Speeches by Governor Martin O'Malley


Maryland Association of Counties

August 18 , 2007 - Ocean City, Maryland

[ As prepared ]

Introduction

Thank you so very much.

I really want to thank all the staff here at MACo, led by David Bliden for pulling off another successful conference.  Becky Black became very sick recently but I’m told Becky is recovering and looking forward to returning to work soon. 

It’s true, Jan Gardner, that MACo is something of a landmark in the Martin O’Malley-Katie Curran courtship.  The only detail I’ll divulge is that I considered it more of a date than she did.  I’m looking forward to reaching that milestone – it should come in a few years – where we will have been together for as long a period of time as I pursued her.

But thank you for that trip down memory lane, Jan. 

I want to talk with you today about shared future, our shared challenges, and most importantly, I’d like to talk with you about the strongest and most important civic and patriotic value we share as Marylanders, and that is future preference: that spiritual force that all of us inherited as Americans. That powerful yearning that we feel in our hearts to make this world a better place for children.

For all our diversity as a people, we are united by our belief in the dignity of every individual. We are united in our belief in our own personal responsibility to advance the common good. And we are united in our understanding that there is a unity to spirit and to matter and that what we do in our own lifetimes does matter.

And whether we are working in county or state government, we also share the same understanding of the big things we need to do as a people to make progress, don’t we?  To strengthen and grow our middle class and our family owned businesses and farms, to improve public safety and public education in every part of our state, and to expand opportunity to more people rather than fewer.

As a state, together, we have tremendous opportunities in the challenging times ahead of us.  And we can make those opportunities ours by advancing simultaneously along three fronts workforce creation, sustainability and security integration.  Greatness lies in our ability to advance along these fronts as One Maryland.

Workforce Creation

How do we protect the most valuable asset of our State – the talent, ingenuity and innovation of people and their children?  How do make our workforce the most competitive in the world? Our economic future in very large part will be determined by our ability to answer those questions with action.

We should be rightly proud of our achievements to date.

Maryland is first among the fifty states in advance degree attainment, first in per capita federal research, and first in per capita university research and development.  We have the third highest number of Ph.D’s and engineers of any state in the country. 

We are home to some of the greatest public and private research universities in the world.

But the world does not stand still, and, as Maryland’s Thomas Friedman reminds us, that world is indeed flat.  Our kids are competing not just with kids from New Jersey and New York, but also from New Zealand and New Delhi.

Our ability to compete in this global economy is challenged by a troubling dichotomy.  Although Maryland leads in the nation in advance degrees, 20 percent of our adult workers are not functionally literate.  And although Maryland is first in the nation with the number of persons over 25 with a bachelor’s degree, 613,000 Maryland adults do not possess a high school diploma. 

Our employers report chronic worker shortages in skilled trades, technology and health care fields, but we also have a large portion of the workforce that lacks basic life skills necessary to compete.  Our workers need skills and our employers need a skilled workforce.

As we realign our education system to meet this demand, we will create a stronger workforce. 

By investing an additional $580 million this year in public education, we create a stronger workforce.

By investing $400 million in school construction and renovation, we create a stronger workforce.

By increasing funding for our Community colleges by 16% this year, together we create a stronger workforce.

By increasingly providing career technical training in all of our high schools, together we can create a stronger workforce.

By investing in the development of jobs skills in our prisons and re-entry programs that work, together, we can create a stronger workforce.

When we start to reinvest the savings of welfare reform into the development of the skills of our people, together, we will create a stronger workforce.

Our higher education system is the foundation of our ability to compete in the knowledge-based economy.  One hundred fifty one years ago, the leading farmers of our state chartered the University of Maryland as a land grant college, which helped revolutionize both the science of agriculture and the agrarian economy, not just in Maryland but around the world.  Today, our higher education institutions continue to make revolutionary developments in biotechnology, computer science and engineering.

Like our foresighted neighbors in 1866, we must make sure that the missions of our postsecondary institutions are aligned to the realities of the new economy.  Maryland stands at the center of a new biotechnology belt and at the heart of the security diamond, stretching from Ft. Belvoir to Ft. Detrick, from Aberdeen to Pax River.  We will be internationally pre-eminent in biotechnology and security, but only if our postsecondary institutions are aligned with the demands of a new economy.

We will soon be proposing a new covenant with higher education that targets state investment to help our colleges and universities meet specific demands of the new economy, to ensure that we have world class research and world class graduates.

Security Integration

So what is “security integration?”  It means protecting our people and communities through seamless coordination and consistent information-sharing.  It means that the criminal justice system must work as a system, not a collection of parallel lines – and parallel cultures and parallel datasets and parallel intelligence systems -- that never meet. 

Security integration must be horizontal, as well as vertical.

The integration has to be intra-agency as well as interagency, intra-departmental as well as interdepartmental, intra-state as well as interstate.  It means that cross-border and regional task forces become the public safety norm rather than the rare exception.  For example, Maryland has begun a new and groundbreaking partnership with the District of Columbia to combat illegal gun trafficking and address our unacceptably high number of firearm deaths. 

We’ve created a users group of local law enforcement information technology representatives, who advise our state agencies as to what state databases they need to access to do their jobs. 

For example, we’re now pushing out motor vehicle photos to local law enforcement so they can positively identify people that they stop.  Removing the anonymity under which these criminals operate is half the battle.  Security integration is how we do it.

We’re sharing live arrest data with Washington, DC so that our officials receive immediate notification when a parolee or probationer is arrested there…and vice versa.  

As recently as January, we had a single state trooper going by hand through the criminal records of 15,000 probationers to determine who owed DNA, a task that would’ve taken 26 years to complete.  Now that we’re blending the State Police database with the Parole and Probation database, we can complete this identification in 6 days and go out to collect the sample.

Beyond those short term wins, we’re also building a statewide criminal justice information system that will enable criminal justice professionals to track offenders from arrest on, without having to use 25 different passwords for 25 different state computer systems. 

Interoperability is a fundamental requirement for security integration, and we will make it a reality. 

Sustainability

The air we breathe, the water we drink, the land we use, the energy we consume. Sustainability is the increasingly strong and growing remembrance as a people that we share a civic responsibility not only to our neighbors here and living, but to generations that have yet to be born.

The climate crisis is real and while it threatens our shorelines today, its causes and symptoms threaten life on our planet in the generations ahead unless we act.

Together we create a more sustainable future for Maryland as we reduce our per capita energy consumption by 15% by 2015.

Together we create a more sustainable future for Maryland as we diversify our energy portfolio with clean renewables like solar, wind and bio-diesel and bio-mass.

Together as we replace more and more of our fleets with hybrids, we create a more sustainable future for Maryland.

Together we create a more sustainable future for Maryland and the Bay as we help farmers implement best practices in soil conservation, cover crops, buffer zones, nutrient management and the re-use of gray water.

Get this, from 1973 to 2002, state population increased a little more than 30 percent, while developed land grew by 100 percent.   Think about that for a second, since 1973, our population grew by 30 percent but our consumption of land by development grew by 100 percent.

Poorly planned or unplanned sprawl exacts costs of all kinds – higher taxes to pay for new services and infrastructure; greater use of fossil fuels, which is contributing to our status as the third most vulnerable region when it comes to rising sea levels; pathogens and storm water runoff that makes Maryland home to 2 of the nation’s 6 most polluted beaches; erosion that is eating away at our coastline and costing us 580 acres a year.  In our densely populated state, the inefficient use of land also diminishes our forest habitats, fragments our farms and stresses our sources of drinking water. 

There are also social costs, as sprawl severs our connection to the land and one another.  As Robert Kennedy warned, it leads to “the destruction of…community, of human dialogue, the thousand invisible strands of common experience and purpose, affection and respect, which tie men to their fellows.” 
When we figure out better ways to grow in and up instead of constantly out, we will create a more sustainable future for Maryland and maybe for our country as well.

And yes, when we begin again to fulfill the forgotten promise of smart growth – investment in transportation infrastructure, we create a more sustainable future for Maryland.

Transportation

Maryland has the 2nd worse average commute in the nation, and we’ve increased our miles traveled by 26 percent since 1995. 

In Maryland, we inherited one of the finest transportation systems in the country.  Our parents and grandparents built roads and bridges, rail lines and tunnels, subways and bus systems. They built a great port and a great airport.  But they didn’t just build these things—their generation paid for it. 

Maryland passed four major transportation funding bills between 1980 and 1992.  But in the last fifteen years, new transportation funding has been scarce.  The State has been more likely to borrow from the Transportation Trust Fund than invest in it.

At the same time, the cost to build and maintain our bridges and roads has skyrocketed.  The number of trips on our highways has increased to the point where Marylanders suffer the second highest congestion in the nation.  Our transportation system needs billions of dollars in repairs and improvements.

We are not alone in facing these challenges.  Throughout this country, our infrastructure needs have increased, but the resolve to meet those needs has declined.  Just eight days after the tragic collapse of the Interstate 35 Bridge in Minnesota, the President opposed increasing the gasoline tax to pay for infrastructure repairs, but then favored cutting the corporate tax -- leading us backwards, not forward.

In this state, we will not be the generation that allowed its infrastructure to become weak because our political will was not strong.  Our roads and bridges will not wait until the right political timing, the ideal gas price, or the best fiscal environment.  We need action, and we need it now. 
We will pass a major transportation funding bill this session.

Structural Deficit

The Maryland Constitution requires a balanced budget, and fiscal responsibility demands it.  But for several years now, the budget has been balanced in name only.  As fiscal denial grew, so did the structural deficit, which this year will reach $1.5 billion.  If left check unchecked, the structural deficit will threaten our bond rating, our fiscal integrity, and most importantly our Maryland way of life. We cannot let the financial mistakes of the past define what kind of state we will be in the future.

During the last eight months, we’ve taken important initial steps to protect that future with greater fiscal responsibility – budget growth of 2.1% this fiscal year, compared to 12% the year before; a painful package of $280 million in cuts and other savings approved last month by the Board of Public Works; a renewed focus on government efficiency and accountability

This upcoming year, we will submit a budget that is balanced in reality and not just on paper.  The days of hidden deficit spending are over.

The hard truth is that we can only balance the budget by raising revenue and reducing our rate of spending.  These are never popular choices.  But our goal is not passing a popularity contest; our goal is a stronger Maryland for the working people of Maryland…a stronger, healthier, safer Maryland for the next generation of Marylanders.

The road ahead will be difficult.  80% of our State tax dollars goes to public education, public safety and public health.  But fortunately we share something greater than the sum of our current challenges, and that thing is called “future preference.”

Conclusion: Future Preference

When given a choice between decline and progress, the people of Maryland our state always choose to make progress.  They have an unshakeable belief in what Carroll Quigley, a historian at Georgetown, called “future preference” – the idea that “tomorrow can be better than today and that each of us has a personal and moral responsibility to make it so.”

And future preference – that is really the common strand running through all these issues. 
Why solve the structural deficit?  So we don’t hand a promissory note to our children, and so we can make investments today that will produce a better Maryland tomorrow. 

Why workforce creation?  To ensure the next generation’s mastery of the New Economy. 
Why sustainability?  Because, as the old Native American proverb goes, “we do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”

Why energy efficiency and an emphasis on green?  Because, in the words of columnist Thomas Friedman: “the people who will be harmed the most by the climate-energy crisis haven’t been born yet.” 

Public service is about making decisions many of whose consequences will be felt after we’re gone, whose benefits we may not be around to enjoy.  In the short time we have in these jobs, and on this earth for that matter, let’s resolve to put aside the instant gratification impulse…embracing a compact with the grandchildren we may not even have yet. 

In the finest American tradition, let’s prefer their future over our present…forsaking patchwork quick-fixes for enduring solutions.  Let’s do for them what the Greatest Generation and our immigrant forefathers did unflinchingly for us – relinquish the comforts of today in the name of a better tomorrow. 

Thank you very much.