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Tech Talkin’ Govs 2020: Innovation, education and budgets weigh on governors in latest round of addresses

February 06, 2020
By: Ellen Marrison

Education, infrastructure and budgets are all on the minds of the governors in this latest review of state of the state addresses. With more than half the governors having completed their outlooks by the end of January, this week we review the speeches through the end of month and find repeated attention to education, energy and budgeting issues, with a statewide lottery being introduced in Alaska, new energy legislation in Illinois, and South Carolina also proposed a funding increase for state universities that do not raise in-state tuition rates. This is the fifth installment of our Tech Talkin’ Govs series, where we comb through the addresses and bring you news of innovation initiatives in excerpts of the governors’ words.

Alaska

Gov. Mike Dunleavy focused on addressing the state’s budget problems:

“While we contemplate the role of the Alaska people in solving our fiscal issues, any and all ideas should be explored. To that end, I’ll soon be introducing legislation to create a statewide lottery. Forty-five states have lotteries in place, and its past time for Alaskans and visitors to have the option to individually contribute to fixing Alaska’s fiscal issue.”

“In addition, I’ve introduced legislation that reduces barriers to entry for over 100 licensed professions, eliminating red tape and making it easier for professionals to move to Alaska and begin working immediately.”

Inexpensive energy, especially electricity, will be the basis that drives the future economy. If Alaska does it right, we have an opportunity to lead this nation in cheap energy.

In 2010, a law was passed by the legislature, mandating Alaska produce 50% of its electricity from renewable sources by the year 2025. We are running out of time.

Whether it’s tidal, hydro, solar, biomass, wind, or geothermal, we have more potential to deploy renewable energy than anywhere else on the planet, and we have an obligation to make every possible effort to reach this 50% goal by 2025.

The good news is, we have some communities that are already there. The city of Kodiak is there. They operate on nearly 100% renewable energy year-round, through hydro and wind. This is proof that renewables can work.

It’s not just good for the environment, it’s good for Alaskans – it’s really the smart thing to do. Therefore, I’ve instructed my departments and agencies to identify and evaluate options and a path forward to deliver affordable energy to Alaskans based upon renewable resources.”

Illinois

Gov. J.B. Pritzker looked back on his first year in office and reaffirmed his commitment to education, saying, “And after years of decline, we are turning around university student enrollment by making college more affordable, expanding scholarships to an additional 10,000 college-bound students – and this fall, more than half of the families in our state will be eligible for free tuition at the University of Illinois.”

“It’s time for us to recommit ourselves to the hard work of bringing prosperity and opportunity to all communities in Illinois through a fairer tax system, job creation, education and job training programs, child care and pre-school, and a focus on building essential tools of success such as high-speed Internet in all corners of our state.”

“Our spring agenda must also address the pressing issue of adopting new clean energy legislation that reduces carbon pollution, promotes renewable energy, and accelerates electrification of our transportation sector. We saw the effects of climate change right here in Illinois last year with a polar vortex, devastating floods, record lake levels, and emergency declarations in more than a third of Illinois’ counties.

“Urgent action is needed — but let me be clear, the old ways of negotiating energy legislation are over. It’s time to put consumers and climate first. I’m not going to sign an energy bill written by the utility companies.”

Michigan

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who campaigned on fixing the roads in Michigan, reiterated her commitment to infrastructure fixes and workforce:

“Water is one of Michigan’s greatest and most urgent challenges because it touches nearly every aspect of our lives. Recent headlines about PFAS and record Great Lakes water levels and their impact on tourism, agriculture and infrastructure speak to the magnitude and the urgency of the challenge ahead. You’ll hear a lot more about this in the coming weeks. Tonight, I’m going to focus on roads, education, jobs, and health care.”

“A long-term infrastructure fix isn’t the only solution the hardworking people of Michigan need. Michigan has boasted 10 straight years of economic growth. But Michiganders aren’t all sharing in it. And at a time of historically low unemployment, many people are struggling to get ahead. Some are underskilled. Some are overworked. Some are underpaid. We’re doing something about that.”

“In 2019, I set an ambitious goal to increase the number of Michiganders with a post-secondary credential to 60 percent by 2030. To get there, there’s bipartisan legislation called Michigan Reconnect, that will provide tuition free skills training and degree programs for adults. ... Now, let’s get this proposal passed. Our business community supports Michigan Reconnect. And here’s why: We have over one hundred thousand in-demand jobs to fill. These are good paying jobs — jobs in construction, IT, and advanced manufacturing. But they demand specialized skills training. Meeting our goal and filling these jobs depends on more than just passing a bill. It depends on our young people. So, to Michigan’s high school seniors, including my own kids — I have two words: Keep going. Make a plan for after high school. Find a program that’s a good fit for you — whether it’s a union apprenticeship, a community college, or a university.”

Mississippi        

Gov. Tate Reeves delivered his first state of the state address, with a call to continue educational gains the state has made, increase teachers’ pay and consider other educational pathways beside a four-year degree to build the workforce:

“Thanks to cost-saving measures and tax cuts that have spurred our economy, we have more money coming in than ever before. … As we begin to allocate this new revenue, I can think of no one more deserving, and no task more essential, than increasing the pay of our teachers.

“I know that there is broad consensus and commitment to achieve this quickly and to increase pay substantially. I want all of you to know that my priority is simple: let’s pay our teachers as much as we can possibly afford. Send me a budget that does that, and I’ll stand beside each of you to sign it with joy.”

“Last year, I outlined a plan to put $100 million into workforce development — training Mississippians so that we are ready to work. Teaching skills to students from the earliest possible age. Apprenticeships, community college grants, and assistance for workers. We can make noise across the nation when they see our commitment to this cause.”

“… Better paying jobs — quality jobs — are just around the corner. We just need to invest in the training that our workers need to win them.”

“And we cannot forget the next great generational infrastructure issue: internet access. We must continue to find innovative ways to allow all of Mississippi to connect. No one should be left behind.”

“We must make it easier for everyone to earn money in Mississippi. That means eliminating those unfair regulations that keep people from getting licenses to work. We must make it simpler for anyone to thrive in our state.”

North Dakota

Gov. Doug Burgum noted that the state has grown 13 percent in the last decade and highlighted innovation-related activities across the state.

“We have an opportunity through innovation, rather than through regulation, to outlaw carbon. We have the chance to innovate and take carbon from the devil element on the chemistry chart to have it be the thing that is a value added input, that helps us lower the cost of construction materials to help us build new road materials, to build better insulation for houses, to help plants grow faster by injecting carbon into greenhouses. We have a chance through innovation and regulation to completely transform the entire debate which is consuming the world about energy. And we have an opportunity to do it right here. We're not just talking about innovation over regulation, we're actually investing in it as a state in partnership with the private industry.”

“For this reason, we must and we will — from our administration and work with anyone that'll join us — to push for career academies across the state. We know that we've got some successful models of career and technical education. Maybe the best one is Bismarck's model with their Career Academy. But these comprise technical jobs that open doors to high paying, high demand jobs.”

South Carolina

Gov. Henry McMaster focused on education and proposed funding to extend a successful workforce training initiative and bring it to rural areas

“Last year we took bold steps in education reform to empower the next generation’s workforce. We invested in our classroom teachers, in rural schools, in keeping our children safe and secure. This year our continued investment must be the most significant ever. Teachers are leaving the classroom, most before their fifth year. Last year, we raised the salaries of all South Carolina teachers. This year, I ask you to give each teacher an additional $3,000 dollar raise, which equates to an average 7 percent raise per teacher.”

“We must also continue efforts to make our public universities and colleges, technical and comprehensive, more accessible and affordable for all South Carolinians. Last year we took a dramatic step by freezing college tuition for in-state students. I urge you to do it again this year by providing a 5 percent funding increase for each institution that does not raise tuition. With this surplus, we can also make a historic, one-time investment toward repairing our aging campus buildings and infrastructure.”

“Many of our young people cannot afford college without scholarships, grants and financial assistance. I ask you to provide an additional $164 million for need-based scholarships and grants to open the door of opportunity for those students. I also ask that the state pay 100 percent of college tuition for active duty members of the South Carolina Army or Air National Guard.”

“… The Continuum is a regional center for workforce education and training for high school students and adults. It was created through collaboration between The Darla Moore Foundation, Florence-Darlington Technical College, Francis Marion University and local businesses. This state-of-the-art career center provides students with training, certifications, dual credit courses, along with business incubator space. Superintendent Spearman proposed that we replicate this model in rural school districts, by providing a state match for collaborations between technical colleges, school districts and businesses. I ask you to approve my budget request of $50 million for this effort.”

Utah

Gov. Gary Herbert delivered his 11th and final state of the state address, and noted that the state is “in the best position economically that we have ever been in our state’s history.” He called for a focus on meeting the challenges from the growth that the state is experiencing:

“One of the challenges that still remains economically is to ensure job opportunities to the nearly 25 percent of our people that live in rural Utah.”

“The good news is that according to our Department of Workforce Services, we are on track to exceed our goal of creating 25,000 new jobs in rural Utah by the end of this year. For example, the Utah Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Initiative is finding new ways to turn coal into carbon fiber. The Utah Rural Online Initiative is empowering rural residents with new career options. Our successful efforts to develop broadband throughout the state are setting the foundation for opportunities we can’t yet even imagine. And thanks to technology and our telecommuting initiative, we’ve moved many state jobs to communities off of the Wasatch Front.”

“… In my budget, I set aside a $34 million down payment toward improvements in heavy rail, light rail, and bus transit. Also in my budget recommendations, I set aside $66 million for fast electric vehicle charging stations, to help accommodate the growing use of electric automobiles on Utah’s roads. This $100 million investment in our transportation and mass transit is a necessary step toward improving the air that we breathe.”

Alaska, Illinois, Michigan, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Carolina, Utahtech talkin govs