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Tech Talkin’ Govs 2024: Innovation agendas from the governors’ State of the State addresses—Part 3

January 25, 2024
By: Laura Lacy Graham

In this week’s continuing coverage of gubernatorial addresses as they impact the innovation economy, the common themes from Hawaii, Massachusetts and North Dakota were addressing the cost of housing. Hawaii and Massachusetts governors discussed addressing climate change, and North Dakota’s governor called for the creation of a new office focused on rural communities. The following highlights have been excerpted from State of the States or budget addresses given between January 17, 2023 and January 23, 2024. Additional addresses and states will be covered in future Digest issues.

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.

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. 22, Hawaii Gov. Josh Green gave his second State of the State address. Unlike the governor’s first State of the State in 2023, which touched on affordable housing, homelessness, and climate change, much of this year’s address was instead centered on the ongoing recovery efforts in Maui from the Aug. 8 wildfires. Within that context, however, Green did address similar themes as 2023, with the governor announcing that he is requesting an additional $373 million in supplemental funding towards Hawaii’s infrastructure and housing, which “remains [his] administration’s top statewide priority.” The governor also revisited the idea of imposing a fee on travelers to help pay for environmental upkeep after a similar proposal died in committee last year. The administration has suggested charging a $25 “climate impact fee” to each family visiting Hawaii when they check in to their hotel or short-term rental. He said this would raise $68 million a year that would then be re-invested into the state’s parks, environment, and climate programs.

Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey delivered her State of the Commonwealth on Jan. 17 and pledged to keep the quality-of-life issues of housing, education, and transportation at the top of her agenda this year. She called on lawmakers to pass her administration’s $4 billion Affordable Homes Act; proposed more funding for the state’s Innovation Pathways initiative (providing hands-on learning and skills for the state’s future workers); and asked legislators to pass recently proposed measures related to her  economic development plan (Team Massachusetts: Leading Future Generations, released last month), while also briefly outlining a workforce development plan. Healey celebrated the state’s partnerships with industries that led to winning a microelectronics hub through the federal CHIPs & Science Act, which will assist in “accelerating an advanced manufacturing renaissance and create good jobs” throughout Massachusetts. She also heralded working with life science and healthcare leaders to secure, “a national hub in ARPA-H, America’s medical discovery moonshot.” The governor called on lawmakers to renew the state’s Life Sciences initiative and provide new investments into the program. The governor also discussed making Massachusetts a “climate innovation lab for the world” by assisting climate tech startups and companies to launch and scale, which will create jobs in the climate corridor being built in the state and to continue to work with clean energy, which Healey said, “will power opportunity and equity” for the Bay State’s workers.

The day after he announced he would not seek a third term, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum delivered his final State of the State address on Jan. 23. The governor highlighted his administration's accomplishments and remaining hopes for his remaining time in office, even though the North Dakota legislature is not in session this year. Burgum promised to continue to work towards eliminating the state’s income tax and to address the state’s ongoing labor and housing shortage. He announced an initiative to develop a comprehensive housing strategy for the state, as well as the launch of a new agency, the Office of Community Development & Rural Prosperity, within the state Commerce Department that will act as “a central hub of communication” for empowering and improving rural communities through “efficient development, economic growth and enhanced quality of life.”

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.

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