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Tech Talkin’ Govs 2024: Innovation agendas from the governors’ State of the State addresses

January 11, 2024
By: Laura Lacy Graham

With the start of the new year, governors have begun to deliver their State of the State addresses, laying out proposals for new programs and discussing the conditions of their states. As states’ revenue levels return to more typical levels, lawmakers, with a few exceptions, are taking a more cautious, or constrained, view of their funding priorities and proposed initiatives. Many governors also appear to be more restrained in their addresses this year, speaking more to the previous year’s successes, suggesting lawmakers tighten their state’s fiscal belts while providing targeted investments into key or signature programs, as well as previously proposed initiatives, rather than rolling out new programs, except in the innovation space related to semiconductors and recently announced tech hubs.  

Every year, SSTI reviews the State of State and budget addresses for any newsworthy developments or initiatives that governors may discuss or propose as they relate to the innovation economy. The following highlights have been excerpted from State of the States or budget addresses given between December 2023 and January 9, 2024, by governors from Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, South Dakota, Vermont, and Washington. Additional addresses and states will be covered in future Digest issues.

Not all governors (Nevada or Texas) will deliver a State of the State this year, and three governors (Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi) will give inaugural addresses. Regardless of the addresses given, some may not have revealed new innovation-related initiatives, and therefore are not included in our coverage. Common initiatives among the governors so far this year that touched on innovation include a continued emphasis on workforce (including affordable housing and childcare), education and protections for minors on social media platforms; continued water issues for Western governors; and artificial intelligence (AI), clean energy, semiconductors, and climate action.

On Jan. 8, Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs gave her second State of the State address, which detailed the successes of 2023, including the investments in a number of implemented initiatives, such as Future48 workforce accelerators and Build It AZ Apprenticeships that are preparing Arizonans for jobs in industries like semiconductors, renewable energy, aerospace and defense, construction and the trades; investments in education and higher education; access to child care; expansion of high-speed internet across the state; and, the creation of the bipartisan Water Policy Council and updating the state’s groundwater management laws. To build on the AZ Healthy Tomorrow initiative, Hobbs called on lawmakers to fund a new engineering-focused medical school at Arizona State University and to create a new medical school at Northern Arizona University that will focus on serving rural and tribal communities.

On Jan. 9, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis delivered a simple message in his State of the State address: stay the course. Detailing the successes of 2023, the governor appealed to lawmakers and Floridians to make efforts that would continue to build on those successes, particularly in regard to the state’s workforce development and education programs. He touched briefly on initiatives he proposed in his FY 2024-2025 Budget, Focus on Florida’s Future (released Dec. 5). In his recommended spending plan, DeSantis called on lawmakers to invest $853 million for workforce education programs to ensure that Floridians can continue to access workforce education opportunities that lead to high-demand, high-wage jobs.

Additionally, the governor also recommended $35 million for the Florida Semiconductor Institute at the University of Florida to support workforce development for semiconductor manufacturing and research and development; $100 million for the Job Growth Grant Fund to support local infrastructure and workforce training projects; $25 million for the Rural Infrastructure Fund to support local infrastructure projects that help attract jobs; and, $100 million to expand broadband internet access in rural communities.

Idaho Gov. Brad Little gave his sixth State of the State address on Jan. 8. Touting policies and fiscal stewardship that have resulted in top rankings for the state in income growth, economic momentum, and small businesses; Little unveiled his administration’s new Idaho Works initiative. This initiative, in part, outlines the governor’s FY 2025 budget recommendations and one that he described as “…the most fiscally conservative budget since the Great Recession.” While it bolsters the state’s rainy-day funds, spends less than the current fiscal year budget, and leaves a surplus in case the economy slows, it also heavily focuses on infrastructure investments and projects, as well as calls for additional funding into the administration’s LAUNCH Idaho (an education program announced last year), which provides grants up to $8,000 for high school graduates to enroll in either an education or training program that aligns with Idaho’s in-demand careers, as well as provides in-state industries and businesses with a pipeline for skilled workers and a specialized workforce.   

Touting a number of accomplishments (a robust manufacturing industry, an innovative public health program, and arts initiatives) during his final State of the State address on Jan. 9, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb also laid out an agenda for his last year focusing on education and building better awareness of the state’s Next Level Jobs programs through a campaign entitled, "One Stop to Start," which seeks to help people obtain one of the many high-paying, life-changing jobs available all over the state. Highlighting Indiana’s economy and manufacturing industry strength, the governor touted the state as winning “three big federal partnerships—a clean hydrogen hub, a micro-electronics hub, and a biotech manufacturing hub. […] resulting in millions in new investment, and thousands of good-high paying jobs, and […] position[ing] Indiana to benefit disproportionately from America's renewed focus on defense-related manufacturing and our re-shoring strategy.”

After his re-election victory, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear released his FY 2024-2026 budget priorities on Dec. 18 and reiterated those priorities on Jan. 3 with his State of the Commonwealth address. Beshear said Kentucky enters 2024 after having its best four-year period of economic growth in its history due to bipartisan efforts in approving legislation that attracted and secured megaprojects through site development funding and investments in a competitive closing fund. To continue the momentum, Beshear is asking lawmakers to turn their attention to education and affordable housing efforts and called on legislators to make similar historic investments into affordable housing ($12 million into the state’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund) and education, including passing a universal Pre-K program. The governor proposes an 8% increase in state appropriation for its public colleges and universities—$60 million more in fiscal year 2025 and $78.9 million in 2026.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy delivered his sixth State of the State address on Jan. 9. Prior to the speech, Murphy said that his address would not include a “laundry list of stuff,” and his state budget address—scheduled for next month— “will be the more robust speech.” Vowing to make his state more affordable for more families and to build on current economic growth, the governor called on the legislature to advance initiatives that would help working families. Those initiatives include introducing a medical debt relief legislative package and passing affordable housing legislation. Murphy also touted his administration's recent actions aimed at growing New Jersey's economy, including raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and strengthening organized labor by growing the state's unionized workforce and increasing the number of apprenticeship programs in life sciences, cannabis, home health care, and clean energy. Murphy reiterated his administration’s commitment to bring universal pre-K to all of New Jersey and remains committed to renewable energy: 100% clean energy by 2035 by calling on lawmakers to continue to invest in those programs. Gov. Murphy announced an “AI Moonshot.” Stating that New Jersey is best positioned to lead in artificial intelligence, the state has partnered with Princeton University to create a new AI innovation hub, which “… [will] bring together researchers, industry leaders, thought leaders, world-leading academics, ethicists, and the public sector to advance developments in AI—and incubate groundbreaking discoveries.” As part of New Jersey’s AI Moonshot, the governor set the mission “…for our state’s top minds to pioneer a series of AI-powered breakthroughs, over the next decade, that will change the lives of billions for the better. […] state government will be a catalyst for bringing together innovators and leaders to invest in research and development, and ultimately, establish New Jersey as the home base for AI-powered game-changers.” Murphy named the state’s Chief Innovation Officer, Beth Noveck, as New Jersey’s first-ever Chief AI Strategist, who will help lead the endeavor.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul delivered her State of the State address on Jan. 9 and released a 180-page agenda entitled “Our New York, Our Future.” The State of the State included 204 initiatives that the Hochul administration believes will make New York more affordable, more livable, and safer. These initiatives will be reiterated in the governor’s 2025 fiscal year budget proposal. Per her address, Hochul “remains committed to making New York the most business-friendly and worker-friendly state in the nation.” To that end, and to build upon her administration’s progress in building a 21st-century economy in New York State, Governor Hochul announced the following innovation and economic initiatives:

  • Launch Empire AI, a first-of-its-kind consortium to unlock the economic potential of artificial intelligence.
  • Establish an Office of Service and Civic Engagement, a new Office of Service and Civic Engagement within the Lieutenant Governor's office that will preside over a statewide strategy to create accessible public service opportunities. The office will launch an Empire State Service Corps Program in partnership with SUNY modeled after the California College Corps to connect students with opportunities to serve their communities, including taking climate action.
  • Expand access to affordable, high-quality higher education by offering direct admission to high-achieving students from the top 10 of New York high school classes to SUNY and CUNY campuses.

In order to bolster state efforts to prepare workers for the jobs of tomorrow, the governor is also proposing to establish a network of four advanced manufacturing training centers along the I-90 Corridor in Upstate New York and looks to grow statewide business attraction efforts by recommending a $100 million expansion of FAST NY program to prepare sites to be shovel-ready. Hochul also calls for programs to welcome and support immigrant entrepreneurs to drive New York’s innovation and economic growth.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem gave her budget address on Dec. 5. She called on lawmakers to continue to invest in the state’s Freedom Works Here initiative (a workforce recruitment campaign) and announced that the state will partner with its universities, “… on a Center for Quantum Information Science & Technology,” and proposes to “invest $6 million in one-time funds to offer unprecedented opportunities for students at Dakota State University, the School of Mines, SDSU, and USD. […] This center will combine numerous fields to make tremendous advancements in cybersecurity, agriculture, healthcare, and more.” According to Noem, the investment in the center’s development will allow South Dakota to become a leader in the emerging technology. Noem’s State of the State address, given on Jan. 9, consisted of some of the same proposals and themes outlined in her budget address.

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott delivered his fourth-term State of the State address on Jan. 4. An optimistic but tempered Scott called on legislators to continue to work with him to address the state’s ongoing demographics, housing, and affordability issues. Reiterating similar themes from his State of the State addresses in 2017, 2018, and 2020, the governor again devoted much of his address to the largest continued obstacle Vermont is facing: a shrinking workforce and the accompanying demographic crisis of an aging populace, both of which are “hampering the state’s economic stability.” To that end, Scott announced that in the coming weeks, he intends to propose a budget with a minimal (3%) increase in spending and asked the Democratic supermajority to reign in their spending by prioritizing and “… [setting] aside good things that are less urgent, […] to focus our work directly on these fundamental issues.”

This article was prepared by SSTI using Federal funds under award ED22HDQ3070129 from the Economic Development Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce. (The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Development Administration or the U.S. Department of Commerce.

tech talkin govs, governors, innovation, states, state budgets