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Governors lay out plans for recovery, rebuilding in annual State of the State addresses

January 28, 2021
By: Ellen Marrison

Across the country, the governors have begun delivering their State of the State addresses, an annual ritual where they have the opportunity to review where the state’s economy stands and preview their plans for the coming year. This year’s remarks reflect the dire conditions most states are experiencing with the pandemic, economic fallout, racial strife and national political upheaval. Despite the heavy focus on states’ efforts to respond to the pandemic, governors have struck a hopeful note and are focusing on recovery. Some governors have noted that the fallout in their state was not as severe as they originally anticipated and there are resources for new initiatives. Some, like Arizona and Virginia are considering gaming revenue to boost their budgets, while legalization of marijuana is being pursued in Connecticut, Kentucky (medical marijuana) and Virginia.

Each year, SSTI reviews each of the governors’ addresses for news about initiatives affecting the innovation economy in our Tech Talkin’ Govs series, and this week we bring you the first round of those addresses looking at Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.   With focus on the pandemic, there has not been as much “tech talkin’” as in previous years, although there is a near universal focus on extending broadband coverage with its affordability also being addressed in some states.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, Jan. 11, said he will be sending his 2021 proposals to the Legislature soon, but used his address to talk about the state’s response to the pandemic, noting that the disparities in education should be addressed. Ducey also indicated that he will be discussing a modernized gaming compact that will bring in more revenue for the state’s tribal nations and state budget and wants to work on broadband expansion and greater access to telemedicine.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Jan. 12, said the state is in the best budget position in more than a decade. Hutchinson said he wants to grow the economy and bring more people into the state by lowering the tax rate for new residents to 4.9 percent for five years. He also wants to expand high-speed internet into more rural areas and has set aside $30 million in the budget to help do that. He also called for increased training for teachers in support of legislation that will require a computer science course as a graduation credit.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, Jan. 6, said he will build on the relationships with neighboring governors that have formed in response to the pandemic to “to implement more effective and less expensive solutions, such as faster transportation options which incentivize a move to all electric vehicles, a zero-carbon electric grid, and stronger protections against cyberattacks.” He said he is also working with the state’s tribal partners to modernize gaming in the state, as well as the legislature on legalization of marijuana. He also said the state will expand access to broadband and consider an expansion of the workforce development and small business growth fund.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, Jan. 14, indicated that his proposed budget would include no cuts to state agencies or departments and no new taxes. His budget also includes “nearly $40 million to establish a Rural Innovation Fund to provide a readily available pool of resources that empowers rural Georgia businesses and entrepreneurs to get started, expand, and thrive.” The budget also includes $20 million for this fiscal year and $10 million per year moving forward to boost access to rural broadband grants. Noting COVID-19’s negative impact on enrollment numbers in the state’s colleges and universities, Kemp called for an additional $5 million for a pilot program through the University System of Georgia to keep up to 10,000 juniors and seniors with unmet financial obligations enrolled in college.

Idaho Gov. Brad Little’s, Jan. 11, said that Idaho “is in the enviable position of having a record budget surplus.” His described a plan to make strategic investments, called Building Idaho’s Future, which would include more than $450 million in tax relief; shore up millions more in cash payments for small business; and give support for Idaho’s higher education system as well as career technical education programs.  

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, Jan. 12, called for accessible and affordable broadband and said she is committing $450 million leading up to 2025, a target date for every part of the state to have high-speed broadband. She also touted the state’s financial position and said the conversations about cutting taxes should continue. 

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, Jan. 13, said she is set to launch the Framework for Growth, a roadmap for the state’s economy focused on five areas: small businesses, infrastructure, new job creation, agriculture, and broadband.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, Jan. 7, proposed $220 million be directed to the Better Kentucky Small Business Relief Fund, to help small businesses that have experienced losses as a result of the pandemic. He said he is also creating the Better Kentucky Promise, a program that broadens the Work Ready Scholarship, creates new opportunities and provides the last dollar necessary for more than 6,300 Kentuckians to complete associate’s degrees or secure certificates.

Beshear called broadband the “most important infrastructure of the future,” and said his budget provides $50 million to fund the last mile of broadband, which he said is the first time that state dollars have been used to invest in expanding broadband. His budget will also include a fund for emerging industries, such as agritech, and said it is time to “legalize medical marijuana, pass sports betting and save historic horse racing.”

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, Jan. 14, proposed an investment of $20 million in each of the next two years to help 30,000 households get broadband connectivity.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, Jan. 12, focused on clean energy as “a once-in-a-generation opportunity. So, we’re bringing together stakeholders to assess our needs and develop a robust and equitable green jobs workforce development strategy.”

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, Jan. 5, looked ahead to new technologies and creation of a permanent higher education stabilization and transformation fund for North Dakota public institutions, with the goal of initiation and implementation by 2024. He also noted that his executive budget includes $14 million to complete the $60 million Ag Development Center at NDSU, which was approved by the last Legislative Assembly. Burgum said that the State Energy Research Center at the EERC is pursuing leads to add value to the state’s coal reserves, such as manufacturing graphene dots or the extraction of rare earth minerals from fly ash to reduce dependence on foreign countries for the essential building blocks of every smartphone.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, Jan. 13, said his budget allocates an additional $123 million in state funds for small business grants. McMaster proposed cutting the state’s personal income taxes. On education, McMaster proposed setting aside $13 million in lottery proceeds to establish Education Scholarship Accounts to “provide the opportunity for working or low-income parents to choose the type of education environment and instruction that best suits their child’s unique needs.” He also proposed $30 million be provided to expand broadband through public and private matches for shovel-ready infrastructure projects. Regarding higher education, McMaster proposed “providing $60 million so that every South Carolinian who qualifies for federal needs-based financial aid - as measured by federal Pell Grants - has additional state financial assistance to attend any in-state public college, university or technical college.  Students at private, independent and historically black colleges and universities will receive an additional $20 million for tuition grants and assistance.” He also proposed “an additional $60 million for high-demand jobs skills training to help prospective manufacturers locating in our state.  And an additional $37 million for workforce scholarships and grants – so that more South Carolinians can receive skills-based certificates and accreditation at our state’s technical colleges.”

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, Jan. 12, proposed investing to finish connecting the state with broadband, which she said would yield better results for the state, rather than concentrated growth in just two cities. Noem also reiterated an announcement she made the previous week that the state will invest approximately $40 million over the next five years to match students with high-demand career opportunities through the Build Dakota Scholarship. She also had announced the creation of the PREMIER Scholarship, a needs-based scholarship endowment for the state and asked for $50 million in one-time matching funds for it. The scholarship requires that students live and work in South Dakota for three years after graduation or it turns into a loan.

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, Jan. 7, noted he wants to build “the best, most flexible education system in the country, from cradle to career. And let’s use this new capacity and knowledge — the lessons of a nimble, effective government — to strengthen our programs and get better results while facing significant budget challenges.” He also highlighted Tax Increment Financing (TIF) as a tool to be used to jumpstart investments and projects. “Right now, TIFs are only available to our larger cities but if lawmakers will work with us, we can make this available to smaller towns in every region.” Scott said he will present more ideas when he deliver the budget in two weeks.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, Jan. 13, said he wants to use revenue produced from the “gray machines” (skill gaming terminals in qualifying businesses such as convenience stores, truck stops and restaurants) to help small businesses, its original intent prior to earmarking the money for education. Northam said his budget provides $50 million in each year to maintain the level of funding for broadband. Part of his education initiatives include putting $500 million into schools to ensure they don’t lose funding from drops in enrollment this year and converting teacher bonuses into a raise. He also allocated $30 million more for financial aid at public colleges and universities and will increase Tuition Assistance Grants for students at private institutions to $4,000. He is also proposing additional tuition assistance for National Guard members and for the state’s public Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Northam called for the legalization of marijuana, calling it a “cash crop that rivals tobacco.”

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Jan. 13, credited the state’s innovation in technology, aviation, agriculture and clean energy with the strength of its economy over the previous eight years. But he warned that climate change “threatens to unmake the state we know and love,” and went on to say that “the future of our economy is bright, led by a clean and renewable energy sector.”

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, Jan. 12, noted that the state ranks 36th in the country for broadband accessibility in rural areas and said his 2021-2023 biennial budget will invest nearly $200 million over the biennium, which he said is five times the amount invested in the 2013, 2015 and 2017 budgets combined.

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