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Tech Talkin’ Govs 2024: Innovation agendas from the governors’ State of the State addresses—Part 5

February 08, 2024
By: Laura Lacy Graham

In this week’s continuing coverage of gubernatorial addresses as they impact the innovation economy, the common themes from Oklahoma and Tennessee were focused on economic and educational opportunities through tax cuts and education reforms. In contrast, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey focused her address on furthering her state’s recent successes and competitiveness in workforce development and announced that her top priority this legislative session was focused on continued educational reforms, including the implementation of an education savings account program. Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro laid out his economic and educational plans for making Pennsylvania competitive in the technologies and industries of the future.

 The following highlights have been excerpted from State of the States or budget addresses given between Jan. 31, 2024, and Feb. 6, 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 and previously proposed initiatives rather than rolling out new programs. The exception is 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.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey gave her annual State of the State address on Feb. 6. Focusing on her state’s successes over the past year, the governor called for maintaining momentum through continued investments in broadband expansion, education, and workforce development. The governor announced that the state’s new Commerce Secretary, Ellen McNair, is developing a new economic development strategy plan to keep Alabama competitive into the next decade.

On Feb. 5, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt delivered his sixth State of the State address, which outlined his priorities for the 2024 regular legislative session. The governor believes Oklahoma can be “the manufacturing, the AI, and the data center capital of the world.” But for that to happen, Stitt called on lawmakers to continue to move Oklahoma towards being the “most business-friendly state in the nation” by limiting the growth of government through cutting taxes and expanding “education freedom.” To those ends, the governor offered proposals that involved the restructuring of the state’s judiciary to include a business court, creating more charter schools—particularly ones that center on workforce development,— and called on the state’s Board of Regents to implement higher education reforms. These reforms would either consolidate some of the state’s colleges and universities or programs into areas that aligned with future workforce needs or place a greater emphasis on “[…] the subjects they are best at and become the premier institutions in [that] area.” The governor called for more opportunities to help Oklahoma students learn specialized trades and skills, including “[…] more workforce-oriented schools so that every kid in Oklahoma is college ready or career ready.” Additionally, the governor recommended that the state incentivize Oklahoma's workforce priorities and “not subsidize institutions with low enrollment and low graduation rates.” Without offering specifics, Stitt called for shifting the state’s focus to outcome-based higher education models and legislation that would incentivize those models to fulfill the state’s workforce needs.  

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro presented his second Budget address to lawmakers on Feb. 6. He told legislators to “now is the time to invest some of that $14 billion surplus squirreled away here in Harrisburg,” saying “even the ratings agencies have said that there’s too much money sitting in surpluses around the country – instead of being driven out into our communities.” Shapiro said, “We need to build a more competitive Pennsylvania…” and discussed the “comprehensive economic development strategy for the first time in nearly two decades.” (See separate story for more on the plan.) He called for a $500 million bond for site development to keep up with other states.

Gov. Shapiro also introduced a three-part plan to reform the state’s higher education system, which

1. will create a new system by uniting the state’s community colleges and Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) schools,
2. change the way the state funds its state-related schools (University of Pittsburgh, The Pennsylvania State University, , and Temple University) and the nation’s oldest degree-granting HBCU, Lincoln University (to be funded through the Department of Education), and
3. create a predictable, transparent, outcomes-based funding system that will apply to schools in the new system and the state-related schools. All institutions in this new system, including the state-related schools, will create pathways to affordable credentials and degrees to meet the Commonwealth’s present and future workforce needs.

The governor is also recommending additional funding to offset tuition costs for state students.

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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