O'Malley Delivers State of the State Address

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O'Malley Says 'State of Our State is Strong' During Annual Address

Annapolis, MD - 2/1/2012

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By Andy Marquis

Governor Martin O’Malley (D: Maryland) delivered his sixth State of the State address on Wednesday afternoon at the Maryland State House in Annapolis.  The speech focused mostly on the economy, job growth and education.  But O’Malley also called for an end to discrimination against the LGBT community.

“:And thank you, men and women of the Maryland General Assembly, for putting the best interests of the families of Maryland first,” O’Malley said.  “And for making the right decisions – however unpopular or difficult – for the sake of the better future our children deserve.

“We are here because we care about people, all people; every person, every family.  And we know that in order to tackle the challenges at hand and to get all our citizens back to work, we must act as a people.

“Five years ago, in our first State of the State together, I declared before you the goals of this Administration, first among them ‘to strengthen and grow our middle class and our family-owned businesses and our family farms.’  This remains the single overarching indicator of progress for our State and the better future we seek for our children.

“There is nothing more important for a family’s security and future than a job.  We are all in this together.  And in this important work, the state of our State is strong.”

O’Malley talked about recovery, saying that Maryland “not yet recovered all the jobs that we lost during the Bush recession, but we are moving forward steadily.”

“By improving education  and by harnessing innovation;  by modernizing our Port, opening the Inter-County Connector,  expanding rural broadband, building new schools, modern classrooms and other critical infrastructure; by making college and skills training more affordable  for more families,… we have strengthened the connections and improved the conditions that allow business to create jobs.

“Expanding opportunity to strengthen and grow our middle class is a choice.  Because of your choices, more Marylanders are working this year than last.”

O’Malley spoke about several small businesses and several people who had benefited from his policies and policies passed by the Maryland General Assembly.  But he emphasized the need for more progress.

“While more Marylanders are working this year than last, still too many of our people continue to search for work,” he said.  “Better isn’t good enough for the mom or dad who continues to search for a job.  This is why the most important job we create is the next one.  This is why everyone is needed.  This is why I am asking everyone to do more.”

O’Malley said unemployment has hit a three year low in Maryland and that more jobs have been created in the State of Maryland than in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

“To create jobs, a modern economy requires modern investments: investments by all of us, for all of us,” he said.  “That’s not a Democratic or a Republican idea; it’s an economic and historic truth. It was true for our parents, it was true for our grandparents, and it is a truth that has built our State and has built our country.”

O’Malley then said the investments made in to creating more jobs, such as jobs for teachers and police officers, needed to be offset with cuts elsewhere and further revenue increases.

“After rebalancing and saving our defined benefit pension system last year.  This session, we are asking you to bring Maryland into closer alignment with how most states share teacher retirement system costs.  Our proposal balances this responsibility 50/50 between the State and the Counties.  It also provides $244.5 million to the counties to cover the additional costs in year one.”

The pension shifts have already raised concerns across the counties.  School boards and counties find themselves strapped for cash already and worry what a pension shift will do to their budgets.

O’Malley then got to the revenue increases, which are likely to be unpopular with Republicans and moderate Democrats.

“We will partially fund this education cost, along with other priorities, by capping income tax deductions and phasing out some exemptions for the 20% of us who earn more than others.  Asking our fellow citizens to do more will not be popular.  But without anger, fear or meanness, let’s ask one another: how much less do we think would be good for our children’s future?  How much less education do we want?  How much less public safety?  How many fewer jobs?  There are costs, and there are values.

“Along these lines, my Republican predecessor called the ‘flush tax’ one of his most important accomplishments while in office.  By allowing us to make green upgrades to wastewater treatment plants, we have greatly reduced the pollution flowing into our Bay. 
But the fee, however, was never sufficient to cover the work that has to be done. While others have suggested tripling the flush tax, I believe that the fairest way forward is to double the yield by switching most households to a fee structure based on consumption – whereby, the less you use, the less you pay.  This will double the amount of work we are able to do for the Bay.”

O’Malley then talked about transportation.

“In the next few days, I will be submitting a bill for your consideration on transportation funding.  Maryland has some of the worst traffic in America.  We pay a heavy price in terms of the time we spend idling in bumper-to-bumper traffic when we could be at home with our families.
With a growing population and aging infrastructure, we might soon pay an even steeper price, bridges are not like trees; they do not grow stronger with age.   Today, with gasoline at $3.50 per gallon, our primary source of revenue for transportation is the same flat 23 cents it was during Governor Schaefer’s second term, when gas was $1.08 per gallon. Meanwhile, it costs more to paint the Bay Bridge today than it did to build the first span.”

O’Malley then called for the sales tax exemption on gasoline to be repealed, which would raise the price of gas on Marylanders.

“Through the years – as you know – there have been many recommendations on funding options, but no one has wanted to ask people to do more.  The best remaining option in my view is to repeal the current sales tax exemption on a gallon of gasoline; phasing it out by two percent a year, with a ‘braking mechanism’ to protect consumers in the event that the price of gas spikes.  We should also enhance protections in the law to better safeguard these new investments in the Trust Fund.

“An enhanced investment on this scale would allow us to create 7,500 new jobs building needed roads, bridges, and public transit throughout our State. Now look, I know that every family is still feeling the hurt of this recession.  The people I serve are the people you serve.  I know this is a very, very difficult ask.  But nobody else is going to do this for us, except for us.

“Beyond these issues; our work to eradicate childhood hunger continues, our work to reduce infant mortality continues, our work to expand drug treatment continues.  And there are other things we can do – and should do – to create jobs, expand opportunity and improve our quality of life this session.

“With your vote, we can forge an historic partnership between Johns Hopkins, Morgan State University, the University of Maryland’s campuses, and your state government with the goal of transferring 40 new technologies – new ideas – out of the lab and into the economy to create jobs – within a year.  
“Maryland is already #1 in research.  It is unacceptable that we rank 37th in transferring that research and technology into job creation.  For all of our assets – and all of the resources we’ve invested together – we should be #1 in technology transfer and the commercialization of new ideas into jobs.”

O’Malley also called for more investments in renewable energy, such as offshore wind farms, and equal protections for LGBT community.

“The very reason our State was founded was for religious freedom – and at the heart of religious freedom is respect for the freedom of individual conscience.
“The way forward, the way to sustain and enhance our common life together, is equal respect for the freedom of all.  We all want the same thing for our children; we want our children to live in a loving, caring, committed, and stable home protected equally under the law.  
“It is not right or just that the children of gay couples should have lesser protections than the children of other families in our State.  Nor would it be right to force religious institutions to conduct marriages that conflict with their own religious beliefs and teachings.  
“In Maryland, we already recognize civil marriages performed in other states and just over our border in the District of Columbia.  It is time to join with clergy, faith-based organizations, civil rights organizations, community leaders, and individuals across our State to pass a civil marriage law that protects religious freedom and civil marriage rights equally.”

When talking, later in the speech, about equality, he used the word “dignity”.  Underneath the American flag pin on his coat, O’Malley was wearing a black pin that read “Dignity” in all capital letters.

O’Malley’s push to legalize same sex marriage has put Maryland in the national spotlight as the state would join only New York, all the New England States and Iowa in legalizing same sex marriage.

Transcript of the entire speech: http://www.governor.maryland.gov/documents/StateOfTheState2012.pdf

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