I want to thank Scott Dorsey, Duane Carey, and Frank Avena for inviting me, and for everything that this incredible organization does to promote business in our state and to help make Maryland more competitive.
And thank you to Denis Dunn and AT&T as well as all the other sponsors.
I have been a supporter of this organization — MBRG — for decades since its founding, and one person I want to single out who deserves a great deal of appreciation, and for leadership in this organization and her dedicated service to the state of Maryland, and the nation, is my friend, Ambassador Ellen Sauerbrey.
And I want to thank each and every one of you for your continued support of this newly named “Maryland Free Enterprise Foundation.”
Thank you for doing business in Maryland and for being such an important part of the economic resurgence that our state is experiencing.
When I was with this group last year, I said that I was looking forward to speaking at your annual luncheon for another four years.
And thanks to the support of so many of you in this room, I am actually going to have the opportunity to do that. I appreciate you extending my contract, thank you.
With your help, last year, I earned more votes than any other gubernatorial candidate in Maryland ever and became just the second Republican governor reelected in the entire 243-year history of our state.
Thank you so much for giving me the honor of serving you for another term.
Together, we have made tremendous progress. But we still have a long way to go and a lot more to accomplish, which is why, as you may have heard me reiterate to the national media over the weekend, that I am committed to giving this job everything I’ve got for the next four years.
Time goes by pretty quickly — so much has changed — but just take a moment to think back to four years ago.
Maryland was at a critical turning point. Our economy was floundering, and too many Marylanders were struggling just to get by.
Forty-three consecutive tax hikes had taken an additional $10 billion dollars out of the pockets of struggling Maryland families and small businesses.
We had lost 8,000 businesses and 100,000 jobs, and our unemployment rate had nearly doubled. Our overall economic performance ranked 49th out of 50 states, and a Gallup poll showed that nearly half of all Marylanders wanted to leave the state.
As a small-business man and a lifelong Marylander like so many of you, that frustrated me so much that I decided to step up and try to do something about it.
I pledged that if I was elected, I would try to do everything in my power to put Maryland on a better path to clean up the mess in Annapolis and to bring fiscal responsibility and common sense to our state capital.
Now I realize that this doesn’t usually happen in politics, but we have actually been doing exactly what we said we would do.
We put together new leadership throughout state government, attracting successful business people who know how to run things, more efficiently and cost-effectively.
“Maryland is open for business” wasn’t just a slogan.
We have changed the mission of state government to be unabashedly pro-jobs and pro-business.
We have cleared away the tangle of regulatory undergrowth and made customer service a top priority throughout state government.
The very first budget I submitted eliminated nearly the entire $5.1 billion dollar structural deficit which we inherited.
It was the first structurally balanced budget in a decade, and we have continued to pass balanced budgets every single year for five years.
We cut tolls at every single facility in the state by $316 million dollars, the first time tolls had been cut in Maryland in 50 years.
We eliminated over 250 fees and more than 850 job-killing regulations. We have not had a single tax increase since I became governor.
Instead, we actually cut taxes five years in a row by $1.25 billion, and we put all of that money back into the pockets of hard-working Marylanders, retirees and small businesses and back into our growing economy. We literally did a complete 180-degree turn. Instead of losing 100,000 jobs, we gained over 120,000 jobs.
More businesses are now open, and more people are working than ever before in the history of our state, and we have had one of the biggest economic turnarounds in America.
U.S. News & World Report recently ranked the “best states in the nation,” compiling data in 68 different categories, and I’m proud to report that Maryland just beat out 44 other states — including our neighbors in Virginia — who used to beat us in just about everything!
We have made incredible progress in turning our state around, and the people in this room have been an important part of that success.
Now it’s not perfect, and we have certainly not yet accomplished everything that I would like to accomplish.
More than two-thirds of the members in both houses of the legislature are of a different party and of a different mind-set.
They don’t always understand just how important job creators are, to creating jobs and growing our economy.
We have been extraordinarily successful in the executive branch, but I’m not a magician, and I can’t do it all by myself, or with the few pro-jobs legislators joining together with us, some of whom are here today. We are outnumbered by a lot!
But look at how far we have come in spite of the tremendous odds stacked against us.
Four years ago, more than two-thirds of all Marylanders thought our state was way off track and heading in the wrong direction. Now an overwhelming majority of Marylanders — 87 percent of Republicans, 82 percent of independents and 74 percent of Democrats — approve of the job that we are doing and the direction we’re heading. That is unheard of and unprecedented.
Most Marylanders believe that things are getting better, that we are making progress and moving Maryland forward. Now there are 10 percent of the people in Maryland who strongly disapprove of the job we’re doing.
And unfortunately, every single one of them is serving in the Maryland General Assembly.
It sometimes seems as if their primary goal — their ultimate mission — is to ignore the will of 80 percent of all Marylanders.
Some of them seem hellbent on stopping all of the economic progress and positive momentum that we have achieved.
They are doing everything they can to return us to the same failed policies that we have spent the past four years working so hard to dig the state out from.
We simply cannot let that happen.
The actions they are attempting to take threaten not only to bring our four years of progress to a screeching halt, but they could actually slam us into reverse and run us back into a ditch.
Just this year, legislators introduced a staggering $7 billion in new mandated spending increases, reverting back to the policies of spending more than we can afford.
They overrode my veto to increase the minimum wage by nearly 50 percent to $15.
Maryland had just increased its minimum wage four years in a row, by nearly 40 percent, to $10.10, which was already by far the highest in the region and one of the highest in the nation, now inflating our state’s minimum wage to more than double that of Virginia, which is at $7.25. It makes it very difficult for us to compete, and it could simply be too much for our economy to bear. A 48 percent increase in costs could be crippling to some of our small mom-and-pop businesses.
NFIB estimates that this one action alone could result in the elimination of 99,000 Maryland jobs — jobs for the very people they are professing to want to help and who desperately need the jobs the most.
It will mean a loss of more than $61 billion dollars in economic output and could lead to a reversal of much of the positive job creation and economic progress that we have worked so hard to achieve over the past four years.
Meanwhile, while we’re trying to attract and retain jobs in Baltimore City, the violence in the city continues to escalate out of control.
People who live in Baltimore don’t feel safe in their own neighborhoods, and citizens all across the state are outraged by the daily headlines of this rampant gang violence.
Just last weekend, 11 people were injured and one killed in eight separate shootings in the city.
The level of violence is completely unacceptable.
We launched a joint operation, which sent nearly 500 federal, state and local law enforcement officers from 26 different agencies into the city to back up the beleaguered city police force.
We made over 1,900 arrests, including the arrest of several hundred of the city’s most violent repeat offenders.
But many were released right back on the street to commit crimes all over again.
It’s like catch and release.
Most are never convicted, and according to the Baltimore City Police Department, even of those who are actually convicted of gun crimes in Baltimore City, 60 percent do not serve any serious jail time and are released back onto the streets to commit violent felonies again and again.
Inexplicably, the legislature refused once again to pass our “Repeat Firearms Offenders Act” to enact tougher sentences for repeat violent offenders who commit felonies with guns.
For years, Maryland had crumbling roads and bridges and some of the worst traffic congestion in the nation.
We decided to finally do something about that, and we have been moving forward on nearly all of the highest-priority transportation projects in every single jurisdiction all across our state . . . an unprecedented and historic investment in our transportation infrastructure in both transit and roads.
The legislature attempted to stop all of these road improvements. They passed a road-kill bill, which jeopardized the most important projects in every jurisdiction all across the state.
I vetoed the bill, and they overrode my veto, but we never gave up.
The public was so outraged by their opposition to improving transportation that we forced them to come back and repeal their road-kill bill.
And we are now moving forward on nearly every single transportation improvement everywhere in the state that had been delayed for decades.
We also invested more than $50 million dollars to implement a cutting-edge smart signalization network, with adaptive signal control systems, along 14 key congested corridors throughout the state, including locations in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Charles, Harford, Howard, Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties.
We have repaved more than one-half of the entire state highway system in just four years — something that would normally take decades.
All 69 of the structurally deficient bridges we inherited are now either repaired, replaced, under construction and moving forward.
In addition to all the road improvements, no governor in the history of the state has ever invested more in transit.
We began construction on the Purple Line, which is the largest public-private transit project in North America. We worked together with our neighbors in the region to finally provide a dedicated source of funding to save the Metro system.
Rebuilding our transportation infrastructure requires a balanced approach.
You simply cannot relieve traffic congestion without increasing capacity on our roads as well.
We have proposed taking 295 over from the National Park Service so we can widen the BW Parkway all the way from Baltimore to Washington.
And we proposed the largest P3 traffic relief project in the world, with improvements to I-270 and 495, the Capital Beltway, after literally decades of inaction and public outcry regarding traffic congestion on I-270 and 495.
Unbelievably, some legislators and local elected officials are apparently in favor of continued traffic congestion and are once again working to stall our plans to solve the traffic congestion crisis.
Apparently, they have very short memories. They seemingly learned nothing from losing the road-kill-bill battle. They seem to have completely forgotten that the people of Maryland are tired of inaction and tired of wasting their lives sitting in traffic.
This is like a bad movie sequel: “The Return of Road Kill,” “The Mother of all Road Kills.”
Yes, it’s the worst traffic in America, but they want to fight to make sure that their constituents continue to spend their lives stuck in traffic!
We have proposed the only serious solution to this issue.
These politicians have done absolutely nothing but spread misinformation. They have offered no real solutions for decades to solve a transportation, public health, environmental and safety crisis that is literally damaging the economy and the quality of life in the entire region.
Our traffic-relief plans have received widespread support, advancing through 70 public hearings, workshops, meetings and votes, earned praise from the Washington Post editorial board, and are supported by a large majority of citizens who are sick and tired of spending hours stuck in traffic.
The vote is tomorrow before the Board of Public Works, and it will determine the quality of life for Marylanders for decades to come.
In Maryland, we are proud to have some of the best and most highly funded schools in America.
We have provided record funding five years in a row, investing $32 billion dollars in K-12 education, which is more funding than the legislature proposed.
More than half of our entire capital budget goes toward education, and the casino lockbox initiative, which we pushed for and was approved by 80 percent of the voters in the November election, is going to provide an additional $4.4 billion dollars more for our schools.
In spite of all that, the legislature forced through billions and billions more in mandated spending increases with no plan whatsoever for how to pay for it.
These latest fiscally irresponsible proposals would cause an $18.7 billion dollar budget deficit over the next five years and would force a crushing $6,200 tax hike on the average Maryland family.
The Department of Budget and Management estimates that paying for these proposals and solving the budget deficit they create would require a 39 percent increase in the personal income tax an 89 percent increase in the sales tax, or a staggering 535 percent increase in the property tax.
Let me be as clear as I can possibly be: Not a single one of those things is ever going to happen as long as I’m your governor.
Let me close with this: The number one problem facing Maryland is that there is a complete disconnect between the professional politicians in Annapolis and all the rest of us.
Nearly 80 percent of all the people in Maryland — Republicans, independents and Democrats — are finally happy with the direction we are heading.
They want us to continue making progress and to keep moving Maryland forward.
And yet out-of-touch, far-left politicians desperately want to take Maryland in the completely opposite direction.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is going to be the battle that will literally determine what kind of state our kids and grandkids will inherit.
This is not just your typical fight between Republicans and Democrats.
It’s much more important than that.
This is a fight for Maryland’s future, and it is a fight worth fighting.
That’s really what the next four years are going to be all about.
Do we want to take Maryland backwards and return to the failed policies of the past?
Or do you want us to continue making progress and to keep moving Maryland forward?
Do you want to go back to uncontrolled spending, massive tax hikes, billion-dollar deficits, devastating job losses, businesses and taxpayers fleeing the state, and a state economy that ranks 49th in the nation?
Or do you want us to keep adding businesses and jobs, keep growing our economy, and continue having one of the best economic turnarounds in America?
I know which side I stand on, and I know what I’m going to do. I’m going to keep fighting hard every single day for the people of Maryland and for this great state that I love.
But I cannot do it alone.
This afternoon, I’m asking every single one of you to commit to joining me in this critically important fight for Maryland’s future.
We cannot afford to turn back now. Maryland is worth fighting for. Let’s stand up and fight back together.
Let’s continue moving our state forward, and let’s keep changing Maryland for the better.