MACo Winter Conference Keynote Address

Published: 12/7/2023

​​​​​​​​​​Remarks as prepared
​Delivered on Thursday, December 7, 2023

Thank you, County Executive Olszewski – and congratulations Mister President.

To Calvin Ball: We celebrate you tonight not just because you visited every county in Maryland… We celebrate you not just because you always find new ways to serve…

But we celebrate you because you epitomize what it means to lead from the front.

Calvin: I’ve heard from the MACo team. Every member of Michael’s staff can speak to your dedication. You’ve earned their respect, and you’ve earned Maryland’s respect.

As a token of our appreciation, I want to present you with this flag, which was flown over the Maryland State House on the last full day of your tenure as president!

Calvin, you leave big shoes to fill. But Johnny: I think you're like 6’8, so you’re good! 

But seriously, mister County Executive: In every chapter of your career, you’ve not just met expectations, you’ve exceeded them. Congratulations once again.

To Executive Director Michael Sanderson: No governor could ask for a better ally. 

From our first days in office, you let us know we’d always have a friend in MACo. Well I want you to know that you have a friend in the State House!

And this fall, we reinstated the tradition of welcoming the MACo team to Annapolis to discuss the upcoming legislative session.

Let’s also give a big round of applause to the 2024 MACo Board of Directors. Could the new members please stand?

This is the first night of Hanukkah. To those observing, I say Chag Sameach.

And no matter your faith, Dawn and I wish everyone a wonderful holiday season. 

This time of year always fills me with gratitude. And tonight, I feel grateful for the trust we’ve built over the last twelve months. 

You trusted a new administration with a new leader, who had never held public office. 

You trusted a new way of working and a new set of ideas that hadn’t been tried. 

Trust is not an easy thing to put into words;

But when you feel it, you know it. 

I feel your trust in the times we’ve shared, good and bad. 

 At ribbon cuttings;

At groundbreakings;

At bill signings;

At funerals and memorials to those we’ve loved and lost. 

You’ve earned my trust. I hope we’ve started to earn yours. 

But I know that our trust is being tested. On Tuesday, we released our proposal for next year’s transportation budget. 

It includes funding for projects that will move Maryland forward. 

But our ability to invest was constrained by one simple fact: Maryland is facing structural budget shortfalls. 

I believe the course we’ve taken is the right one. I want to spend the next few minutes telling you why. 

Trust demands transparency and truth, even if it’s hard. This evening, I offer both – to you and to the people of Maryland.

And if there’s one argument I hope to make clear before I leave the podium, it’s this:

In this challenging time, we have a duty to act with discipline. Because discipline is what the people of Maryland deserve;

And by acting with discipline, I believe we can build a better state for the long-term – and strengthen the bonds of trust;

Not just the bonds of trust between you and me – but the public’s trust in the work we do together.

To understand the path forward we need to talk about how we got here; 

We need to talk about the challenges in our communities; 

And we need to talk about the discipline this moment demands.

And look: I don’t have all the answers right now. 

But I do know this: If we face our budget challenges together, we will emerge stronger – and we will prove to the people of Maryland that we can deliver.

Now: The story of “how we got here” should sound familiar. 

Our budget problems started long before I took office. 

Of the last 20 state budgets, 17 needed cuts to stay balanced. 

Since at least 2017, the Department of Legislative Services has forecasted structural budget deficits. 

Maryland and every other state in the union benefited from billions of dollars in federal money to get us through the COVID emergency and support economic recovery.

Record highs in the stock market brought in tax revenue to keep the budget afloat. 

Extra money in the short-term could pad the budget. But extra money in the short-term never fixed the budget. It was a mirage.

Now, we’re forced to reckon with structural challenges that have plagued our state for years. 

And we’re not alone!

Indiana is facing a $500 million transportation funding gap over the next decade.

New Jersey is facing a $1 billion gap, and Michigan is facing a $4 billion gap.


Look: Our administration did not create the budget gap. 

But let me be very clear: We refuse to ignore it, and we refuse to push policies that will only make it worse.  

We might not have caused this problem, but we will address this problem. 

I said it before I was governor, as governor-elect at Winter MACo last January

I said it when I unveiled my first budget in January. 

I said it in August to all of you in Ocean City.

If we don’t make hard choices now, Maryland’s budget challenges will grow.

We will have fewer resources to supercharge our economy; 

We will have less power to win the decade; 

And the public won’t trust us to use their taxpayer dollars responsibly. 

I’ve traveled to all twenty-four of your jurisdictions in the last twelve months. Marylanders tell me that our state isn’t meeting its full potential.

Maryland has a “C” grade in infrastructure.

Our number of 5-star public schools has steadily declined since 2019.

We’ve seen the last administration preside over transit lines that were late, over-budget, and unfinished. 

Just today, light rail cars in Baltimore that were purchased years ago had to be taken out of service because they were deemed unsafe.

Marylanders feel like they’re paying a lot – and aren’t getting the best in return.

I believe we have a responsibility to invest in our priorities. But first, we need to build a strategy for investment that shows the public we can deliver results in a sustainable way.

Here’s the hard truth: We’ve spread ourselves too thin.

Setting priorities doesn’t mean: “Let’s do everything all at once.” It means: “Let’s focus on things that matter most, and focus our efforts in that direction so we can deliver results.”

You know what I’m talking about because you do it!

Commissioner Jack Wilson and his colleagues know how to prioritize! 

They’ve focused on investments in manufacturing and trade industries, because that’s what will lift up Queen Anne’s County.

County Executive Jessica Fitzwater knows how to prioritize! 

She created a new Agriculture Office to preserve farmland and generate more economic activity in rural Frederick.

County Executive Marc Elrich knows how to prioritize! 

He has transformed Montgomery County into one of the most sustainable and vibrant counties in the nation by making strategic investments in solar.

Each of the leaders I’ve mentioned have the courage to elevate certain priorities over others.

It’s why your constituents trust you. You make hard choices, and you keep your promises!

But the last administration turned away from making hard choices on what we should and shouldn’t prioritize as a state government. 

So we say we’ll invest in everything – without the resources to do it. And the budget gap is the result.

So at a time when Marylanders are feeling squeezed and skeptical, we need to do more than tighten our belts – we must rethink how state government does business. 

That work won’t happen overnight. Our administration is still gathering a deeper understanding of where structural gaps exist – and why we keep coming up short. 

But we must start doing the hard work now. That’s what our transportation proposal is about.

And look: The State of Maryland has been funding transportation in the same way for a decade!

I’m new to politics. But I’m not new to budgets. If the CEO of a company uses the same anemic business model for ten years in a row, their business won’t grow.

And if your governor uses a transportation formula from ten years ago, we won’t be able to solve problems of the future – we’ll be stuck in the past!

The transportation trust fund has become so outdated that fixing it requires a comprehensive look at how we fund transportation in the first place.

The people of Maryland chose this administration because they wanted to change how state government works. 

They chose this administration because they know it’s time for us to choose the hard thing over the easy thing.  

Papering over the problems – kicking the can down the road – simply asking people to pay more for things that they don't feel are working… That’s not hard!

The hard thing is fixing a system that’s broken so that we can lead and not simply sustain..

I am convinced that in cooperation and trust, we can do hard things as a state. 

And making hard choices doesn't mean we stop solving problems. In year two, we will keep saying "yes" to many of the priorities we focused on in year one.

“Yes” means continuing the fight against child poverty; 

And in twelve months, we’ve lifted 34,000 Maryland children to the next rung on the economic ladder!

“Yes” means elevating our state assets;

And because of the investments we’ve made, Baltimore is now a federal Tech Hub and a federal Workforce Hub!

“Yes” means partnering with our federal leaders; 

And we’ve secured billions of dollars in federal investments to drive growth, including investments in rural and urban broadband. 

“Yes” means fighting to bring the FBI to Prince George’s; 

And Greenbelt will be the new home of the Federal Bureau of Investigation!

“Yes” means engaging in an all-of-the-above approach to public safety that supports law enforcement, amplifies coordination, cuts recidivism, and prioritizes job training from Western Maryland to the Eastern Shore;

And today, violent crime and homicides are down!  

“Yes” means making Maryland the state that serves. And this year, we launched a first-in-the-nation Service Year Option for high school graduates!

I’ve met young Marylanders from our Service Year class in many of your jurisdictions:

From Vincent in Hagerstown, who’s supporting community health at Horizon Goodwill – to Truth in Baltimore, who’s working at the Community Law Center. I see them, and I know our future is bright.

That’s what “yes” looked like in Year One.” Here’s what “yes” looks like in Year Two…

“Yes” means making Maryland the best place for businesses to invest in data center infrastructure that will drive the technology economy. 

I plan to introduce a bill that does exactly that.

"Yes" means addressing the current workforce shortage in law enforcement so we can do a better job of keeping our communities safe.

I plan to introduce a bill that does exactly that.

“Yes” means making housing more affordable for Maryland families. 

And we will unveil a package of housing bills next week.

I plan to introduce around a dozen bills this year.

Together, they will help us build a more competitive economy, protect and elevate our communities, and position our state to win the decade.

And we will meet these goals with data and discipline – so we can keep our promises and strengthen public confidence in government. 

I also look forward to moving in partnership with the General Assembly and leaders in this audience to advance other bills that move our state forward.

So the work does not stop. The partnership does not end.

The year will be hard. But I have never been more optimistic about the future of our state. Because we will tackle this moment together.

I’ve always believed you can never learn anything about anyone when times are easy. 

You learn about someone when times are hard – when you’re tested – when the only choices left are tough choices.

That time is now. 

And so as we enter this season of discipline, I want you to know how much I respect you – how much I see you – and how much I need you.

Marylanders will look back at this moment, and they will see that we had the strength to make difficult decisions…

They will see we chose the hard thing instead of the easy thing…

They will see that we honored their trust in us – in our words and our deeds…

And they will recognize that the sacrifices we made in this time helped unlock our future greatness.

I can’t do it without you. But with you, I know we can build a state that leaves no one behind. And we must.

Thank you for your patience, thank you for your trust, and thank you for your partnership;

And may God continue to bless the Great State of Maryland.