Maryland `not as strong as we should be'

Excerpts

State Of The State

February 01, 2007

Here are selected excerpts from Gov. Martin O'Malley's first State of the State address to the Maryland General Assembly:

Overview

"Fourteen days into the four years the people of our state have given to us to make progress, I am glad to join you today and report that thanks to the hard work of our fellow citizens for decades, maybe indeed centuries past, and despite the drift of recent years, the state of our state, today, is strong.

"Today Maryland is the second-wealthiest state in the union. Today our institutions of scientific and healing discovery -- known throughout the world -- are among the largest recipients of research grants in the nation. And today we are blessed with a variety of natural beauty of land and water unrivaled in any state our size. But you know in many ways, for all our achievements and for all of our blessings, we are also a state of extremes, aren't we?

"A strong state with a huge looming structural deficit. A strong state with a violent crime rate that is one of the highest in the nation. A strong state where yet the number of uninsured citizens has risen to 800,000, as increasing numbers of small business people find it financially impossible to cover their employees' health-care costs. A strong state where more and more hard-working families are finding that college education for their children right here in our state is slipping out of reach.

"Yes, we are a strong state, today. But not as strong as we should be, and certainly not as strong as our country needs us to be."

State goals

"We have consensus around the goals we share. Now it is our job to forge consensus around the obligations we must meet to sustain our progress toward those goals.

"To strengthen and grow our middle class, especially as we face our budget challenges, it is time to apply our strengths to solving the problems of our day. Time to apply our strengths to addressing our weaknesses, if you will.

"Time to improve public education at all levels. Time to simultaneously improve public safety and homeland security. Time to extend health care coverage to more hardworking Marylanders. Time to conserve, protect and improve the environmental health of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Time to strengthen women- and minority-owned businesses in our state, where our diversity is our strength. Time to advance and realize a statewide vision for transportation that includes mass transit, as well as roads. Time to stand up again to powerful wealthy special interests whenever they try to profiteer on the backs of the working people of our State.

"And my friends, since all of these endeavors will require a working government, let us first resolve to make our government work again."

Cooperation

"In the days of this first session, I hope, my friends, that we will be able to spend the vast majority of our time solving problems and coming together around the solutions about which, really, there is so very, very much consensus that already exists in both chambers, even across party lines -- and for which, I might add, there is considerable pent-up demand. The people of our State desperately want us to get things done again.

"If we must have potentially polarizing debates this session -- on issues like taxes, issues like the future of Maryland's 18,000 racing jobs, or issues like Maryland's ineffective death penalty law -- let us do so recognizing that there are good and decent people on both sides of all of those debates.

"We cannot resolve every unsettled issue in just 90 days, nor can we heal in 90 days the divisions that were four years in the making. But we must do all that we can to maximize the effectiveness of this session and these four years. ... For success breeds success. And mutual respect builds mutual trust. And important things done well make greater things possible.

"This year, together, we are choosing to make progress, progress on the priorities of the people who we serve, the people who we listen to and the people who elected us and pay our salaries in these temporary jobs we hold for them. Implicit in the choices we make this year is ... the faith that we have the courage to face up to the fiscal reality before us in the course of the year ahead."

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