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Broadband, clean energy, workforce and diversifying economies featured in governors State-of-the-State addresses

February 04, 2021
By: Ellen Marrison

More than half of the nation’s governors have given their State-of-the-State addresses, and in this week’s coverage of the addresses, we complete our review of those that addressed their constituencies through January. As the COVID-19 crisis highlighted the need for greater broadband connectivity and affordability, we again see the state leaders focusing more attention on building out those capabilities. Diversifying state economies also plays a role in Alaska, Hawaii and New Mexico, while opportunities for development through renewables features in addresses from Nevada and New York. In addition to those states, this week’s installment takes a look at innovation-related initiatives set forth in addresses from the governors of Delaware, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, and Utah.

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy, Jan. 28, talked about increasing the self-reliance of the state, especially in light of the pandemic and the threat of ports that serve the state closing. In addition to strengthening the agriculture sector and growing the mariculture industry, Dunleavy said he planned to “begin conversations with industry stakeholders to determine what pharmaceuticals we can produce on our own.” He also talked about prioritizing energy independence and said the state “must make the pursuit of cheap and reliable energy a priority. We can start by harnessing the incredible renewable energy resources within Alaska itself. Alaska possesses more tidal energy than the rest of the nation combined. Our potential for wind, geothermal, in-shore and pumped hydro is practically unlimited.” He also said the state would defend its right to develop traditional energy resources.

Dunleavy said he will continue working with the University of Alaska to “cement our position as the nation’s leader in unmanned aircraft research.”

Delaware Gov. John Carney, Jan. 26, noted that the state’s $200 million surplus was wiped out by the economic downturn caused by the pandemic and said that, as in years past, he will again propose a budget that links state spending to the growth of the state’s economy. He also said he would expand the state EDGE (Encouraging Development and Growth Expansion) grant program to encourage more small businesses to grow and innovate. He said funding for what the state calls “Graduation Lab Space” would be increased in an effort to build more lab space for start-up science and tech companies to use as they grow their business. Carney also said the state will set a new goal that 40 percent of Delaware’s energy will come from renewable sources by 2035.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige, Jan. 25, said he does not expect revenues to fully recover to pre-pandemic levels until 2024 and said the state must diversify and not be so dependent on tourism, and instead said he will “continue to promote technology to help diversify our economy.” In order to do that, Ige said every “government, business and nonprofit organization must embrace digital technology to thrive.” He called for a program of action to upgrade the state’s economy, calling on leaders to give their input and forward recommendations by April. Additionally, Ige’s legislative package includes a bill to create a Broadband and Digital Equity Office to oversee broadband efforts.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, Jan. 19, touted the fact that the state expected to finish the year with over $2 billion in reserves. As a result of the state’s financial standing, Holcomb said his budget will restore higher education funding by $103 million and increase it in each of the next two years. Holcomb said he is requesting an additional $100 million for broadband to bring “improved speed to all corners of our state for all Hoosiers.” If the state’s positive financial position continues through the end of the fiscal year, Holcomb said money will be invested into a new Next Level Regional Recovery program. “The IEDC [Indiana Economic Development Corporation] will work with regions that collaborate to develop strategies designed to improve quality of place, advance industry sector development, and grow workforce development initiatives among regions, educators, employers, and our state’s workforce.” Holcomb also said his administration will “seek to expand our manufacturing readiness grants to enable companies to continue modernizing their operations and keep our status as the No. 1 manufacturing state in the nation, per capita.”

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, Jan. 26, said the state has spearheaded a “first of its kind, multi-state program to reduce carbon emissions in the transportation sector” and that Massachusetts is on track to meet its commitment to invest $1 billion in climate action by 2022. He also noted that “one issue we need to get right is the future of work.” Baker said that coming out of the pandemic there will be “big consequences for how people commute, where they live, where they work, and who they work for. This will impact commercial centers, downtowns, transportation and public spaces. It’s critical that we understand this – and lean into what this reset means – so that we create the community building, housing, economic development and transportation programs that align with these changes.”

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Jan. 27, announced Michigan Back to Work, her plan to “help us grow our economy and get Michiganders back on their feet. … Over the next year, we will announce initiatives and projects big and small – from tech, mobility and manufacturing growth, to clean energy and road construction. This will protect, grow, and create more good paying jobs.” She also called for the Legislature to take action extending Good Jobs for Michigan legislation “to retain and grow our businesses and create jobs.”

Missouri Gov. Michael Parson, Jan. 27, called for the expansion of Career Ready 101, a program designed to help prepare high school students for the workforce, to all 57 existing career centers around the state. Parson called for an increase of more than $13 million dollars for A+ scholarships for college-bound students and a $21 million investment to expand high-demand job training through MO Excels across 15 new programs. In an effort to become a powerful logistics hub with the help of new shipping technology that could create a corridor through Missouri, the governor called for a $6.3 million investment in shovel-ready projects at the state’s established ports. He also asked for a $5 million investment to expand and improve broadband services across the state.

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte, Jan. 28, said that to make the state more competitive, it must lower its top personal income tax rate, which he proposed in his budget. His budget also creates the Entrepreneur Magnet Act, “which encourages companies to establish their headquarters in Montana and create jobs here”; establishes the Montana Trades Education Credit (M-TEC), which would provide up to 1,000 scholarships per year by offering businesses a 50 percent credit for their employees to learn a trade.

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, Jan. 19, said he will work with the Legislature to pass an energy bill “establishing our commitment to increased transmission, storage, and distribution of all forms of clean energy. More importantly, passing this bill will create good paying construction jobs starting this year and help in our fight against climate change. This bill will attract and develop a variety of new industries, including electric vehicle infrastructure, component manufacturing, and lithium mining.” He also proposed the creation of Innovation Zones to attract new companies “creating groundbreaking technologies” to the state, which he said would be done without tax abatements or public financing. Sisolak said he would create the Nevada Job Force to help train and retrain the workforce. In recognizing the role community colleges will play in workforce training, the governor said he “will be asking the Legislature to work with the Nevada System of Higher Education over the next two years to develop a framework transitioning Nevada’s community 10 colleges to a new independent authority that will focus on making Nevadans’ job ready.” Additionally, he plans to establish the new Remote Work Resource Center “to connect Nevada workers with job opportunities across the globe.”

Sisolak’s budget included funds to help launch the State Infrastructure Bank, to leverage outside capital to fund infrastructure projects like rural broadband, renewable energy and road improvements.

With projected revenues down 9 percent over the previous year, Sisolak proposed the use of nearly $100 million from the state’s existing rainy day fund and noted that his budget reflects $187.2 million less than the previous budget.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Jan. 26, called on the Legislature to “commit at least half of their capital outlay allocations to new broadband investments, some 200 million dollars.” She asked the Legislature to commit the full $22 million in requested funding for the Opportunity Scholarship program to enable 30,000 New Mexico students to have access to two-year higher education without tuition or fees.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivered a series of addresses in January to unveil his 2021 agenda titled Reimagine | Rebuild | Renew that is intended to jumpstart the state’s economic recovery. His seven point plan included a call to deal with the short-term economic crisis that has resulted in a record $15 billion state deficit. In planning an economic resurgence, Cuomo said the state “must energize our lagging private-sector and rebuild our economic platform, our transportation system, our infrastructure system for the next generation of growth.” He also called for the passage of the Medical Supplies Act “to incentivize New York companies to manufacture medical supplies, and New York will then purchase from that supply first.” To help address the budget deficit, the governor said the state will legalize adult-use recreational cannabis and he proposed state sponsored mobile sports betting. While he said that 98 percent of the state now has access to broadband, he said the state “will also lead the nation now in making broadband affordable, because accessibility is not enough if it's not affordable.”

“We will then launch the most aggressive green economy program in the country,” Cuomo said. “Not only will we construct renewable projects; we will develop manufacturing capacity, research and development expertise, and state-of-the-art worker re-training, all here in New York and we will do it this year.”

Cuomo is also partnering with state businesses to invest in workforce training, expand apprenticeships and mentorships, and reform recruitment and promotion policies. He also announced nearly $5 million in scholarships to create more opportunities for low-income, working New Yorkers to enter the middle class and said he will expand SUNY's free Online Training Center so New Yorkers can enroll in additional employment certification programs for quality jobs in high-demand growing industries, like health care and advanced manufacturing.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, Jan. 21, proposed a nearly 6 percent increase in the state’s education funding, more than $400 million in all. Cox also proposed “significant increases in job training, up-skilling and more money for our trade and technical educational institutions.” Cox, who said he was giving what might be the shortest address in the state’s history, directed people to read his One Utah Roadmap, a plan developed with the input of 100 community leaders from across the state that outlines his six key priorities for his first 500 days in office. It includes his plan for economic advancement and includes ideas for talent development, strategic industry advancement, innovation and entrepreneurship, infrastructure investment and sustainable growth promotion.

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