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State leaders zero in on recovery in budget proposals, state addresses

April 29, 2021

As state budgets move into the legislatures for final negotiations and approvals, the last of the governors have addressed their constituents and put forth their proposals. While a renewed sense of hope is seeping into the latest addresses, governors are still cautious and guarded in proposing new programs. Broadband, small business, education and workforce initiatives continue to be among the innovation-related initiatives announced by the state leaders, with the intent that those efforts will also boost the economic recovery of the states.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, in acknowledging the unusual circumstances of his April 12, 2021, State of the State address (he gave it from the A.W. Mumford Stadium on the campus of Southern University as opposed to a usual address inside the House chamber due to COVID-19 safety precautions) sounded a hopeful note, saying, “A new day is dawning with every shot in every arm.” In addition to the pandemic, Louisiana is still recovering from the two hurricanes that hit its coast, and the governor said that “no state is more adversely impacted by climate change….”

He said the state will be a leader in reducing carbon emissions and bolstering coastal resiliency and “by 2050, our goal is to reduce carbon emissions to net zero and to have invested $50 billion in rebuilding Louisiana’s coast.” Edwards said the state will work with the energy sector present in the state. “By working with these companies on forward thinking solutions, like carbon capture, we are going to make Louisiana more sustainable while also unlocking a whole new sector of economic and job opportunities,” he said.

“This budget also includes a faculty pay increase for higher education as well as $15.6 million towards higher education budget stabilization. It also includes funds for the TOPS program, which is estimated to receive another $13 million this year, and it includes a historic $11 million increase in funding for Go Grants.”

The governor also said he will maximize federal dollars to capitalize on funding for “high speed, affordable broadband for every single person in Louisiana.”

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz was delayed for the second year in a row in giving his address due to complications arising from COVID-19. He said that while the wealthiest Minnesotans did well during the pandemic, students, small businesses and working families struggled and his proposed budget aims to level the playing field.

In addition to tax breaks and direct cash payments, Walz said his budget “would invest $50 million in a new Small Business COVID Support forgivable loan program to help the hardest hit businesses sustain their operations and emerge from the pandemic. The program includes targeted investments in Greater Minnesota businesses and minority owned businesses.”

He also unveiled a new education plan this year named Due North that aims to ensure “every child receives a high-quality education, no matter where they live or what they look like.” The program is also intended to help students recover from learning loss due to the pandemic through additional learning and tutoring this summer.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper delivered his address to the state’s General Assembly this week, and focused on the inequities he said the pandemic has laid bare, including the need to strengthen public schools, gaps in high-speed internet access and livable wages. He touted Apple’s announcement that it will build a new campus and engineering hub in North Carolina, it’s first in more than 20 years. He also said the state has “a plan and the money to stretch high-speed internet to our state’s farthest corners.”

He called for North Carolina to lead the clean energy industry, saying that “clean energy is where the great-paying jobs are going to be. … I’m asking you to expand access to clean energy technologies, invest in clean energy economic development, promote offshore wind, and build the clean energy workforce to catalyze North Carolina’s economy. This industry is racing toward us with thousands of good-paying jobs that will strengthen our economy and our planet. We are already ahead in solar energy and with new offshore wind and its lucrative supply chain, we can put money in North Carolina pockets.”

Cooper also asked for passage of a “strong bond referendum” (his proposed budget recommends placing a $4.7 billion General Obligation Bond on the November 2021 ballot to ask voters to address key infrastructure needs across North Carolina).

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has not yet given a State of the State address, but his proposed biennial budget includes $1 billion for “an aggressive plan to accelerate economic growth and ensure economic vitality,” which the governor calls the Investing in Ohio Initiative. It includes $460 million to support Ohio’s small businesses that have been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The governor is proposing $450 million in funding to local communities, with $250 million of that to expand broadband service in underserved areas. He also proposed $70 million in investment to upskill Ohio’s workforce, including $5 million in funding in FY 2021 as well as an additional $25 million in both fiscal years 2022 and 2023 to fund technology-focused credentials through the TechCred Program, and investing $15 million to support targeted workforce investments in economically distressed rural and urban communities. His budget also calls for expanding the Choose Ohio First scholarship program to provide 2,000 new scholarships, which helps students become skilled in high-demand areas and prioritizes awards for underrepresented populations enrolled in the critical STEMM disciplines of science, technology, engineering, math, and medicine. Another $50 million was proposed for a national marketing campaign to promote the state as a great place to live, work and attend school.

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