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Gov. Parris Glendening's State of the State Address

Wednesday, January 21, 1998

OUR MARYLAND AGENDA

Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Lt. Governor, Mr. Comptroller, Mr. Treasurer, Attorney General, Mr. Chief Judge, Secretary of State, Distinguished Members of the General Assembly, our Cabinet Secretaries, Local Officials...and all Marylanders...

Good afternoon.

I begin by welcoming back to work my esteemed colleague, Lt. Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. Kathleen, on behalf of the entire state of Maryland, we offer our sympathy to you and your family on the tragic death of your brother, Michael. We are sorry that you have suffered another loss, Kathleen, and we applaud your strength.

Also, permit me to present my wife, Frances Anne, Marylandís First Lady. While holding down a full-time job and being an excellent wife and mother, she has done a tremendous job promoting the arts and working for the children of Maryland.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are gathered here today to continue something truly remarkable.

This is the 412th session of the Maryland General Assembly. Since the Assembly first met in 1634, Marylandís core values of liberty and opportunity have remained fixed. We still are guided by the same priorities and purpose that drew Marylandís first lawmakers to St. Maryís City and then to Annapolis.

More than three centuries ago, 140 men and women braved stormy seas on two small ships, the Ark and the Dove, to escape religious persecution,...to find a place where they could pray to their own God, a land of liberty where they could create and pursue their own opportunities.

They found what they were looking for on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. Over the centuries, we have continued our commitment to liberty and opportunity. It is this recognition and faith in the possibility and potential of each person that unites us. It defines our character. And it determines our Maryland Agenda...that unique set of values...that great sense of purpose we inherited and we will leave as our legacy.

We continue to work together to promote and protect liberty and opportunity for everyone by: improving education, protecting the health and safety of our people, increasing economic prosperity, and preserving our environment. This is the historic Maryland Agenda, and it forms the foundation for the work we do today.

The new year of 1998 finds us blessed. The state of the state is very good. We are enjoying the best economy in more than a decade. Our citizens enjoy enhanced security, and feel a renewed sense of optimism.

Thank you Mr. President, Mr. Speaker and each member of the General Assembly for your hard work. Thank you for your dedication to the citizens of Maryland.

You can be rightfully proud of your efforts, and our efforts together, over the past three years. While focusing on our historic agenda, we made tough choices. Our decisions yielded positive results.

Today, the State of Maryland enjoys a $283 million budget surplus over and above our financially prudent reserves. We have employed sound financial management. We have lived within our means and we must continue to do so.

That is why I am recommending that $100 million of the surplus be used to pay for the significant tax reductions which went into effect this month. This $100 million will go back into Marylandís economy...back into the taxpayerís pockets. In fact, this cut in the personal income tax -- the first in three decades -- will return more than $1 billion to the people of Maryland over the next five years.

With the tax cuts in place and funded, a window of opportunity has opened. We may now do the one thing that will make the most difference in our childrensí lives: to make one-time investments in education...specifically, school construction.

You know my background. I was the first in my family to go to college. My family was poor. Education took me out of poverty. As a result, education has been the passion of my life. It has been and continues to be my top priority.

As a teacher, as a father, I have seen learning light up the face of a child. There is nothing more exciting. Over the past three years, we improved the quality of our childrenís education: Statewide, we increased education spending for every child in Maryland. We provided funding to build, update or modernize 4,000 classrooms. And test scores are on the rise.

Now we have a tremendous opportunity to allocate $222 million...to build and modernize even more classrooms, to reduce class size and to greatly improve the quality of education for every student in this state. We must continue to invest in our children and their future. It is what the people of Maryland want of us and what they expect of us.

This budget will provide an additional $181 million in educational aid. Ladies and gentlemen, we should be proud that state funding for our public schools will have increased by more than one-half billion dollars during this four-year term. This is more money than ever before in the history of this state...Money to be used for additional teachers, textbooks and to support science and arts programs.

Mr. Speaker, Dr. Nancy Grasmick and Mr. Gene Counihan, I thank each of you for your work on the Education Task Force. You are absolutely correct! Increased accountability must go hand-in-hand with this commitment to education.

We will require that each jurisdiction develop a plan which ensures this record-setting amount of money gets to where it needs to go Ė into the classrooms to improve the education of our children.

Through this plan: We will ensure that qualified certified teachers are hired to teach our children. We will support on-going training and professional development for our teachers. We will ensure that jurisdictions do not cut their school funding because we increased ours. We will ensure that our children do, indeed, have the textbooks, computers and classrooms they need. And, we will ensure that there is discipline in our schools so our teachers can teach and our children can learn.

Improving our public school libraries must be part of this agenda. We finally have the resources to help our school libraries replace their out-of-date books and add new volumes. As many of you know, I have volunteered in the library of my community school for 13 years. Recently, I went to the shelf and picked up this computer book, Computers in Your Life. I looked at the computer on the cover and then at the date the book was published -- 1981. I am not a computer expert, but I do know computers have changed a lot since 1981. If we are teaching our children about technology with books like this, we are not teaching them about computers -- weíre teaching them the history of computers. To remedy such situations, we will have a $3 million per year partnership program to modernize our school libraries and make them among the best in the nation.

Increasing our investment in higher education must also be part of this agenda. That is why we proposed the most comprehensive higher education effort since the current system was created in 1988. Our budget calls for a $64 million overall increase in higher education this year to help fulfill the 1988 commitment, and to reduce the need for tuition increases. Additionally, we propose $119 million in capital investments on our campuses.

To provide much needed stability of funding for higher education, we will invest $635 million in higher education in the next four years. Ladies and gentlemen, these numbers are dramatic; they show a firm commitment to higher education, and they are the next major step to national prominence.

We also are achieving our goal of making college more affordable and accessible for Marylandís working families. Think about it: we would not say to a tenth or an eleventh grader, ďwe cannot afford to continue to send you to school.Ē A college education -- not just a high school diploma -- is what the jobs of today and the jobs of tomorrow demand.

We cannot tell our high school seniors that they cannot afford to go to college. College is now the standardĖit must be affordable. To this end, we will make our new Pre-Paid Tuition Program even more attractive with a tax break for parents of college bound students.

And finally, working together, we can solve one of our most pressing problems...a problem Maryland business owners face every day. Right now we have more highly skilled jobs available than qualified workers. Our proposal will make scholarships available to our good students who pursue majors in science, engineering, computer and technology fields. This tuition grant, combined with President Clintonís higher education tax credit program, will cover tuition at Marylandís Public institutions. It will help keep these students in Maryland after graduation. And these investments will ensure that Maryland offers one of the best educated and best trained work forces in the world.

I am convinced that improving the quality of our childrenís education and making higher education more accessible and affordable will do more than any other step we can take to improve our childrenís lives and uplift our Stateís future.

But our children cannot learn if they are not born healthy and remain healthy.

Right now, there are too many children who do not have health care coverage and too many parents who must worry about a sick child and about paying medical bills. This must change!! The working families of Maryland, who work hard, who play by the rules, and who pay taxes, will soon be able to rest easier, knowing that their children have health insurance. We will bring health coverage to 60,000 of our children who do not now have it.

Again, I commend President Clinton and leaders in Congress like Ben Cardin for making this outstanding investment possible: Just think of the difference our childrenís health program will make: It makes good common sense to spend $2,500 to deliver a healthy baby rather than pay $112,000 to treat the complications often associated with low birth-weight babies. It is smarter to treat an infantís ear infection by spending $11 for an antibiotic like this than to pay $20,000 for the reconstruction of an inner ear to correct a loss of hearing. Letís give 60,000 Maryland children the help they need!

As we move forward to ensure that our children are both educated and healthy, we will continue to deliver on the promise made by one of the first Europeans to arrive on Marylandís shores, Father White. He described Maryland as ďabounding with profit.Ē 1997 was the best year for Marylandís economy in a decade--with an increase of nearly 50,000 new jobs. Total number of jobs is at an all-time high. Unemployment is at a 9-year low. According to a recent Dun & Bradstreet Report, Maryland now ranks fifth in the nation for new business starts. And--building on the historic legislation you enacted two years ago--Welfare rolls have dropped by almost 90,000 people, a 40 percent reduction. This was accomplished through a combination of job training, day care, and transportation subsidies to move people from dependancy to self-sufficiency.

We can take great satisfaction that the policies we enacted together have added to this prosperity. We streamlined government; instituted regulatory reform; and streamlined the permit process. In addition to the 10 percent personal income tax cut, we reduced or eliminated 13 other taxes. These improvements and reforms contributed to Marylandís economy being robust and outperforming the nation.

But we all know that economic success is not guaranteed. We cannot relax our efforts. Certainly our competitors are not relaxing theirs! We must continue to push forward and keep up this momentum. We must expand our job training programs. We must use our economic development funds to attract, retain and create more jobs. And we must continue to use technology and common-sense to make government services more ďbusiness friendly.Ē

The budget I propose will help ensure that our economic prosperity continues and that our educational system prepares our children for the jobs of tomorrow. No amount of money we budget for economic development will be enough if our state is not safe for families. Marylandís founders knew that in order to prosper we must be safe and secure. Public safety continues to be a priority on the Maryland Agenda.

Over the past three years, Lt. Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend has led our efforts to make our communities safer. With your support, we authorized hiring 225 new State Troopers; and identified HotSpots--the places we know crime and violence occur--and focused our resources there.

We enacted one of the strongest anti-gun laws in the nation. And, we concentrated our energy and resources on preventing crime before it happens. We changed the policy so life in prison means life in prison.

As a result of our work together: Property crime is down; Violent crime is down; And murder is down. Kathleen and I, however, are not satisfied...and we know you are not either. We must continue our efforts until every child and every family is safe in every community. And we will do so. This session we will build on our successes.

We will construct another prison in Western Maryland to house violent offenders, and tighten security at our existing facilities. We will expand the Correctional Options Program for non-violent offenders to implement our Break the Cycle Initiative designed to break the link between crime and drugs.

Another important part of public safety is ensuring adequate fire protection and rescue services. We will add an additional $2.3 million -- a 50 percent increase -- to the volunteer fire and rescue fund to help ensure the safety of Marylandís citizens.

I recommend that we re-name this fund in honor of the man who originally sponsored and was the strongest supporter of our firefighters and emergency rescue workers: Our good friend, the late Senator Bill Amoss. Mr. President, you are a consistent strong supporter of our firefighters and a dear friend to Bill and his family. I am very very pleased that you will sponsor this bill. Thank you.

From the beginning, Marylanders have recognized and honored the unique beauty and bounty of our state. In the 1600s, Father White called the Chesapeake Bay ďthe most delightful water I ever saw.Ē It is our responsibility to keep it that way.

Over the past three years we worked together to protect Marylandís natural resources. Working closely with local leaders, we enacted our nationally acclaimed Smart Growth plan to: control sprawl, direct resources to our older communities, and protect our farms, forests, and Marylandís treasureĖthe Chesapeake Bay.

This past Summer, the crisis surrounding toxic Pfiesteria sharply reminded us of the link between our land and our water and the effect of water quality on our health and livelihoods.

Ladies and gentlemen, there is no more important work of government than protecting the publicís health.

In all likelihood, toxic Pfiesteria will return this Summer. That has been the experience in other states and it is the opinion of medical and environmental experts.

Last year, in response to the Pfiesteria crisis, we took bold steps. We closed parts of several waterways to protect the health of our citizens. We worked closely with our Congressional delegation to secure a $13 million Federal research appropriation to study Pfiesteria. And I thank Senators Sarbanes and Mikulski and Congressmen Hoyer and Gilchrest for their rapid acquisition of this much needed federal support.

The budget I have proposed will add an additional $1.6 million in state funds for these research projects. Also last year, we appointed the Hughes Commission which did a remarkable amount of work in a very short time. I Thank Governor Hughes for his leadership and all the Commission members for their hard work.

The plan we announce today is based on their work and the work of research scientists from the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University, and our consultations with: farmers; watermen; representatives of the seafood and poultry industries; environmentalists; and concerned citizens throughout Maryland.

It is based on the best available science. It is based on our knowledge that excessive nutrients are harmful to the Bay and its tributaries. And, it is based on the knowledge that if we do not change our behavior, outbreaks of toxic Pfiesteria will continue year after year after year. We must put an aggressive, fair, comprehensive plan in place now.

I stress that the State is not blaming farmers for the outbreaks of toxic Pfiesteria. Farming is a preferred land use and we do not want to put a major economic burden on our farmers. We are prepared to make significant state investments to address this water quality problem. The capital budget I propose will enable us to upgrade the 14 remaining Eastern Shore sewage treatment plants within three years, and upgrade all sewage treatment plants state-wide within five years.

We will develop and coordinate a program to educate homeowners about the proper use of fertilizers and how they ultimately impact our waterways. We will require a more environmentally sensitive application of fertilizers on large tracts of land such as golf courses. And we will continue our crop program on the Eastern Shore, our successful seafood marketing campaign, and our outreach program for doctors so that they can recognize the symptoms of exposure to toxic Pfiesteria.

The Hughes Commission recommended several farming practices that will reduce nutrient runoff. Most importantly, the Commission recommended the state adopt an enhanced nutrient-management program. Our proposed plan is thorough. It has firm dates for implementation. And it includes strong enforcement mechanisms for non-compliance.

Consistent with the Hughes Commissionís recommendations, all farms will have nutrient management plans by the year 2000. These plans must be fully implemented by 2002. And, these plans must be phosphorus based as well as nitrogen based.

We will not make farmers solely responsible for reducing nutrient run-off. The state will be a full partner in helping our farmers adjust to these new practices. We will provide a transitional tax credit. Likewise, we will significantly increase the technical assistance, and continue our cost sharing programs.

But the State and the farmers cannot do this alone. The farmers also need the assistance of the poultry industry to better manage animal waste. Over the next three years, we will provide funding to producers and private entrepreneurs for the development of alternative uses for manure.

I have only given you the highlights of our comprehensive plan. Joe Bryce, my Chief Legislative Officer, who staffed the commission, will give you the complete package later today.

But I must emphasize: Our plan is based on the most current and thorough medical and scientific research available. And, it is the best and most comprehensive approach to alleviating this problem.

I look forward to working with the General Assembly, and Chairman Guns and Chairman Blount on this very important effort. I ask that all of us come together to solve this problem. We must rise above political differences. We are all Marylanders first and foremost. We must act accordingly.

Finally, the Maryland Agenda would not be complete if we did not seize the opportunity to do right for our citizens with disabilities. We must seize the opportunity to do more for these men and women. They have been waiting for help far too long! Today there are 5,300 people on the waiting list for disability services. Our $68 million, five-year plan will allow us to enhance service to each and every person on this list.

Just think: with this investment, 5,300 men and women with disabilities can receive the services they need, and we will be a more compassionate and inclusive society.

Ladies and gentlemen, you and I are blessed with a tremendous opportunity. We have the power and the resources to promote and protect the values that have defined Maryland and to improve the lives of our citizens.

Working together, we can move The Maryland Agenda forward and improve the quality of our childrenís education and health care. We can promote economic prosperity and public safety.

We can continue to protect the Chesapeake Bay.

I want us to remember that this is the General Assembly that first guaranteed Americans their religious freedom. This is the State House where George Washington resigned as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army. This is where Congress ratified the Treaty of Paris that ended the American Revolutionary War, and where President Clinton urged Americans to set and maintain high standards for education excellence.

This is the State House where Marylandís past, present and future meet. This is where the work we do over the next three months can honor our history and give hope to our future. I cannot think of more important work that we can do together.

So now, letís get to work!

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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