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Tech Talkin’ Govs 2024: Innovation agendas from the governors’ State of the State addresses—Part 2

January 18, 2024
By: Laura Lacy Graham

In this week’s continuing coverage of gubernatorial addresses as they impact the innovation economy, New Mexico Governor calls for $170 million to bolster hydrogen, geothermal and next-generation battery storage. Rhode Island Governor proposes building a new life science school at the University of Rhode Island and cybersecurity bond to grow Rhode Island College’s cybersecurity program. Meanwhile, West Virginia’s governor proposes increasing spending to attract people to move to the state.

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 January 9, 2023, and January 16, 2024, by governors from Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia. 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.

Discussing the successes of his state’s ongoing workforce and climate initiatives, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis gave his State of the State address on Jan. 11. The governor laid out a vision for Colorado, which builds upon free community and technical college for high demand careers, expansion of the state’s apprenticeships, including Colorado’s Agricultural Workforce Development Program, which provides paid apprenticeships for future farmers and ranchers, and increasing the number of state government apprenticeships by 50% and supporting the creation of 100 new apprenticeship opportunities in the private sector by the end of June. Polis also repeated his long-held priority of cutting the state’s income tax, with the goal of its eventual elimination, a position that puts him at odds with members of his party.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds gave her seventh Conditions of the State address on Jan. 9. Focusing on past successes involving workforce development, education, and tax cuts, Reynolds proposed building on those successes with further calls for tax cuts and continued investments in education and Iowa’s workforce development programs. The governor also called for continued realignment and consolidation of state agencies and services, with her efforts now turned towards state boards after recent efforts involving the consolidation of state agencies. Similar to other states, she called on lawmakers to pass legislation to keep Iowa’s farms free from foreign ownership by either limiting or eliminating such ownership of the state’s agricultural lands.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham delivered her State of the State address on Jan. 16. Using the speech to lay out both her legislative agenda and recommended funding initiatives, the governor called on lawmakers to make significant investments into the state’s economy, infrastructure, education, housing, healthcare and public safety. Among those recommendations are: “… a commitment to pursue an advanced manufacturing tax credit, a companion to the groundbreaking Inflation Reduction Act, to make New Mexico even more competitive in reshoring global companies that will solidify a clean technology supply chain right here;” as well as, “dedicat[ing] two percent of our severance tax permanent fund—that’s 170 million dollars—to catapult forward the advanced energy sources of the future – hydrogen, geothermal, next-generation battery storage – further committing our state to the climate goals of the country.” Lujan Grisham also requested investments into the state’s infrastructure and water, including $500 million in Severance Tax Bonds to spur the private sector into developing an untapped resource (brackish water) into a potable supply with “the Strategic Water Supply” program to build a secure, resilient water future for the state, and investments in housing, including $250 million dollars in low-interest loans to spur the private sector to build faster, and $250 million to expand home-buying programs like down payment assistance. The governor also announced the creation of an Office of Housing as a one-stop shop for developers and contractors looking to build and for families seeking a home.

On Jan. 16, Rhode Island Gov. Daniel McKee gave his State of the State address. In the address, McKee announced that he is seeking to raise his state’s per capita income by a minimum of $20,000 by the year 2030 and laid out a vision for how Rhode Island can achieve that goal through a series of budget recommendations, income-raising initiatives, and making key investments in education, small businesses, and Rhode Island’s health care system. As part of the governor’s list of key investments into income-raising programs and to build upon last year’s proposed and newly created state’s quasi-public life sciences agency, the governor announced that in order “to grow the talent pipeline and solidify Rhode Island as a life science leader, [his] budget will propose building a new life science school at the University of Rhode Island through a bond referendum;” and, to bolster the rapidly growing field of cybersecurity and support the state’s Institute for Cybersecurity & Emerging Technologies at Rhode Island College (RIC), the governor is proposing a first-of-its-kind cybersecurity bond to grow RIC’s current cybersecurity program. As the governor stated, “the Cybersecurity Institute at RIC is equipping the next generation of cybersecurity professionals with the technical and business skills to meet the cybersecurity challenges of the 21st century. […] Let’s pass a first-of-its-kind cybersecurity bond to grow RIC’s current cybersecurity program into a cybersecurity school of choice.”

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin gave his State of the Commonwealth address on Jan. 10. The governor revisited signature accomplishments of the past year, including the launch of Virginia’s lab schools (a partnership between public schools and higher education institutions), as well as the state’s renewed focus on career and technical education. Besides tax cuts, the administration has invested in sites, streamlined permits, and reduced regulations, in addition to creating a new Workforce Development and Advancement Agency that assists in making it easier for people to get licensed or certified to start their careers. Youngkin called on lawmakers to continue to invest in policies and programs that have expanded universal licensing and to allow high school students to graduate with a diploma plus credentials that will launch them into a high-paying job.

On Jan. 9, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee delivered his 11th and final State of the State address to a joint session of the House and Senate. Inslee, who is the longest-serving governor in office in the U.S., made climate change and the legacy of his administration’s climate and clean energy legislation efforts, particularly the Climate Commitment Act (which seeks to cap and reduce pollution while creating revenue for climate investments and job creation), center to his speech; and, detailed the effects of the act which has raised $1.8 billion in 2023 through quarterly auctions of emission allowances sold to businesses, with the revenues raise invested into additional clean energy programs, including job training and clean transportation. The governor also discussed his administration’s “people-focused policies” and programs involving the state’s ongoing efforts at addressing homelessness, affordability, and last year’s $1 billion investment into new housing. Although this is his last term, Inslee told lawmakers he was not finished and called on them to help his administration further the state’s clean energy, climate, and people-focused efforts through his proposed continued investments released last month in his supplemental spending plan.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice gave his seventh and final combined State of the State and Budget address on Jan. 10. Much of the address focused on Justice’s administration and accomplishments over the past several years, and although the new fiscal year budget proposed is similar to last year’s and relatively flat in spending, the governor did recommend a spending increase of $5 million in the state’s ASCEND initiative, a program that pays individuals $12,000 to relocate to West Virginia. With the increased spending, the governor is seeking to attract veterans among those looking to relocate.

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