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Tech Talkin’ Govs 2020: AL, CT, MD, OK, PA, TN, WY look to education, workforce and energy initiatives

February 13, 2020
By: Ellen Marrison

With nearly 40 of the state governors now having given a state of the state or budget address, innovation themes continue to echo in their reviews of past accomplishments and plans for the coming year. There is a priority on education (both on teacher salaries and preK initiatives as seen in Alabama, in addition to higher education and a focus on its affordability with Connecticut proposing free tuition for community college for recent high school grads and Pennsylvania putting additional dollars into scholarships), energy, workforce, broadband and a special emphasis on distressed communities in Connecticut and Tennessee. While SSTI continues to review the addresses and features excerpts as they relate to innovation intiatives in this series, remaining speeches will be scattered over the coming weeks.

Alabama

Gov. Kay Ivey gave her third state of the state address earlier this month, and presented an agenda that called for changes in the state’s educational system, and growth in broadband and workforce development. Noting that “a world-class workforce begins with a world-class education system,” the governor called for more money to help build a “solid foundation constructed during the first 5 years of life.”

“My education budget that I am proposing will provide an additional $25 million dollars to expand our nationally-recognized First Class Pre-K program. This significant increase will expand the program by another 193 classrooms.”

“Speaking of investing in our future, tonight I am proposing a $1 billion-dollar public school and college authority for K-12 education, as well as for our two- and four-year colleges and universities. This money will be distributed on a formula basis to allow for much-needed capital improvements across the state. Equally important, this bond will not include any legislative earmarks for pet projects.”

“We have set an ambitious — but needed goal — of 500,000 employees with post-secondary credentials by 2025 that will stretch across all aspects of our education and workforce system. …”

“Access to broadband; it is a top priority to continue increasing the availability of high-speed Internet throughout the state, especially in rural Alabama, through the Broadband Accessibility Fund. While state government can’t do it alone —  and we are counting on the help of our partners in the private sector — my budget will continue to provide funding to connect as many people as possible during the coming years. Currently, some 220,000 Alabamians do not have any wired Internet providers where they live. Our efforts will not end until every Alabamian has access through high speed broadband.”

“… I will be signing an Executive Order to establish a small working group of some of Alabama’s most distinguished citizens, to begin working, to gather all the facts on how much money we could really gain if some form of gaming expansion occurred. … My challenge to the Legislature is: give us some time to get the facts and then, together, we will give the people of Alabama the information they need to make the most informed decision possible.”

Connecticut

Gov. Ned Lamont began his address by laying out how he made a down payment on his promise of guiding the state out of a fiscal crisis by passing an on-time, balanced budget and boosting the state’s rainy day fund to a record level. He also noted that “we need to reset our state’s relationship with the business community,” and is reducing tuition for those that qualify:

“The revamped Governor’s Workforce Council has assembled one of the most talented and ambitious state workforce boards in the nation. Led by Garrett Moran, our state’s biggest employers are sitting down with our educators, our nonprofits, our state agencies, and our unions to make sure that Connecticut maintains the highest quality education and training pipeline in the nation.”

“… More and more jobs require post-secondary training, and we are doing more to make higher education more affordable so no student gives up his or her dreams because they cannot afford the cost. Starting this year, UConn will eliminate tuition for all students of families earning less than $50,000 a year, and community college will be debt-free for recent high school grads.”

“Do you know there are now more women than men in the U.S. workforce? We have to make sure our workforce works for them. That starts in the executive ranks, where Lieutenant Governor Bysiewicz has worked with dozens of our major employers who have pledged that half of their senior leaders and corporate board members will be women — in 10 years or less.”

“I’m also proposing we work together to redesign the state’s economic incentives to focus on new, good paying jobs in growth sectors, with a special emphasis on distressed communities that have been left behind. Some of the best investments we can make as a state are in companies that are already here. Rather than rely on risky up-front grants to lure out-of-state companies, we’re introducing performance-based incentives and rewarding companies that create good-paying jobs here in Connecticut — all at less risk to taxpayers.”

“Connecticut will continue to take the lead in New England and set a firm timeline for a carbon free, energy efficient future. No more diverting from our energy efficiency programs and Green Bank. ...”

“… I want to work with you to ensure we stand up a responsible sports betting platform that promotes economic growth for our state and is fair to our tribal partners.”

Maryland

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan proposed tax relief as a way to keep retirees in the state and called for a vote on nonpartisan redistricting reform:

“… [W]e proposed the ‘Retirement Tax Reduction Act of 2020,’ which will provide more than $1 billion in tax relief over five years. Under this plan, retirees making $50,000 or less, who are often forced to make tough choices every single day just to make ends meet, will pay no state income tax whatsoever. And all retirees earning less than $100,000 will see a tax reduction of no less than 50 percent and up to 100 percent.

“This is the largest tax reduction in Maryland in more than two decades. It will provide tax relief for more than 230,000 Marylanders and will help keep tens of thousands of Maryland retirees from fleeing our state.”

“More than 75 percent of our entire capital budget goes toward education. … And you can help us build on that historic investment by passing our ‘Building Opportunity Act of 2020,’ that will provide a record $3.9 billion in funding, the largest investment ever in school construction, which will enable us to fulfill every single request from every single jurisdiction in the state for new school construction and for upgrades and repairs to aging schools.”

“In this highly partisan time in America, you have a chance to do the right thing. To strike a win for democracy, fairness, and decency by finally, after five years, bringing the nonpartisan redistricting bill to the floor of this body for an up or down vote.”

Oklahoma

Gov. Kevin Stitt noted that the state has 60 percent less drilling rigs operating at the time of his speech than the previous year and said that the state must consider a changing and evolving market, but said the state’s greatest challenge is not its economy, due in part to its strong fiscal discipline and diversity. He called government bureaucracy the state’s greatest challenge.

“In this administration, we will continue to focus on becoming Top Ten in education. It is why the Legislature put more funding into the funding formula this school year, bringing the total taxpayer investment in common education to the largest in state history.”

“I support legislation that would direct the State Board of Education to issue a teaching certificate to anyone who holds a valid out-of-state teaching certification, with no other requirements except a criminal history record check. 

“This year, we must get across the finish line proven solutions to enhance learning opportunities for students. 

“Now is the time to raise the cap on the Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship to $30 million, to allow Oklahomans to be rewarded for investing their funds directly to our students and schools.”

“Because we believe in all students and helping them succeed, I am also launching a program this year called Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG). JAG is a state-based national non-profit organization dedicated to preventing dropouts among young people who have serious barriers to graduation and employment.”

“This year, let’s get universal licensing recognition across the finish line too. We can continue to make progress on economic prosperity when we remove unnecessary and antiquated barriers to entry.”

Pennsylvania

Gov. Tom Wolf gave a budget address to the General Assembly on Feb. 4, outlining his vision for the state and rolling out what the governor called “a blueprint for unleashing a new wave of prosperity for our commonwealth.”

“To address the lack of access to transportation that makes so many Pennsylvanians’ commutes difficult or even impossible, we can work with employers to help them be more flexible in meeting the needs of their workers. And by joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, we can raise hundreds of millions of dollars in auction proceeds to make our air cleaner and our transit systems stronger so that Pennsylvanians can get to the jobs businesses are creating.”

“The goal of all this is not just to get more Pennsylvanians into jobs. It’s to give more Pennsylvanians the opportunity to work towards the brighter future they imagine for themselves. And so, while we’re going to continue to foster an environment that encourages entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses right here in Pennsylvania, we also need to face the fact that minimum wage workers in this Commonwealth haven’t had a raise in more than a decade.”

“We’re going to start with a $60 million investment so that we can increase the size of our state tuition grants that serve more than 130,000 students. But we cannot stop there. I’m proposing a historic $200 million investment in scholarships for the young Pennsylvanians attending our state system universities.

“That will mean 25,000 PASSHE students … can get a degree without crushing debt. And we’ll do that by repurposing existing tax dollars that are right now flowing into the Horse Racing Development Fund. Let’s bet on our kids instead of bankrolling race horse owners and ensure the viability of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.”

“… [T]he Nellie Bly Scholarship will pay for what other financial aid does not cover so that [Pennsylvania students] can spend more time contributing to our Commonwealth and less time paying off their debts. And by incentivizing them to stay in Pennsylvania after graduation, we can all reap the benefits of their intellect and their creativity.”

“This year, I’m calling for $435 million in new investments — starting with a $100 million increase in the fair funding formula, an additional $25 million increase in funding for special education, and a $30 million increase for high-quality early childhood education.”

In a separate speech, Gov. Wolf announced a new innovation plan that includes a $12.35 million funding increase, including:

  • $5 million increase for the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority,
  • $2.5 million increase for Industrial Resource Centers,
  • $2.5 million increase for the PREP network, and
  • $2.35 million for Invent Penn State.

“A strong community and entrepreneurial network are crucial for success. This holds true for start-ups, as well as established businesses,” said Gov. Wolf. “I’m proposing a strategic statewide innovation investment plan that will help get us on the right track to making Pennsylvania an innovation leader.”

Tennessee

Gov. Bill Lee looked back on his first year as governor and noted that the state has become the envy of other states. He hopes to continue its growth and focused on education, teachers and jobs:

“This year, I’m proposing the largest investment in K-12 teacher salaries in Tennessee history. My budget sets aside $117 million additional dollars for teachers, an amount equal to a 4 percent increase in the state’s contribution to teacher salaries. We must also work harder to make teaching a more attractive profession for young people. We know our new teacher numbers are dropping. As our economy becomes more competitive for jobs, investing in workforce development must include developing the next generation of educators.

“Over the next two years, we will recommend moving the minimum salary schedule for teachers from $36,000 to $40,000, so that no Tennessee teacher is making less than $40,000 per year.”

“My budget includes $8.5 million to support the launch of the Governor's Teaching Fellowship, an initiative that will, in conjunction with Tennessee Promise, provide a college scholarship for over 1,000 of our best and brightest as they train to become teachers.”

“I’m also proud of the Future Workforce Initiative, which is adding 100 new middle school STEM programs by 2022 and tripling the number of STEM-designated schools. Through this work, we’ve seen a 100 percent increase in the number of schools applying to receive STEM-designation.”

“For the first time, state agencies who are involved in workforce development are beginning to pull in the same direction, and their work is already paying off. The first outcome of that work will be next week’s launch of ApprenticeshipTN, a new effort that will realign our approach to getting individuals back into the workforce.”

“Last week, the Higher Education Commission released an update to our state's five-year Master Plan, shifting the focus from degrees to jobs. We're moving forward with bold new goals such as increasing by 10 percent the number of dual enrollment students and increasing by 20 percent the number of Tennessee degrees in computer science and data analytics.”

“… I've instructed the Department of Economic and Community Development to raise the stakes when it comes to recruiting industry to rural areas. I’ve directed ECD to restructure our incentive package to companies considering locating in our 15 distressed counties and 24 at-risk counties.”

“Tonight, I am announcing a proposal to cut the professional privilege tax in half and return $40 million to individuals and small business owners who every year pay this arbitrary and unfair tax.”

“We invested $20 million in my first budget for broadband expansion to increase services in rural areas that need it most, and this year I am pleased to recommend an additional $25 million investment.”

“We’re adding $7 million to the Ag Enhancement program and an additional $2 million for UT Extension Agents in distressed rural counties.”

Wyoming

Gov. Mark Gordon delivered his address before a joint session of the Wyoming Legislature on Monday morning where he stressed his support for the energy industry and a desire to invest in carbon capture and sequestration technology, while cutting back on capital construction:

“My budget proposes curbs on capital construction. I did so noting that we are already engaged in several expansive and expensive projects: the State Hospital, the Life Resource Center, the UW Science Facility, the Skilled Nursing Facility, the Wyoming State Penitentiary, and the Casper State Office Building to name a few. Given that we cannot afford to pay the people we need to staff these new buildings, it makes little sense to continue to build as aggressively as we have when times were more flush.”

“It is our duty to verify that the proposed early closures of coal-burning units are truly warranted and economical, and not just philosophical or political. Wyoming genuinely welcomes renewable resources like wind and solar. However, we will not recklessly abandon our most abundant and reliable energy source just because it is unpopular with some people. 

“Today, I challenge all of us to work together to make sure that the next carbon capture and sequestration facility is built here in Wyoming. I ask for your support of legislation requiring all new electric generation capacity produced in Wyoming to be reliable, consistent, and that a reasonable portion of it be net carbon negative. …”

“I have asked you to add $1 million for coal market augmentation and preservation. This appropriation will be used to defend our energy industry, to sustain the revenues energy provides for our state, and to support local communities' future planning. 

“I urge your support of a $25 million investment to establish the Energy Commercialization Program. This program will provide a coordinated approach to supporting research to speed along technologies that advance zero or net-negative carbon uses for coal and other fossil fuels. …”

“We are supporting our existing industries by revamping the Business Council. It now has a new mission and a new CEO, Josh Dorrell, who just took up the reins.”

Alabama, Connecticut, Maryland, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Wyomingtech talkin govs