The following is the prepared text of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s State of the State address, delivered Thursday in Annapolis. It should be noted that the governor often breaks from his prepared remarks.
President Miller; Speaker Busch; Lieutenant Governor Steele; members of the General Assembly; Chief Judge Bell; Attorney General Curran; Comptroller Schaefer; Treasurer Kopp; members of our Congressional Delegation; County Executives, Mayors, council members, and commissioners; cabinet members; special guests, friends, family, and fellow Marylanders.
Welcome back to Annapolis.
So, here we are, two years into a successful term, with major policy achievements already secured. Progress in public education, transportation, public safety, and the Chesapeake Bay have been especially noteworthy.
Your support, and that of your leadership, has been instrumental to each and every legislative success.
This record of success follows President Miller's promise of "at least three good years" made to me during our initial post-election conference. Well, it's year three, and the potential to add to this list of achievements is clear and unmistakable.
There is still time for additional progress -- even against a backdrop of divided government -- provided that we make an effort to better understand each other's passions, perspectives and priorities.
Let me share mine with you.
First: a common sense agenda built upon the five pillars of our administration: fiscal stability, education, health and environment, public safety and commerce.
Second: consistency. During 18 years of public service spanning two legislatures and the Governor's Office, my approach to public policy issues has never fundamentally changed.
Third: determination. I am determined to introduce fiscal responsibility into an inefficient and undisciplined budget process -- a process ill prepared to deal with such challenges as self-imposed unfunded mandates, a deep recession, and the resulting structural deficit. And I am determined to challenge the prevailing belief within this city that raising taxes is the solution to every single problem.
Fourth: self-assessment. My administration has demonstrated a unique willingness to measure our progress and report the results to the people of Maryland -- a goal often at odds with the desire to maintain popularity or simply win elections.
Finally: a plainspoken style when communicating my opinions and beliefs. This approach reflects my personality, values, and philosophy. It will not change. It cannot change. It is the only way I know.
Now that I have told you where I am coming from, let me tell you where I'd like to lead our State.
Budget and Education
When we took office in January 2003, our administration inherited a projected $2 billion budget deficit for the first 18 months of this term.
Today, I am pleased to tell you that much progress has been made.
Two years after taking office, we have resolved $4 billion in budgetary shortfalls. Our State's finances are balanced through June 2006. Our FY 2004 surplus was $309 million. Our FY 2005 budget projects a surplus of $680 million. Today Maryland remains one of only seven states with a Triple AAA bond rating.
Our FY 2006 budget builds on these successes. It is a product of the "Strategic Budgeting Exercise" I outlined for you in last year's speech.
Our unprecedented plan as developed by Secretary DiPaula required every cabinet-level agency to begin budgeting based on 88 percent of their current services baseline. The purpose: to measure the efficiencies of "what," "how," "when," and "why" our government provides good and services to the citizens it serves.
Outside consultants worked with our agencies on a pro bono basis. Results were neither predetermined nor preordained. This process is about accountability and opportunities for improvement. And, unlike past years when success was measured solely by funding increases, strategic budgeting measures success by outcomes that benefit our citizens.
Thank you, Secretary DiPaula, for all the hard work you have devoted to this project.
With respect to state employees, they make Maryland a better place to live. Many could earn far greater salaries in the private sector, but choose government service instead.