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Tech Talkin’ Govs 2020: AZ, CO, NJ, NY, VT spotlight climate, higher ed, rural and workforce proposals

January 16, 2020
By: Ellen Marrison

Governors are continuing to roll out their state of the state addresses and this week’s SSTI review highlights differences in the states economies: while Arizona is enjoying population growth Vermont is struggling to attract workers. More states are focusing proposals on climate change and clean energy initiatives, with New York proposing a $3 billion bond initiative to build resiliency, and Colorado, New Jersey and Vermont proposing clean energy and climate initiatives as well.  Rural broadband, higher education and workforce initiatives also are throughout the state addresses. SSTI presents excerpts of the governors’ addresses as they relate to the innovation economy below.


Gov. Doug Ducey delivered his sixth state of the state address on Jan. 13, and heralded the in-migration the state is experiencing, noting that Arizona is attracting 120,000 new residents a year and touted its diverse economy and growth:

“We’re also going to target more resources toward our trade programs with an eye toward Achieve60AZ. At our community colleges: a full restoration of STEM and workforce development funding. In our public schools: more dollars to CTE trade programs that train students in the high-demand careers of the future. These are worthy and responsible investments, so with money in the bank, let’s make them.”

“We need to connect all parts of our growing state. Rural areas still lack high-speed Internet. Let’s triple our investment in Rural Broadband Grants, and also invest $50 million in Smart Highway Corridors to install broadband along our rural interstates. This will make our highways safer and smarter than ever before and pave the way to get all of rural Arizona logged on.”

“There’s no shortage of new jobs in Arizona — but many vital jobs remain unfilled in our rural communities. So we’ve got a plan — a Rural Jobs Initiative.”

“… [W]e’re launching a partnership with Local First Arizona to strengthen small businesses, get rural Arizonans back to work, and bolster our local economies.

“Our community colleges are creating a pipeline of talent. So we’re expanding these efforts, with a $4 million investment in our rural colleges. … ASU, UofA and NAU have also stepped up to fuel our economy, and we’re about to pour on the gas. Regents Chair, Dr. Larry Penley, has proposed what he calls ‘The New Economy Initiative.’ It’s an innovative approach that enhances our capacity to graduate more students for the critical jobs of today and tomorrow.”


Gov. Jared Polis focused on clean energy and education. Excerpts on innovation initiatives from his prepared delivery remarks follow:

“…[T]he burden of student debt is not only holding back an entire generation of young people struggling to afford a car or a home or to start a family — it’s holding back our economy too. So last year we took action by increasing the General Fund investment in higher education by 13 percent, an increase that we are building on in our new budget.

“Together we expanded concurrent enrollment programs so that students can spend less time and money earning their degrees. And thanks to new legislation enacted last year, we are putting $100 into a college savings account for every single Colorado child born or adopted beginning January 1st of this year.”

“…[T]he ‘Get On Your Feet’ loan forgiveness plan … would provide debt relief to Coloradans who graduate from two- or four-year colleges on an income-based repayment program, helping them transition into the workforce.”

“If we want to preserve our way of life for future generations, then we all need to lead on clean air and climate. And in fact, the states and countries that embrace the renewable energy future will reap the economic rewards. That’s why we have taken bold action to put us on the path to achieving 100% renewable energy by 2040. But the truth is that due to price reductions and technological advances, the shift toward renewable energy is already happening, and it’s being driven by the private sector that sees a profitable future in renewables. Just this morning, Tri-State and its members announced that they will be replacing their remaining coal power in the state with thousands of megawatts of cheaper and cleaner renewable energy sources by 2030, resulting in a 90 percent reduction in the utilities’ in-state greenhouse gas emissions.

“This transition includes expanded energy efficiency programs and a significant investment in electric vehicle charging stations across rural Colorado. We're also excited to work with Tri-State to allow its 17 member co-ops across the state to generate more renewable energy locally.”

“But we need to recognize the disruption caused to workers, families, and communities that are impacted by the private sector’s turn away from coal. That’s why I intend to work with utilities including Tri-State and our new Office of Just Transition to expand opportunities in renewable energy and help ensure that no worker and no community is left behind.”

New Jersey

Gov. Phil Murphy also focused on climate change, and wants it included in education standards:

“Likewise, we know climate change is real. Instead of denying reality, we’re acting on it. To win the next generation, we’re working to be the first state to incorporate climate change education across our K-12 state education standards. And, we’re going to make the fight against climate change a cornerstone of the innovation economy. 

“Two years ago, when our administration took office, New Jersey’s clean energy future was stalled. Today, we are on the way to an ambitious goal of 7,500 MW of offshore wind energy by 2035 – enough to meet half of New Jersey’s entire retail electric needs, remove billions of tons of fossil-fuel pollution from our air, and create tens of thousands of good-paying union jobs.

“And, in two weeks, I will unveil New Jersey’s new Energy Master Plan, our comprehensive roadmap for arriving at our goal of a 100-percent clean-energy economy by 2050.”

“Today, I am proud to present this plan, which we are calling, simply, ‘Jobs NJ.’
“Jobs NJ will clear a path to ongoing job training, so residents can continue to learn and compete as the needs of employers evolve with new technologies and new economic realities. It will also close longstanding structural and racial equity gaps that have kept some of our residents from job training and skills development – whether they come from historically underserved communities, are new immigrants, or are formerly incarcerated individuals reentering the workforce. It will also help the differently abled to be full and equal participants in our economic future.

“And, importantly, Jobs NJ will dovetail with our nonstop efforts to make our state the home for leaders in the innovation economy. “

“We now know that some companies received tax credits they did not deserve and took credit for jobs they did not create. They didn’t just hurt their own reputations, they hurt the reputations of the many more good corporate actors who have done exactly what they said they would.

“I’ve now spent well over a year working alongside Senate President Sweeney and Speaker Coughlin, and many of you, to create a new system of incentives – one complete with greater transparency and safeguards, and commonsense caps. Once again, I firmly believe that a targeted and responsible incentive system is important to our economic future. …”

New York

Gov. Andrew Cuomo spent weeks prior to his address outlining a series of proposals for the coming year, and during his address, he touched on some of those proposals which are outlined in a 321 page document, including climate change:

“This year we will set a new nation-leading response to the transcendent threat of our times: climate change. … Over 60 percent of our counties have been flooded twice in the past 10 years, I have been in five so called 100-year floods. The numbers just don't add up.

“First, we must be ready to handle these increasing, life-threatening, emergency situations. It is a new and growing challenge for our state operations. I will propose a plan to increase and update our emergency response capacity, so our brave men and women have the right equipment to do their jobs.”

“We must accelerate our transition to renewable energy, because the clock is ticking. NYSERDA and NYPA will provide additional incentives to get more renewable projects built and built faster, focusing on opportunities upstate, complementing our world-leading offshore wind program.”

“I am proposing an ambitious $3B Bond act - the Restore Mother Nature Bond Act - to be on the ballot this November to fund natural restoration and resiliency programs all across the state.” (See related coverage here.)

“People say you have to choose between a strong economy and a healthy planet. Nothing could be further from the truth. The economy of tomorrow is the green economy. This year, let's go big with an ambitious expansion of electric vehicles and attract the growing industry. It's a win-win for our environment and our economy.”

“Let's make $100 million in Green Bank financing available to locate or expand EV manufacturers and suppliers in the state. And let's train the workers of tomorrow and create an auto tech and charging station installation training program to train 2,000 workers a year.”

“We will continue to invest all across Upstate, from … :

  • Building the Skydome a state-of-the-art drone testing facility in the Mohawk Valley, to
  • A new Education and Workforce Training Center in Syracuse, to
  • Building on the Finger Lakes Forward plan for a downtown Innovation Zone, by bringing three tech companies into the city of Rochester creating over 700 jobs in the city… .”

“We are already bringing the internet to every corner of Upstate, and now we must bring 100 percent cell service to every corner of the State. We've invested hundreds of millions to bring high speed internet, so let's protect our investment, by making sure the internet remains free and open to all by codifying my net neutrality executive order into law.”

“This year I propose we go to the next level and make college tuition free for families making up to $150,000. At the same time, let's continue to open the door to higher education for disadvantaged, deserving students, who otherwise wouldn't dream of going to college, by investing in our Opportunity Programs and expanding workforce training centers.”


In his address on Jan. 9, Gov. Phil Scott focused on the state’s demographics as a threat to growth and proposed ways to grow the state’s labor force. Scott acknowledged a “real and growing economic disparity from region to region” and “a huge gap between median home values, median household income, average wage and so much more.” Calling it a “demographic crisis,” Scott said sustainable economic growth has become too hard, regressive and “by far the biggest and most immediate challenge to our state and the ability of government to help shape the future.”

“… [L]et’s further reduce hurdles and costs for licensed professionals so we can bring more of them into the workforce. And my budget will include additional investments in training, with an emphasis on the trades, and more incentives for young adults and working-age families to stay or move here.”

“Overall tax and fee burden is still growing far too fast, especially property taxes, and you can expect additional targeted tax relief in my budget. Because, ultimately, we need to help people in all parts of the state move up the economic ladder, and the best way to do this is to level the economic playing field and make Vermont more affordable for all families and every business.”

“The balanced approach we’re working on would enable concentrated development where people want to live and work. And, when paired with my proposed investments in housing and economic development, will support more vibrant, walkable and livable downtowns and villages which, as the speaker has said, supports economic growth and is a critical piece of our work to combat climate change.”

“In addition to the privately funded charging stations being installed across the state, we’ve invested over $1 million in charging equipment. And with investments through the Volkswagen settlement, we expect to nearly triple the number of state funded charging stations by the end of 2020. 

“And to help make EVs more affordable for low- and moderate-income Vermonters, we provided $1 million in purchasing incentives. Utilities, auto dealers, many employers, municipalities and individuals have all stepped up, alongside state government. As a result, we’ve seen a 160 percent increase in the number of EVs on our roads since 2016. But we know this is not enough, so we’re not stopping here.

“As part of the all-fuels efficiency conversation before the Public Utilities Commission, we’re asking that a portion of energy efficiency charges be directed to transportation electrification. We’re also using Volkswagen settlement funds and federal grants to purchase more electric school and public transit buses. As we look even further ahead, I strongly believe it’s incentives, not penalties, which will help us transition more quickly.”

“… [M]y budget will propose more incentives and a greater focus on affordable, clean energy as well as expanding our battery and renewable energy storage sectors and the jobs they can create. And I’ll propose giving small co-ops and municipal utilities more flexibility in order to innovate.  

“From clean energy to our 20-year, $1 billion commitment to clean water projects, we’ve shown protecting our environment can be done in ways that also strengthen the economy without making Vermont less affordable for families and businesses.”

Arizona, Colorado, New Jersey, New York, Vermonttech talkin govs