Their good work should be reflected in a 2 percent cost of living adjustment, the second such increase in as many years. Further, we propose increasing step increases for those traditionally underpaid compared to their counterparts in the private sector and other levels of government.
Speaking of good work and efficiencies, our university system has successfully met challenge. It has increased faculty workload and online capabilities, maintained a lean bureaucracy, increased efficiencies in the use of campus facilities, implemented bulk-purchasing initiatives, and expanded the teaching workweek.
Accordingly, we have increased state funding for higher education by $67 million, and increased need-based aid $27 million.
Thank you, Chancellor Brit Kirwin, for your fine work and leadership.
For the second year in a row, our budget contains the largest funding increase in Maryland's history. Additionally, our budget includes $155 million, a 55 percent increase, for public school construction.
But in order to sustain the mandated increases in educational spending pursuant to the Thornton formula, and fund new school construction so desperately needed in every subdivision, we need a new, dedicated source of revenue.
You all know where I am going with this.
A new Pennsylvania law will soon bring 20,000 slot machines to our northern border.
In Maryland, a fully phased in slots program in Maryland would mean more than $800 million in annual new revenue to our State.
These dollars would help pay for mandated increases in educational spending pursuant to the Thornton formula, and new school construction so desperately needed in every subdivision.
It would also give an industry with 20,000 jobs, $5.2 billion in assets, and nearly 700,000 acres of land a better chance to survive in an increasingly competitive environment.
It's time to fulfill the mandate of 2002 and allow slots in Maryland.
Still, dollars are only part of the debate. We need to give equal attention to how well our educational system is preparing our students for the challenges of the 21st century workplace.
Accordingly, Lieutenant Governor Steele has convened a distinguished group of Marylanders to examine and report on how our historic investments in public education are paying off for parents, students, and teachers.
The panel will address issues related to: Teacher retention; School construction;
Public-private partnerships; Early childhood education; Social promotion; and
Public charter schools, among others.
Thank you, Lieutenant Governor Steele, for your terrific leadership of this important commission.
Health and Environment
Last month, I convened a special session of the legislature in order to address the State's medical malpractice insurance crisis.
Regrettably, the session failed to pass comprehensive legal reforms required solving our malpractice crisis over the long-term. Instead, it imposed a $423 million tax on nearly one million working Marylanders.
On a positive note, it included productive discussions with members of both parties who wish to pass an effective reform measure this year.
Accordingly, in order to ensure the continued availability and affordability of malpractice insurance in the long term, we will introduce a package of reforms intended to keep our talented medical professionals on the job -- to the benefit of all Marylanders.
Many years ago, Maryland brought property owners and advocates together in an unprecedented effort to solve another problem affecting the health of Maryland's citizens: lead paint poisoning.
This partnership dramatically increased the pool of rental property owners in compliance with the law, thereby reducing the number of children with elevated blood levels by 90 percent.