Remarks as preparedGood morning.
Delivered on Wednesday, January 17, 2024
One of the most important responsibilities of the executive branch and the legislature is to craft and enact a balanced budget that reflects the needs of our state.
Budgets are moral documents. Where we choose to invest defines our values – and dictates the course of our future.
In our first year, we worked together to prove that by building a budget that matches your values, you can deliver results;
And we worked together to prove that in this time, we would work to get big things done, prioritize fiscal discipline – and not choose between the two.
We took an all-of-the-above approach to public safety and focused on bringing down the fever of violence.
When we took office, Baltimore had endured eight straight years of 300-plus homicides annually, and the homicide rate around the state had doubled in that same time.
One year in, we are starting to see homicides and non-fatal shootings down in Baltimore – and across the state.
We made strategic investments to create jobs, build wealth, and generate economic growth.
When we took office, Maryland was ranked 43rd in unemployment and 47th in economic momentum.
One year in, Maryland now has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation, and we have jumped twenty spots in the national ranking of economic momentum.
We laid the foundation to make Maryland the State that Serves.
When we took office, communities at home and across the state were contending with political vitriol and civic fatigue.
One year in, we’ve launched our Department of Service and Civic Innovation, jump-started a historic Service Year Option, and for the first time in three years, we saw a net increase in the number of public sector employees.
And we achieved everything I just said by moving in partnership with the legislature, our local elected officials, and organizations and businesses across Maryland.
Today, the work continues.
We are here to unveil our second budget proposal. And we’ve focused on four main priorities.
We will make Maryland safer.
We will make Maryland more affordable.
We will make Maryland more competitive.
We will make Maryland the state that serves.
And we achieve each of these goals without raising taxes on Marylanders.
Secretary Grady will speak to each of these four priorities in further detail. But I want to take a few minutes to share some of the highlights.
First, on making Maryland safer: You cannot have safer communities without supporting law enforcement.
Boots on the ground don’t just help us prevent crime and react to crime – they also help us solve crime and close cases.
That’s why our budget includes a record $127 million for local police agencies. That’s a $5 million increase over last year.
We also need to confront the inexcusable fact that 75% of homicides are committed with a gun. This is a public safety crisis, and it’s a public health crisis.
Our budget delivers $10 million to stand up a new Center for Firearm Violence Prevention and Intervention – and together, we’re going to save lives.
I also know there will be robust debates this session about juvenile justice. Our administration will be an active participant in those conversations.
And look: I believe in accountability and consequences for people who break the law.
But if we put children into a system that makes them more likely to commit crime, we’re doing it wrong!
That’s why our budget provides an increase of $16 million to programs at the Department of Juvenile Services. It’s going to ensure we stop cycles of crime in our communities.
Second, on making our state more affordable:
Our budget addresses two of the biggest strains on family bank accounts: Housing and child care.
Most Marylanders in rental properties put a third of their monthly paycheck toward rent.
Mortgage interest rates more than doubled in the last two years.
This is a simple equation of supply and demand. We don’t have enough houses, so prices go up. If we build more houses, we can help bring prices down.
That’s why our budget includes an additional $115 million for housing and community revitalization initiatives under the Department of Housing and Community Development.
We also know the cost of child care is too high.
And look: access to child care doesn’t just affect your child and your family – it changes the trajectory of our fiscal health.
Earlier this month, Comptroller Lierman released a report highlighting that as child care costs increase, overall female employment decreases by 5%
In order to get this economy going, we have to make it easier for people to participate in the economy.
And we’re very proud that our budget includes the largest single year-investment in child care in Maryland history.
Third, on making Maryland more competitive:
I continue to hear from entrepreneurs who say it's still too difficult to grow and thrive in Maryland.
We have an obligation to use every tool at our disposal to make it easier to grow our economy – not harder. And we need to do it with a focus on equity.
This session, we will introduce legislation to streamline the permitting process, reduce regulatory red tape, and direct investments toward industries of the future;
And our proposed budget is filled with priorities to sharpen Maryland’s competitive edge.
We’ve included $100 million to support the construction of the new FBI Headquarters in Greenbelt – and it’s going to have a generational impact on our communities.
Our budget includes major investments to drive growth in Baltimore – which is now one of the fastest-growing economies in the nation.
Our budget provides $5 million to Delegate Atterbeary and Senator Augustine’s revolutionary state Equitech fund. It’s going to lift entrepreneurs of color in emerging industries.
Our budget delivers record funding for K-12 public schools – so we build stronger and earlier pathways to work, wages, and wealth for our young people.
And our budget provides significant investments for job training in industries of the future, like cyber and quantum – so we can win this decade.
Fourth and finally, on continuing to make Maryland a state that serves:
We’ve been very clear since Day One that we are going to invest in service – and we will be unapologetic about it.
Our proposed budget includes funding to bring up the number of Marylanders in the Service Year Option and Maryland Corps from 280 to 500.
And for the second year in a row, we will give a much-needed raise to state employees. We refuse to balance the budget on the backs of public servants.
Drafting this budget wasn’t easy – it was hard. We were operating under tight constraints.
Since at least 2017, the Department of Legislative Services has forecasted structural budget deficits.
Of the last 20 State budgets, 17 needed cuts to stay balanced.
Unprecedented stock gains and historic federal stimulus during the COVID-19 pandemic smoothed out our budgets over the last few years.
But extra money in the short-term could never solve our long-term, structural challenges.
I said it before I was governor. I said it this time last year, when we unveiled our first budget. I’ve said it again – and again – and again – all throughout our first twelve months.
We entered this year knowing we would have to confront big structural challenges. And we aren’t alone. Other states have been forced to reckon with similar hurdles.
Look: I’m new to politics. But I’m not new to budgets. If you’re the CEO of a company and your business isn’t growing, maybe it’s time to rethink your business model.
It won’t be enough to rebuild state government. We need to refocus state government.
This budget is the first step forward toward that goal.
We’ve taken action in a fiscally responsible way.
We’ve studied the data and directed state resources toward proven programs that have big return.
And we’ve prioritized spending in a way that invests in our state and grows our economy in the long-run.
That’s the philosophy at the heart of our proposal.
We have the best Budget Secretary and the best Budget Team in the United States of America.
The thing that makes me so proud of our team is this:
They didn’t just lead the work, they reached out to leaders in our communities – from elected officials to village elders.
You see: This budget isn’t just a reflection of an administration. It’s a reflection of our shared aspirations:
Our aspirations to make Maryland safer;
Our aspirations to make Maryland more affordable;
Our aspirations to make Maryland more competitive;
Our aspirations to make Maryland the state that serves;
And we’re going to realize these aspirations in a fiscally responsible way.
We will work together to leverage resources in the Rainy Day Fund.
We will work together to better calibrate how and where we direct public investment to ensure we support proven programs.
We will work together to use state money in a way that delivers the biggest return
Now, we will work with the Maryland General Assembly to get a final budget passed.
So let’s keep our heads down.
Let’s do the work.
Let’s continue to move in partnership.
And let’s give Marylanders the kind of leadership they know and deserve.
This will be Maryland’s decade. And the investments we make today will pave the way for the future we all seek.
Thank you so much.