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Tech Talkin’ Govs 2024: Innovation agendas from the governors’ State of the State addresses—Part 7

February 29, 2024
By: Laura Lacy Graham

In this week’s continuing coverage of gubernatorial addresses as they impact the innovation economy, governors from Illinois, Mississippi, and New Hampshire discussed their state’s past economic, educational, and workforce achievements and laid out their vision for this year, while New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy presented his proposed Fiscal Year 2025 budget, building upon his State of State address and proposed initiatives delivered last month. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker called for a $700 million investment in quantum (see separate article), Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves focused on how to make his state the new manufacturing hub for America, and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy provided more details on his proposal for AI-focused activities. In New Hampshire, Gov. Chris Sununu called for continued fiscal prudence, bipartisan solutions, and empowering the private sector to maintain his state’s current and future successes.

The following highlights have been excerpted from State of the States or budget addresses given between Feb. 14, 2024, and Feb. 27, 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.

On Feb. 21, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker gave his sixth combined State of the State and Budget address, which revealed a proposed $52.7 billion spending plan that included more funding for education, addressed the ongoing migrant crisis, and provided monies toward eliminating $4 billion in Illinoisans’ medical debt over the next four years. The governor also is seeking changes to the state’s tax policies. As part of his new fiscal year (2025) budget, the governor, furthering his previous calls for the state to become "the Silicon Valley of quantum development," recommended $500 million in capital investments to build and maintain a regional quantum computing hub (see separate article for more detail). Paired with a previous $200 million Rebuild Illinois investment in the Chicago Quantum Exchange, the proposed investment seeks to build a quantum campus to attract private investment and create jobs.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeve presented his State of the State address to lawmakers on Feb. 26. Touting the state’s recent economic development successes, recruitment of new industries, and business relocations, Reeves told the legislative joint session that Mississippi is a “state whose economy does not rest on the wizardry of finance or the volatile next-big-thing” but is “based on timeless economies. Agriculture and Forestry. Manufacturing and Industry.”  Mississippi, he said, has “never stopped making real things.” With that in mind, the governor called upon lawmakers “to make a few strategic decisions that can yield major results” and set Mississippi on the path to become “the new American capital of manufacturing, industry, and agribusiness.” To that end, Reeves called for

  • An incentive program to retain and attract top researchers in relevant fields to the state’s universities to be established by the Legislature and a renewed focus on commercializing resulting innovations.
  • Doubling the operating budget of Innovate Mississippi, which administers the deployment of federal SSBCI funds. This increase in funds would, Reeve said, support the cluster strategy of development demanded by manufacturers and ensure that Mississippi is leveraging every opportunity to promote technology entrepreneurs in the state.
  • The continued investment in the state’s infrastructure, including its ports and rail system and a proposed state rail authority.  
  • Expanding or building upon some of the state’s education programs. This expansion would include 12 new mathematics and engineering magnet schools to provide a competitive workforce and talent pool.. The governor also called on the Legislature to enact an apprenticeship education model for the state’s high school seniors. The apprentices would receive academic credit in a hybrid, or an ‘earn and learn’ environment, which meets graduation requirements and pays students to develop needed career skills.

Governor Reeve also leaned in on energy, stating that “no sector […] demands the innovation, workforce, logistics, and ambition that Mississippi can provide like energy” and “Mississippi must become masters of all energy–from pipelines to turbines and everything in between.” Reeves specifically targeted nuclear energy and indicated that the state should work to attract manufacturing for key components and small modular nuclear reactor assembly, as well as expedite permitting and regulatory approvals for their rapid deployment within Mississippi.

With just under a year left in his fourth and final term, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu delivered his eighth State of the State address on Feb. 15. The governor briefly highlighted some of his administration’s past accomplishments over the last eight years and gave greater focus to the recent investments made in affordable housing, education, and mental health this past year. Speaking about his state’s innovation and education, Sununu briefly detailed New Hampshire’s robotics fund—which has enabled students and teachers to engage more fully in computer science and STEM education. Additionally, earlier this year, the governor created a special task force to look at a new 21st-century model of post-secondary education. To keep New Hampshire competitive in its workforce development and secondary education opportunities, Sununu has tasked the state’s community colleges and university system to consider future educational opportunities and training models and provide actionable recommendations within the next few months.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy presented his proposed FY 2025 spending plan to lawmakers on Feb. 27 in his annual Budget address. The address follows Murphy’s State of the State address delivered last month. Furthering the governor’s goal of positioning New Jersey atop the innovation economy and addressing several initiatives he either announced or proposed in his State of the State, including the AI Moonshot and AI Hub under development at Princeton University, Murphy’s budget recommends:

  • $4.5 million to establish an innovation challenge to reward innovators for solving public-facing problems with state data;
  • $500,000 to fund the AI-focused Global Entrepreneurs-in-Residence pilot program to help international students at New Jersey universities launch cutting-edge businesses;
  • $2 million to fund AI education in K-12 classrooms and develop new career and technical education programs targeted to AI; and
  • $2.5 million to help budding entrepreneurs build out startups related to general artificial intelligence and connect with the AI innovation hub.

To continue enacting the state’s climate change reforms, the governor also proposed $15 million in state funds and $25 million from the Clean Energy Fund to provide the state match for a federal electric grid modernization program to upgrade the state’s infrastructure to meet its climate goals. 

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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