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Tech Talkin’ Govs 2019, part 1: Governors unveil broadband, workforce, and research proposals to build economies

January 10, 2019
By: Ellen Marrison

With 36 governors being sworn in following the November elections, 20 of those being new faces and 16 who were re-elected, this year’s inaugural and state of the state addresses promise new ideas along with proposed resolutions to existing challenges. As the governors present their plans to constituents, SSTI revisits our Tech Talkin’ Govs series. The first round of addresses presented here reveals new initiatives in education and building the workforce in Idaho, green energy initiatives in Maine, collaboration in Massachusetts, the largest economic investment in workforce in the state’s history in New Hampshire, and more.

Today’s coverage includes highlights from governors in Idaho, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Follow along in the coming weeks as we continue to cover all of the governors’ addresses for 2019, bringing you excerpts of their words, promises and programs that touch on the innovation economy.

Idaho Gov. Brad Little delivered his first state of the state address on Jan. 7 and said that education is his top priority for the state budget:

“I will continue to focus on increasing Idaho’s go-on rates and accomplishing our goal of having 60-percent of our 25- to 34-year olds with a completed degree or a professional certificate. To do that, we must expand career technical opportunities.

“Further, my budget recommendation increases funding for Opportunity Scholarship applicants, providing a market-based approach to higher education funding, with money following the students and allowing them to choose the institution and degree that best fits their needs.”

“… [M]y budget recommendation lays out a plan for IT and cybersecurity modernization. This effort will significantly reduce our cyber vulnerability and provide long-term savings with the ultimate goals of protecting citizens’ data and building public confidence.”

“To ensure Idaho can adapt to the rapidly evolving digital world, we must actively work to improve Idaho’s broadband access, pursuing all options to increase broadband connectivity. I will work with the Legislature to ensure both rural and urban Idaho are connected and well-positioned to attract and create maximum success.”

“… I am pleased to announce that I am authorizing the continuation of the Leadership in Nuclear Energy (LINE) Commission. The LINE Commission will remain dedicated to advising us so we can promote the advancement of nuclear energy and ensure the vitality of the INL (Idaho National Lab).”

In her inaugural address, Maine’s newly elected Gov. Janet Mills noted the milestone of being the state’s first female governor before laying out a vision that embraced clean energy, Medicaid expansion, and innovation:

“Our new administration will embrace clean energy; change our modes of transportation; weatherize homes and businesses, and reach a goal of 50 percent of our electricity coming from Maine renewable resources.”

 “I will work with the new Legislature to achieve the best education for our people, from preschool through college and beyond, beginning with full and fair funding for schools, including our Career and Technical Centers.”

 “… [M]y administration will create an Office of Innovation and the Future. This office will dive into major policy challenges, foster collaboration and propose concrete, workable solutions.”

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker was re-elected in the November election and used his inaugural address to highlight the fact that the state no longer has a structural budget deficit and was able to deposit $650 million in its stabilization fund without raising taxes, added to their vocational and technical schools and invested $50 million in capital grants to upgrade equipment and expand programs in high demand fields. He also hinted at new investments in autonomous vehicles:

“… [W]e must make the investments in public infrastructure that will enable the next generation of zero emission and autonomous vehicles to thrive here in the Commonwealth. Getting this right will require unprecedented collaboration with local government and our New England neighbors, as well as innovative partnerships with the private sector.”

“Third, reduce greenhouse gas emissions within the transportation system.”

“The work we’re poised to do with other Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states should produce a cap and investment system for transportation that mirrors our successful model for energy. It will create the largest program of its kind in U.S. history.”

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, was sworn in for his second term on Jan. 3, and in his inaugural address he highlighted tax relief and a focus on creating economic opportunity as reasons for the state’s success, and went on to announce a new workforce initiative:

 “I'm very proud that we will be proposing the single largest economic investment into workforce the state has ever seen specifically, and our health care workforce and our nurses, which we know is going to be the single greatest need of the state over the next 10 years. We're going to invest $24 million dollars and we're going to double the number of graduates in all of these areas for our state.”

“… I'm proud to announce today the creation of what we are calling New Hampshire Career Academies working with our community college systems existing funds. Our students can now take advantage of an optional fifth year of high school that will enable them to receive a high school diploma and a certificate and a college associate's degree free of cost to the student. It comes with a guaranteed job interview with a manufacturer of choice.”

“It also has the possibility of achieving what so far has eluded so many — a model that does not cost the taxpayers or the education system any additional money but makes a free college degree available to our New Hampshire students.”

“… I am advocating today that renewable energy initiatives should benefit low income ratepayers first and foremost. Whether it’s solar, or wind, or battery storage, we need to ensure that the benefits of these well-intentioned programs deliver results to the people who are struggling to pay the bill each month.”

“The Office of Strategic Initiatives and Public Utility Commission are currently working out a plan for the multi-million-dollar Clean Energy Fund which is being made available this year. I want to see renewable energy projects for low income families and communities to be a priority for those investment dollars.”

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum delivered his state-of-the-state address on Jan. 3 and lauded the state’s growing population numbers, which “now surpasses 760,000 for the first time in state history.” He also noted that the state has built a dynamic and increasingly diversified economy:

 “Our agricultural producers … continue to invest in new technology and precision farming and ranching approaches — despite volatile prices and uncertainty with international markets. It’s exciting to see evolving partnerships between industries adding value and developing new markets…. Advancing these core industries requires teamwork and collaboration. That’s why our budget proposal dedicates nearly $200 million for continued research in agriculture, oil and gas, and lignite.”

“Our economy continues to grow, but workforce remains our number one gating factor for economic growth. Now is the time to redouble efforts to equip our workforce with the skills needed to prosper in the digital economy. We can start by dedicating $30 million in Legacy Fund earnings — with a 1-to-1 match — for career academies like the very successful collaborative between Bismarck Public Schools and Bismarck State College.”

“Investing $40 million of Legacy Fund earnings into the successful and proven North Dakota Higher Education Challenge Fund, which requires a 2-to-1 match from philanthropic sources, will yield a total of $120 million for primarily scholarships, but also endowed chairs and classroom instruction equipment. Another key to solving our workforce shortage is making it easier for people from other states to transfer their skills to North Dakota. The state’s Workforce Development Council, revitalized last year, recently delivered a report providing more than three dozen recommendations and identifying our current occupational licensing approach as one of many potential barriers.”

“The U.S. Department of Labor has awarded us a $450,000 grant to study the licensing system so we can remove unnecessary barriers. Building off the great work already done by the Legislature, this study will continue for the next three years, with early work focusing on high-demand occupations.”

“… [W]e must continue efforts to diversify our economy, embracing emerging technology such as unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS. … By investing $30 million in a statewide UAS infrastructure network, we can cement our status as a proving ground for UAS. This air traffic control system for drones flying beyond line of sight will also support commercial operations,  including automated farming, precision agriculture, and monitoring of essential energy infrastructure such as pipelines and transmission lines.”

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem delivered her first state of the state address and said that fiscal discipline will be the foundation of her governorship. Some of her innovation-related proposals include:

“We must close the broadband gap to ensure people have the opportunity to work and hire locally and sell globally. … To accomplish this goal, first, we’ll bring together industry leaders. … What’s more, I want to bring in companies with emerging technologies in the fixed wireless arena… .”

“Second, we are going to focus state government’s commitment to this issue. My team will work on a mapping process to identify in more detail gaps or deficiencies in South Dakota’s broadband coverage.”

“Third, we are going to commit state resources to closing the broadband gap. … Going forward, I have also charged GOED with developing a series of public-private partnerships to help overcome the challenges of service in rural areas and achieve the ambitious goals we’ve set for South Dakota.”

“I am charging my Office of Economic Development with not only identifying our next generation of targeted industries, but also marketing to attract the most innovative companies in those sectors.  Over the next six weeks, GOED will develop and roll out a new, more user-friendly website that is more responsive to the needs of existing South Dakota businesses and those interested in moving here.”

“We need to consider the elimination of unnecessary licenses, opportunities to streamline the licensure process, and options to fast-track licenses for apprentices, in-state graduates, veterans, and military personnel and their families.”

“My team will help me bring together employers, K-12 educators, the regents, and the technical institutes.  We need to do more to provide career counseling and information for students, starting in middle school.”

“I would like our high schools to join together each year to hold a ‘Week of Work.’  This will be a special week when every high school student will get out of the classroom to experience a day on the job. I hope this can lead to schools coordinating more internships and experience-based classes.”

“I will also be supporting legislation to make home school students eligible, on an equal basis, for the South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship.”

“This year, we will focus on growth in the ag economy by transferring ag development representatives from the Department of Agriculture to my office of economic development. This makes sense, because ag development is economic development.”

Idaho, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakotatech talkin govs, workforce, economic development, state tbed