historic fact that our nation's capital is now – and for the foreseeable future will be – a prime target in this new type of global warfare.

Among other things, I ask for your support this year for an additional $7 million dollars in this year's budget to fund 155 additional correctional officers. I also ask for your support for $2 million additional dollars to protect Maryland families from sexual predators, with advanced Global Positioning Systems that track offenders and give law enforcement, as well as families, a heads up to protect their own children.

I ask for your support also for an additional $500,000 for the Maryland State Police. This will allow them to knock out the huge backlog of violent offenders from whom a DNA “fingerprint” – if you will – has yet to be taken. And therefore, crimes are going unsolved because we have not taken advantage of the technology and the laws which you yourselves passed a few years ago that would allow local police department to solve more rapes and murders and violent crimes. It's a half million dollars and it will be well spent. And I finally ask for your support for an additional $5 million to expand drug treatment through the increased use of recently approved buprenorphine therapies that can free our neighbors of the scourge of addiction.

And let me say also that I am looking forward to working with the members of both houses, with the House and the Senate, as well as our local police departments and our local state's attorneys, many of whom are here with us today to we find new ways that we can come together to attack our common enemies of gang violence, drug addiction and violent crime.

In order to make Maryland a leader in improving Homeland Security, I would propose the following:

Expanding Opportunity

But today, my friends, we compete economically, economically, as never before on a global and faster track. In a very real way, our economic security and competitiveness as a State depends not so much on the number of surveillance cameras that we can place around the perimeter of our port as it does on our ability to expand greater opportunities to greater numbers of our citizens – that human capital. The most important asset that we have.

Having already touched on our shared agenda for greater learning and greater earning opportunities, let's turn to the agenda that we share for expanding opportunities to more citizens on healthcare and on the environment.

Health Care

In order to begin to turn around the alarming trend of rising healthcare costs and every year, rising numbers of uninsured Marylanders, I ask that you pass the Maryland Healthcare Act. Among other things the act will:

I also ask for your support of several other initiatives in this year's proposed budget:

Now, all of you know that when physicians and other providers do not receive adequate compensation for the services that they provide, it threatens the quality and the effectiveness of our entire healthcare system. Therefore, as part of our legislative agenda, I also ask for your support for the task force on Health Care Access and Physician Reimbursement.

Additionally, I ask for your support to create a Life Science Advisory Board – a potential precursor to a true Life Sciences Authority – so that we can more effectively grow an industry that currently, that already, employs 57,000 people around such places as Johns Hopkins, NIH, University of Maryland and the Food and Drug Administration, to name just a few.

And finally on healthcare, I ask for your support of a Universal Vaccine Purchasing Task Force, so that all of us can better understand how to protect Marylanders against the flu and other foreseeable diseases that can be prevented.

Now, because healthcare is a battle of a thousand partial victories, I also look forward to working with Chairman Hammen – Mr. Speaker, and Chairman Middleton – Mr. President – and others in the weeks ahead, as we roll up our sleeves to craft ways to improve healthcare coverage and our healthcare outcomes.

Our Environment

When it comes to the urgent work of protecting and improving the health of our Chesapeake Bay watershed for the benefit of generations to come, there is no time to waste. Nor is there a better time to begin looking towards the next generation of technologies that can help us in our drive to protect our environment, build our economy, to become that state, in reality as well as on seal, where the plowman and the fisherman exist together, in harmony.

Because smart sustainable growth is absolutely central to preserving our quality of life in this sensitive Bay watershed, I have directed our Secretary of Planning to reestablish the Office of Smart Growth.

As we move forward with the rapid development of BayStat, if you will, an application of performance management and performance measurement to all of our various Bay restoration efforts – please know that the following items are all contained in the budget that is before you right now:

By making sustainable farming in Maryland more profitable – by making sustainable farming in Maryland more profitable – we do in fact preserve open space and we do improve the health of the Bay.

The Speaker has been a tremendous champion of another bill that I am asking for your support on as well and that is the Oyster Restoration Act , which will , for the first time, allow the Department of Natural Resources to actually lease parcels of land on the floor of the Bay for oyster restoration projects. We need to restore this natural aquatic filter to the Chesapeake Bay if we ever hope to turn around the health of her waters.

We should also, my friends, we should also accept our responsibility in the fight against global warming by supporting stricter pollution emission standards for cars sold in Maryland by adopting the Clean Cars Act. By taking action, we are not only going to be able to help children who suffer everyday in our State from asthma, we are also going to be able to remove pollutants from the air, and also be able, to a degree, to remove those pollutants from the Bay. And we can join 11 other states in getting this done, and getting it done this year.

We are also going to be revamping, my friends, the Maryland Energy Administration to spearhead our state's efforts to advance the development of clean and renewable energy, including the next generation of biofuels – like cellulosic ethanol – which our academic institutions and private companies are already pursuing – out there in front of us. And government should lead the way by increasing the percentages of clean fuels that we purchase ourselves each year. By, investing in green building technologies, Maryland can and should lead on energy independence and the new opportunities that this new part of our economy brings to us.


Transportation, Transportation. Because the decisions that we make about transportation determine – in a very real way – the future character of our State, this year's budget also fully protects the integrity of the Transportation Trust Fund. I ask for your support for the over $1 billion dollars in highway and roads projects across our state as well as the $300 million in mass transit projects that are part of that.

And I look forward to working with all of you in the months ahead as we bring greater balance to our efforts in transportation so that we have solutions to our transportation, traffic, congestion problems that also foster smarter and more sustainable patterns of growth for our future. But let's be very, very clear. We have to recognize that however efficiently and effectively we stretch our current level of investment in transportation solutions, we will never be able to multiply “bread and fishes” to cover the multitude of needs in our State without new dollars. It's a big, big challenge that we have for our future.


My friends, there are many other initiatives that will strengthen and grow our middle class – the agency fee legislation that allows state workers the right to organize and have their collective voices heard. An end to the cruel and antiquated practice of using ground rents to evict families from their homes. It's also, I know, members that we are going to be asking that we consider a living wage so the people who work hard are able to bring home a decent living for their families when they play by the rules.

These issues and many, many more to strengthen and grow our middle class, to improve public safety, public education, and to expand opportunity. In the days of this first session, I hope, my friends, that we will be able to spend the vast majority of our time solving problems and coming together around the solutions about which really there is so very, very much consensus that already exists in both chambers, even across party lines – and for which, I might add, there is a considerable amount of pent-up, public demand. The people of our State desperately want us to get things done again.

If we must have potentially polarizing debates this session – on issues like taxes, issues like the future of Maryland's 18,000 racing jobs, or issues like Maryland's ineffective death penalty law – let us do so recognizing that there are good and decent people on both sides of all of those debates.

We cannot resolve every unsettled issue in just 90 days; nor can we heal in 90 days the divisions that were four years in the making. But we must do all that we can to maximize the effectiveness of this session – and these four years – for the people of our State. For success breeds success. Mutual respect builds mutual trust. And important things done well make greater things possible.

This year, together, we are choosing to make progress - progress on the priorities of the people who we serve, the people who we listen to, and the people who elected us and pay our salaries in these temporary jobs we hold for them. Implicit, however, implicit in the choices that we make this year is the faith – the faith that we have the courage – the courage to face up to the fiscal reality before us in the course of the year ahead.

If not, we risk going back to a time that I don't think many of us were particularly proud of – making life less affordable for middle class families and senior citizens… Cutting funds to local governments… Stealing from our children's future by diverting dollars from open space, taking money that was supposed to be going to relief traffic congestion and instead using it to plug holes just for today. I don't believe that is the sort of future that we would choose.

With all humility, I promise you I will not squander the year ahead. To the contrary, I will do everything in my power to bring spending under control with professional management. I will do everything in my power to squeeze savings out of your government. I will do everything in my power to implement performance management and accountability. And I know you will do your tough jobs, as well.

You know, as we sit in this chamber, at this very hour, on the Eastern Shore in Cambridge, the children of Command Sgt. Major Roger Haller, 73 rd Marylander killed in action, are gathering to say goodbye to their father who was killed when his helicopter was shot down north of Baghdad. What that family is going through right now and in the days ahead is really, really difficult and deeply, deeply painful. By comparison, what we have to go through in the days ahead is merely a challenge and an honor.

So, let's get to work… for a better and stronger future… for the people of our One Maryland. Let's get to work.

Thank you.