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Tech Talkin’ Govs 2020: DE, HI, ME, MA, NE, NM, SD, WI trying to build economies

January 30, 2020
By: Ellen Marrison

The economy, workforce and climate change continue to surface in governors' state of the state addresses. While today’s strong economy allows most governors to reflect on how the states have grown, preparing for the next downturn continues to be a point of concern. As SSTI continues to review the addresses for news of new innovation-related initiatives, we find Delaware proposing increased investment in its economic infrastructure, while renewable energy standards are at play in states like Delaware, Hawaii, and Maine. And Wisconsin’s governor pledged to create a commission to focus on rural prosperity and another to consider redistricting across the state. Those and more innovation initiatives are excerpted from the governors’ remarks below.

Delaware

Gov. John Carney outlined his priorities for strengthening Delaware’s economy as he starts his fourth year as governor:

“I’ve asked our Chief Information Officer, James Collins, to lead a new effort to connect state government with Delawareans through technology. This will be a game changer for our state. Together, we’ve also invested over $30 million in the Higher Education Economic Development Fund. We want colleges and universities to help drive economic growth in Delaware.”

“… In my budget next week, we’re proposing $50 million in capital investments to further strengthen our economic infrastructure. These investments are all designed to shift our economy into a higher gear. Many emerging companies have outgrown the Experimental Station or the Star Campus. So we’re investing in lab space where they can keep growing here in Delaware. We’ll create a Site Readiness Fund, so we can quickly convert existing properties to meet the needs of prospective employers. And we’ll expand the EDGE grant program, to encourage even more small businesses to grow and innovate.”

“Our proposal will waive tuition and fees at Delaware Tech, Delaware State, or the University of Delaware for students who age out of foster care.”

“Delaware has made great strides over the last decade to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, and we should continue to be a leader on this issue. We plan to work with my friend Senator McDowell to set a new Renewable Portfolio Standard. By 2035, we want 40 percent of Delaware’s energy to come from renewable sources.”

Hawaii

Gov. David Ige stressed the importance of solar projects and called on the state’s youth to become involved:

“With a flurry of commercial solar projects in the pipeline and local homeowners’ enthusiasm for residential solar power, we will meet our 2020 energy goal of attaining 30 percent of our energy needs from renewable sources.

“The significance of this initial pivot to clean and renewable energy cannot be overstated.

“We have become a leader in this effort, and our actions have inspired other states to follow. Since we set a goal to become carbon negative by 2045, four other states have followed our lead. So far, we have successfully reduced our greenhouse gas emissions and will meet our goal for 2020. And our utilities are meeting our clean electricity goals faster and at record low prices.

“Today, 37 percent of Oʻahu’s single-family residences have rooftop solar. On certain days, Kauaʻi is already achieving 100 percent of electricity from clean energy sources, decades ahead of when we thought this would be possible.

“We will continue to aggressively engage in actions that will continue to de-carbonize our economy and make our environment whole.”

“I would like to challenge our own young students to think about Greta [Thunberg’s] message to us. The adults in this room often talk about sustainability and the future. But for those under 21, it is more about your future than ours. It is never too early to take ownership of it.

Because it’s as much about everyday activities as it is about large or sweeping public policy. We can work with the Legislature to permanently set aside 10,000 acres in conservation under the State’s Legacy Land program, as we have over the last year and a half. We can mandate 100-percent clean energy usage by 2045. But without your involvement, public policy is just that: a policy written on a piece of paper. It is your support and daily participation that transforms those policies into meaningful actions.”

Maine

Gov. Janet Mills reported on the current strength of the state’s economy, but cautioned against a downturn and committed to “setting aside at least another $20 million for the rainy day fund this year.” She also laid out plans for other economic challenges, including attracting workers to the state, education, workforce and climate change:

“Very simply, we need people. … To foster innovation, my administration will also support increased funding for the Maine Seed Capital Tax Credit. By helping new businesses take root and grow, we will create jobs and diversify our economy. To encourage young families to come here and work here, Maine also needs more affordable housing.”

“Our 10-year development plan also tells us to enhance critical infrastructure, including broadband, particularly in rural Maine. …This session, I propose that the Legislature fund $15 million to expand broadband for Maine people and businesses. … ”

“This year, I ask this Legislature to fully fund the second year of the higher education budget which was cut last spring. These institutions of higher learning cannot withstand rising costs without the prospects of higher tuition. And higher tuition is the last thing our students need. The average Maine college graduate in 2018 owed more than $32,600 in student loans – the eighth-highest student loan burden in the country. We need to simplify debt relief programs like the Educational Opportunity Tax Credit to help more graduates retire their debt. And we must boost the Educators for Maine Loan Forgiveness Program to incentivize young teachers to work in the underserved areas which desperately need them. While lifting the burden of student debt off the shoulders of our graduates, we also must ensure secondary school students have the skills they need to succeed in a rapidly changing economy.”

“I ask this body to fund equipment upgrades for our CTEs so that teachers … are able to provide our 8,000 CTE students with the skills that we desperately need them to have.”

“Thanks to this Legislature, the Public Utilities Commission and our University, Maine will build and launch the nation’s first floating offshore wind demonstration project, ‘Maine Aqua Ventus,’ with full input from our fishing industry and our people. And I promise you, that commitment is just the beginning of our effort to use the Gulf of Maine and all the world’s oceans to slow the warming of our planet. We can do this. The University of Maine Advanced Structures and Composites Center, led by Dr. Habib Dagher, has already created the first grid-connected floating offshore wind turbine in the United States, and Maine ‘Aqua Ventus’ is positioned to become a leader in this industry. … This spring I will visit Scotland to see the offshore wind platforms they are using to supply that country with clean renewable energy. I am determined that the business we once lost to them, we will bring back to Maine.”

Massachusetts

Gov. Charlie Baker called for a continued focus on the skills gap and more attention on climate resiliency:

“We have to continue to reduce the skills gap between people looking for better work and the needs of many of our employers.”

“We created the first Municipal Vulnerability Program in the country, so local communities would have the ability to address future threats before they occur. More than 285 communities have joined us. And with our support, they’re working to protect their property and infrastructure from the effects of climate change. We’re committed to expanding this essential program to all 351 communities. And we’ll bring this administration’s total investment in climate resiliency to just over $1 billion by 2022.

“But cities and towns from the Berkshires to Cape Cod will need more support to finish the job. That’s why we proposed creating a trust, which would generate about $130 million every year to protect critical infrastructure, fix culverts, design flood paths and adapt to our new reality.””

“Tonight, I’m committing the Commonwealth to achieving an ambitious climate goal: net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

“That is why we’re working with our colleagues across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states on a Regional Transportation and Climate Initiative. This encompasses 70 million people and 50 million vehicles.”

“… [T]he Transportation Climate Initiative will deliver millions of dollars in needed investments in our transportation infrastructure. It’s a critical part in expanding public transportation, transforming our highways and reducing congestion.”

“To keep our economy strong, we’re focused on two important initiatives.

“First, Lieutenant Governor Polito just spent a year touring the commonwealth, hearing from local leaders, legislators, private companies and non-profits, as we drafted our economic development plan for this term. 

“The finished product is appropriately called “Partnerships for Growth,” because we succeed when we work together. Legislation based on the report will be filed for your consideration next month.

“The second initiative will focus on addressing the persistent skills gap we have, between people looking to work their way up the jobs ladder and the needs and expectations of many of our employers.

“To address this, we’ll launch a $15 million partnership with our vocational schools to give thousands of people, adults and high schoolers, ‘hands-on’ educational opportunities. The partnership will transform vocational schools, to provide classes in three shifts. Adults can take classes during the evening. Traditional high school students can take classes after their regular school day. And full-time vocational school students attend as they do now.

“These Career Technical Institutes will turbocharge our approach to applied learning and industry specific credentialing. Over the next several years, this partnership will train 20,000 new, skilled, and diverse workers in key trades and technical jobs.”

“The new [education] law builds on the first two and makes an unprecedented $1.5 billion commitment of new state funds, to elevate our kids and our schools.”

Nebraska

Gov. Pete Ricketts noted that workforce and business expansion “need ongoing work in both the public and private sector.”

“Connecting the next generation of Nebraskans to great opportunities in our state is key to helping our kids make Nebraska their home. I am proposing that we invest $16 million in scholarships for students at our community colleges, state colleges, and University system to help connect the next generation of Nebraskans with great careers in fields ranging from math and engineering to healthcare and IT.”

“My recommendations also include funding for LB 720, which would refine Nebraska’s business incentives. It is critical that incentives are dealt with this legislative session, so Nebraska can remain competitive nationally as we work to recruit and expand job opportunities.”

New Mexico

“We are top 10 nationally for inbound moves, a complete reversal from only a few years ago, when families were leaving our state — and one third of the people moving to New Mexico are coming here for jobs.”

“… This year, we can round out our world-class cradle-to-career educational philosophy with a comprehensive embrace of universal higher education: The Opportunity Scholarship. It is a prudent, sustainable investment in the bridge we must build between our classrooms and our workforce. We have the power to make tuition-free higher education a reality, benefiting an astounding 55,000 New Mexico students this fall. …”

“As outlined in my budget proposal, we will build on the record Local Economic Development and Job Training Incentive funding we delivered throughout New Mexico in year one. Thank you for your support for these essential programs. The local jobs we created last year paid 20 percent better than over the last eight years. Manufacturing jobs, IT jobs, engineering and tourism and outdoor recreation jobs — we’re creating pathways into these careers; we’re getting New Mexicans the skills they need to succeed.”

South Dakota

Gov. Kristi Noem focused on agriculture and said she is willing to revisit the topic of industrial hemp as an economic development tool:

“Over the next 10 years, private industry, South Dakota State University, the School of Mines and Technology, and the state will partner to support research and development in bioprocessing. We must invest in the future of ag in our state, diversifying operations for our farmers, ranchers, and timber producers. Our graduates will have a deeper understanding of how biofuels and agriculture can drive change across the globe.”

“Like cyber security, South Dakota is uniquely positioned to lead the nation in the development of bioprocessing, and I hope we can work together to support this initiative.”

“… I know many of you believe industrial hemp has a promising economic future. And over the last year, we’ve had a long conversation about legalizing hemp. Everyone knows that I don’t think it’s a good idea. … Our primary obligation is to protect the health and welfare of our citizens, and in the interest of being proactive, I am willing to sign legislation that does the following:  First, it must include reliable enforcement guidelines.  … Second, it must include responsible regulation regarding licensing, reporting, and inspections. … Third, a person must have a permit and any other needed paperwork for the transportation of it. … Fourth, if you add up one-time and ongoing costs, I believe this will cost about $3.5 million dollars, and there must be a plan to pay for it.”

“Many of our kids have barriers to success that come from outside the classroom. A child’s potential can certainly be blocked due to reasons beyond their control.  Some schools in our state have started a very successful program that I’d like to see expanded. Nationally, ‘Jobs for America’s Graduates’ has a 96 percent success rate getting students through some of the challenges they face. In all of South Dakota’s JAG schools, it has succeeded 100 percent of the time. Unfortunately, only five high schools currently offer the program.”

Wisconsin

Gov. Tony Evers reflected on his accomplishments in his first year as governor, including the formation of the Climate Change Task Force, saying, “This past year we also brought science back to the state of Wisconsin. And we acknowledged that climate change exists, and it’s a threat we need to start taking seriously.”

“But when we talk about education, we can’t continue to ignore the elephant in the room of student debt. So tonight I’m excited to announce that I will be signing an executive order creating a Task Force on Student Debt in Wisconsin.”

“… I am calling a special session of the legislature next week to take up legislation to invest in our farmers, agricultural industries, and our rural communities.”

“…  I will make good on my campaign promise to create a blue-ribbon commission to help promote agriculture and rural economic prosperity. Our Blue Ribbon Commission on Rural Prosperity will convene folks and different industries from across our state. They’ll work together to develop long-term strategies on how we can best support the needs of rural Wisconsinites and rural communities.”

“Well, when more than 80 percent of our state supports medical marijuana, 80 percent support universal background checks and extreme risk protection orders, and 70 percent support expanding Medicaid, and elected officials can ignore those numbers without consequence, folks, something’s wrong. … So, tonight, as promised, I am bringing the fight for nonpartisan redistricting to the Legislature.

"In the coming days, I will be signing an executive order to create a nonpartisan redistricting commission who will draw The People’s Maps.”

Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Mexico, South Dakota, Wisconsintech talkin govs