O'Malley Promises 'End of Drift' in State of State Speech - Southern Maryland Headline News

O'Malley Promises 'End of Drift' in State of State Speech


ANNAPOLIS - Promising Marylanders "I will not squander the year ahead," Gov. Martin O'Malley on Wednesday asked the General Assembly to "end the drift of recent years" and approve a legislative agenda addressing what he called critical needs in education, the environment, public safety and health care.

Acknowledging few positive aspects of the administration of his predecessor, Robert L. Ehrlich, O'Malley, in his 15th day in office, pointed out that his administration has much work to do to put Maryland in the right direction.

"Yes, we are a strong state today. But not as strong as we should be - or as strong as our country needs us to be," he said.

In the House of Delegates chamber for O'Malley's 32-minute speech were three former Maryland governors, his wife, Baltimore District Judge Catherine Curran O'Malley, and father-in-law and former Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr.

"I am glad to report that thanks to the hard work of citizens in decades past - and despite the drift of recent years - the state of our state, today, is strong," he said.

That and other references implicitly critical of the former Ehrlich administration drew the ire of some GOP leaders.

"He didn't need to take some cheap shots at the previous administration," said Senate Minority Leader David R. Brinkley, R-Frederick. "The previous administration inherited a tremendous mess. Frankly the previous administration's legacy to [O'Malley] has been a $1.4 billion surplus that he's using to buy time."

Republicans also said the governor was long on ambitious ideas but short on suggestions of how to pay for them.

"There is a structural deficit, and this year we have taken the savings account, broke the piggy bank, and spent all the money to stop the gap with no new real initiatives or visions on how to the solve the problems," said House Minority Leader Anthony J. O'Donnell, R-Calvert.

Topping his agenda, O'Malley outlined his plan to improve Maryland's public education system. He called on the legislature to cap any further increase in tuition this year for in-state students, fund the Thornton education program and approve $400 million for school construction.

"I ask that, together, we start to get our children out of the temporary learning shacks that have been popping up behind every school in our state," he said.

O'Malley also sought approval for programs to improve the environment. He made a commitment to fully fund the Open Space project. Ehrlich was criticized for diverting Open Space funding to other programs.

Other environmental initiatives include his pledge to pass legislation requiring cleaner auto emissions and increase funding for the development of clean and renewable energy.

He also vowed, to great applause, to re-establish the Office of Smart Growth, an initiative that had been largely regarded as the key achievement of the last Democratic governor, Parris N. Glendening.

Not surprisingly, Glendening said, "I thought it was an excellent speech in not only substance but also delivery. I talked to him recently about this and I said go out there and have fun. I hope you noticed he did."

O'Malley placed public safety high on his list of priorities, pointing out that Maryland is the fifth most violent state in the nation. He outlined plans to revamp a "deeply troubled" Department of Corrections and Department of Juvenile Services. O'Malley asked the General Assembly to approve $7 million in funding for an additional 155 correctional officers and $2 million to protect families from sexual predators.

"I think coming out of Baltimore he has a greater understanding of the impact of public safety and the counties around the state of Maryland. I think that he is probably more in tune with that than any of the other previous governors I have served with," said House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel.

To improve homeland security, O'Malley said he plans on creating a new Maryland Security Council to evaluate as well as beef up security and emergency preparedness in the state. He also said he aims to make the port of Baltimore "the best inspected and most secure port in the United States."

O'Malley asked that the General Assembly back his goal to provide $100 million in funding for the state's Medicaid program and to restore Medicaid health care benefits to legal immigrant families, including 3,000 Maryland children. And O'Malley said he hopes to pass the Health Insurance Exchange, which would help small businesses find more affordable coverage for their employees.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert, said he was pleased with O'Malley's speech and what he saw by the governor as an attempt to bring the Democratic and Republican parties together. "People felt there's not going to be confrontation, not going to be conflict, not going to be animosity. This man is reaching out to both sides of the isle," Miller said.

Governor O'Malley's Entire State of the State Speech is reprinted below:

Governor Martin O'Malley
State of the State

January 31, 2007

To my wife Katie and our children… To my mom Barbara O'Malley… and to Joe Curran, one of the great public servants in our state's history, thank you for all your support.

Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Chief Judge, Mr. Attorney General, Mr. Comptroller, Madame Treasurer, my colleagues in government of the Maryland General Assembly, my colleagues in county and municipal government, my fellow citizens and friends.

Today, we assess our strengths and weaknesses and set out an agenda for making progress towards our shared goals.

Because of the values that we share as Marylanders, I think you will agree that there are certain timeless goals that together we choose to pursue as a State:

* To strengthen and grow our middle class, our family owned businesses and family farms.

* To improve public safety and public education in every part of our state.

* To expand opportunity - the opportunities for learning, for earning, and for enjoying the health of the people, the land, and the water we love - to more people rather than fewer.

A Strong State

Fourteen days into the four years the people have given us to do their business, I am glad to report that thanks to the hard work of citizens in decades past - and despite the drift of recent years - the state of our state, today, is strong.

Maryland is the 2nd wealthiest state in the union. Our institutions of scientific and healing discovery - known throughout the world - are among the largest recipients of research grants in the nation. And we are blessed with a variety of natural beauty of land and water unrivaled in any state our size.

But in many ways, for all our achievements and blessings, we are also a state of extremes:

* A strong state with a huge looming structural deficit.

* A strong state with a violent crime rate that is one of the highest in the nation.

* A strong state where the number of uninsured citizens has reached nearly 800,000, as increasing numbers of small businesses find it financially impossible to cover their employees healthcare costs.

* A strong state where more and more hard-working families are finding the dream of college education slipping out of reach.

Yes, we are a strong state, today. But not as strong as we should be - or as strong as our country needs us to be.

E.B. White once wrote that we are torn by two powerful drives: The desire to enjoy the world and the urge to set it straight. And so it is with Maryland. We know that to sustain those things which we so love about our state - our Bay, our neighborhoods, our places of higher thought, our quality of life - we must set things straight… or they will be irreparably harmed, perhaps forever lost.

We have consensus around the goals we share. Now, we must forge consensus around the obligations we must meet to sustain our progress toward those shared goals.

Strengthen and Grow Our Middle Class

To strengthen and grow our middle class - especially as we face our budget challenges - it is time to apply our strengths to solving the problems of our day. Time to apply our strengths to addressing our weaknesses.

Time to improve public education at all levels… to simultaneously improve public safety and homeland security… to extend health care coverage… to conserve, protect and improve the environmental health of the Chesapeake Bay watershed… to strengthen women and minority owned businesses in our state … to advance and realize a statewide vision for transportation that includes mass transit, as well as roads… and time to stand up again to powerful wealthy special interests whenever they try to profiteer on the backs of the working people of our State.

Making Our Government Work Again

Since all of these endeavors will require a working government, let us first resolve to make our government work again.

Facing structural deficits amounting to more than $4 billion in the years to come, I ask you to approve a rate of growth in this year's budget that is just 2.5% - lower than the rate of inflation, lower than last year's 12% growth in government spending, and lower than 9 of the last 10 state budgets.

I also ask for your support in confirming the best leaders we can find to run the very costly and complex departments of our government. Lieutenant Governor Brown and I are grateful for your patience, President Miller, as we assemble a professional cabinet with the ability, the expertise, and the professionalism to work with each member of this Assembly - regardless of party affiliation.

In order to make our government work with greater efficiency and effectiveness, we will be implementing StateStat - a system of open and transparent administration that sets goals and measures progress towards achieving those goals, with relentless follow-up.

In order to make our government work more effectively, I ask for your cooperation in creating a new sub-cabinet on Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) chaired by the Lieutenant Governor. To help put the challenge we face in perspective, BRAC will result in our state absorbing a city the size of Bowie - more than 25,000 households - in just a few short years.

Maryland has been called upon to play a bigger, more important role in the defense of our nation. And so we must bring greater coordination and cooperation to this effort. Our State government must work more effectively with our county governments - to defend our quality of life in Harford, Anne Arundel, Frederick, Montgomery and other counties - while answering America's urgent security needs.

In order to make our government work, I will also be asking for your cooperation in elevating the importance of information technology in the management of state government. This will mean better coordinating IT functions and creating, for the first time, a cabinet level Department of Information Technology.

In order to make our government work for working families, we must also restore the regulatory framework of our state government. To protect consumers and restore stability and predictability for businesses, we now have an opportunity to put professional regulators back on the job at the Public Service Commission.

And by making our government work, we will also start making regular, measurable strides toward increasing the participation of minority and women-owned businesses in the economy of our State. With a government that works, we will build from our competitive economic strengths in science, technology, security and renewable energy to expand earning opportunities for our citizens.

Improving Public Education and Public Safety

But beyond the means of a working government are the goals of improved public education and improved public safety - the very foundations of strong neighborhoods, strong counties, and a stronger and growing middle class.

To improve public education in every part of our State:

1) I ask for your support for the final year of Thornton school funding - the largest single year increase in Maryland history for education, with an additional $580 million in funding for local school systems;

2) I ask that you pass legislation codifying our State's commitment to phase in funding of the Geographic Cost of Education Index, beginning next year;

3) I ask that, together, we start to get our children out of the temporary learning shacks that have been popping up behind every school in our state - and approve the record $400 million in school construction dollars proposed in this year's budget; and

4) I ask for your support, in this year's budget, to increase our investment in our institutions of higher learning by $192 million - including an 18% increase for Community Colleges.

Along with those investments, I ask for your support of SB 108 and HB 134 to freeze any further increase in tuition this year for in-state students. This will give families some relief while Lieutenant Governor Brown works with the Hogan Commission on a long-term solution to keep higher education affordable. Working families must be able to send their children to Maryland colleges.

When it comes to improving Public Safety and Homeland Security in our State, we have our work cut out for us.

Our Department of Corrections, Parole and Probation, and Juvenile Services are deeply troubled. All are in urgent need of reform and have been for some time - little wonder that Maryland is the 5th most violent state in the union.

Compounding our challenge is the fact that our nation's capital is now - and for the foreseeable future will remain - a prime target in a new type of global warfare.

Among other things, I ask for your support for an additional $7 million dollars in this year's budget to fund 155 additional correctional officers. I ask for your support for $2 million additional dollars to protect Maryland families from sexual predators, with advanced Global Positioning Systems that tracks offenders.

I ask for your support for an additional $500,000 to allow the Maryland State Police to knock out the huge backlog of violent offenders from whom DNA "fingerprints" have yet to be taken. Finally, I ask for your support for an additional $5 million to expand drug treatment through the increased use of recently approved buprenorphine therapies.

And I look forward to working with leaders of both houses as, together, we find new ways to attack our common enemies of gang violence and violent crime.

In order to make Maryland a leader in improving Homeland Security, we will:

1) Constitute a new Maryland Security Council to bring all relevant agencies and departments into the prevention, preparedness and recovery regimen on a quarterly basis. And we will quickly secure a professional and expert assessment of Maryland's true level of homeland security and emergency preparedness, so we can begin to produce the security deliverables that our people's safety demands;

2) We will pursue the cooperation of our neighbors in the District of Columbia and Virginia - and our respective congressional delegations - to secure an expanded federal definition of the National Capital Region for homeland security purposes; and

3) I have directed our Transportation Secretary to formulate a plan of action that will lead to the Port of Baltimore becoming the best inspected and most secure port in the United States.

Expanding Opportunity

Today, we compete economically as never before on a global and faster track. In a very real way, our economic security and competitiveness as a State depends on our ability to expand greater opportunities to greater numbers of our citizens.

Having already touched on our agenda for greater learning and earning opportunities, let us turn to the agenda we share for progress on healthcare and our environment.

Health Care

In order to begin to turn around the alarming healthcare trend of rising costs and a rising number of uninsured Marylanders every year, I ask that you pass the Maryland Healthcare Act. Among other things the act will:

* Create a Health Insurance Exchange to help small businesses find more affordable coverage for their employees - on a pre-tax basis.

* It will require insurance companies to allow younger adults up to age 25 to be covered under their parents' policies.

* And it will also provide healthcare coverage to more children in our state.

I also ask for your support for several other initiatives in this year's proposed budget:

1) $25 million for Stem Cell research - a 66% increase over last year's appropriation.

2) The restoration of Medicaid healthcare benefits to legal immigrant families, including 3,000 children.

3) And over $100 million to strengthen our provider systems by increasing reimbursement rates for doctors participating in our State's Medicaid Program.

When physicians and other providers do not receive adequate compensation for the services they provide, it threatens the quality and effectiveness of our healthcare system. Therefore, as part of our legislative agenda, I ask for your support of the task force on Health Care Access and Physician Reimbursement.

I also ask for your support to create a Life Science Advisory Board - as a potential precursor to a true Life Sciences Authority - so that we can more effectively grow an industry that already employs 57,000 people in and around places like NIH, Johns Hopkins, the University of Maryland and the Food and Drug Administration, to name just a few.

And finally on healthcare, I ask for your support of a Universal Vaccine Purchasing Task Force, so we can better understand how to protect Marylanders against the flu and other foreseeable diseases.

Because healthcare is a battle of a thousand partial victories, I look forward to working with Chairman Hammen, Chairman Middleton and others in the weeks ahead, as we roll up our sleeves to craft ways to improve healthcare coverage and our healthcare outcomes.

Our Environment

When it comes to the urgent work of protecting and improving the health of our Chesapeake Bay watershed for the benefit of generations to come, there is no time to waste. Nor is there a better time to begin looking toward the next generation of technologies - to protect our environment and build our economy.

Because smart sustainable growth is absolutely central to preserving our quality of life in this sensitive Bay watershed, I have directed our Secretary of Planning to reestablish the Office of Smart Growth within his agency - to help coordinate growth across agencies lines.

As we move forward with the development of BayStat - to apply performance measured management to all of our Bay restoration efforts - please know that the following items are all contained in the proposed budget before you:

* Every dollar of Open Space funding this year - an estimated $289 million - will be spent on open space.
* An additional $138 million, with your support, will go to improve local water and wastewater systems for the benefit of the health of the Bay.
* And with your support, this budget will also provide record funding for cover crops and will triple Maryland's investment in the development of agriculture and resource-based industries through MARBIDCO.

By making sustainable farming in Maryland more profitable, we preserve open space and improve the health of the Bay.

Speaker Busch has been a tremendous champion of another bill I am asking you to support. The Oyster Restoration Act will, for the first time, allow our Department of Natural Resources to lease parcels of land on the floor of the Bay for oyster restoration projects. We need to restore this natural aquatic filter to the Chesapeake if we hope to turn it around.

As we accept our responsibility in the fight against global warming, I ask you to support the Clean Cars Act, adopting stricter pollution emission standards for cars sold in Maryland. By taking action, we can help children suffering with asthma. We can remove pollutants from the air and the Bay. And we can join 11 other states in getting this done, this year.

We will also be revamping the Maryland Energy Administration to spearhead our state's effort advancing the development of clean and renewable energy, including the next generation of biofuels - like cellulosic ethanol - which our academic institutions and private companies are already pursuing. And government should lead the way by increasing the percentage of clean fuels we purchase each year and by investing in green building technologies. Maryland can and should lead on energy independence.


Because the decisions we make about transportation determine - in a very real way - the future character of our State, this year's budget also fully protects the integrity of the Transportation Trust Fund. I ask for your support for the over $1 billion dollars in highway and roads projects across our state, and the $300 million in mass transit projects.

And I look forward to working with all of you in the months ahead as we bring greater balance to our efforts in transportation - solutions that foster smarter and more sustainable patterns of growth for our future. But all of us must recognize that however efficiently and effectively we stretch our State's current investment in transportation solutions, we will never be able to multiply "bread and fishes" to cover the multitude of needs without new dollars.


My friends there are many other initiatives that will strengthen and grow our middle class - the agency fee legislation that allows state workers the right to organize and have their collective voice heard; and an end to the cruel and antiquated practice of using ground rents to evict families from their homes.

In the days of this first session, I hope that we will be able to spend the vast majority of our time solving problems and coming together around the solutions about which there is so much consensus - and for which, I might add, there is considerable pent-up demand. The people of our State desperately want us to get things done again.

If we must have potentially polarizing debates this session - on issues like taxes, slots and the future of Maryland's 18,000 racing jobs, and Maryland's ineffective death penalty law - let us do so recognizing that there are good and decent people on both sides of these debates.

We cannot resolve every unsettled issue in just 90 days; nor can we heal in 90 days divisions that were four years in the making. But we must do all that we can to maximize the effectiveness of this session - and these four years - for the people of our State. For success breeds success. Mutual respect builds mutual trust. And important things done well make even greater things possible.

This year, together, we are choosing to make progress on the priorities of the people who elected us. Implicit, however, in the choices we make this year is the faith that we have the courage to face up to the fiscal reality before us in the year ahead.

If not, we risk going back to a time that we were not particularly proud of - making life less affordable for middle class families… Cutting funds to local government… Stealing from our children's future by taking money away from open space, and shifting transportation dollars away from reducing traffic. I don't believe that is the sort of future we would choose.

With all humility, I promise you I will not squander the year ahead. To the contrary, I will do everything in my power to bring spending under control with professional management. I will do everything in my power to squeeze savings out of your government with performance measurement and accountability. And I know you will do your tough jobs, as well.

So, let's get to work… for a better and stronger future… for the people of our One Maryland. So, let's get to work.

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