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'Let's get to work': Wes Moore delivers first State of the State address as Maryland governor

'Let's get to work': Wes Moore delivers first State of the State address as Maryland governor
'Let's get to work': Wes Moore delivers first State of the State address as Maryland governor 02:37

BALTIMORE -- Maryland Gov. Wes Moore delivered his first State of the State address Wednesday, two weeks after he was sworn in as the state's 63rd chief executive. 

Moore gave his address in front of the General Assembly, where he focused on key initiatives that will "leave no one behind" in the state.

"For almost three years, I have traveled our state, talking to Marylanders from every region, every race, every creed, in many of your districts, and I listened to what they had to say," Moore said. "Some of the voices we heard are here today, but all of the voices I heard ring in my heart, my head, and my memories."

Moore emphasized commitment to public service, highlighting his proposal to create a service year program for high school graduates that he said will be the first of its kind in the nation.  

Moore, who is the state's first Black governor, noted that the word "service" comes from the Latin word for "slavery."

"So, it's fitting as the first African American in the state of Maryland to deliver this speech," Moore said, pausing while lawmakers applauded, "standing in a building that was built by the hands of enslaved people, that we are now putting service ... towards the good of all. The irony is that it's service that will help save us."

The new governor said he wants to promote service as a state ideal, telling legislators that he benefited because of people in his life "who stepped up even when they were not called." He has set aside $18 million in the budget for a new Department of Service and Civic Innovation initiative — which will be a voluntary, service year program for high school graduates to better prepare them for future jobs.

"While our young people give back, they also lay the foundation for their future success through job training, through mentorship programs, and it creates a lifelong habit of service to our state — something we so desperately need," Moore said. "Whether they're preparing our state for the realities of climate change or tutoring our students, or caring for the sick, young people should have the option to perform important service today and build a foundation for our shared future."

The governor mentioned that while there are major challenges ahead, he said the citizens will play a role in making Maryland a better state.

"Let us serve, together, the people who entrusted us with a solemn oath to put them before ourselves," he said. "It's an honor to stand before you, and it's an honor to serve beside you. God bless Maryland. Let's get to work."

Moore, a Democrat who has been in office for two weeks, pitched his legislative priorities to a General Assembly where Democrats hold strong majorities. His landslide victory in November brought an exuberant lift to Democrats, who had grown weary from the rare, two-term tenure of a Republican governor in a state where Democrats outnumber GOP voters 2-1.  

Moore said many residents he has spoken with are worried about the economy and whether they can keep up with the cost of living. 

The cost of child care and Pre-K is also a concern, Moore added.

"Yet, despite the challenges, the Marylanders I talked to were not only fast to offer solutions but expressed a deep desire to be part of the solution," Moore said. "They were the first to organize a food drive at their local school. They raised their hands to watch the kids in the neighborhood. They agreed to serve on the board of a local non profit. They are willing to work in our local government and our state government."

The governor has pledged to work for greater inclusion and economic equity while also focusing on fighting crime, improving education and tackling climate change.

"This is a state where the opportunities are boundless, but the challenges are undeniable," Moore said. "It is also a state where there is no obstacle we cannot address, no challenge we cannot tackle, if we are intentional, move in partnership, and commit to promoting service as a state ideal."   

Moore touted an investment in public education by introducing $200 million in targeted tax relief for children in poverty with the Family Prosperity Act and veterans in retirement with the Keep our Heroes home act.  

"We put forward a plan to make Maryland the first state to end child poverty, and we kept 10% in the rainy day fund," Moore said. "Ending child poverty is not complicated; and the tools already exist to get us on our way. There is no partisanship when it comes to a child in need, so let's not allow us to fall into our traditional corners on the issue."  

With an eye toward making major investments in education and transportation, Moore released his $63 billion budget plan for the state while keeping surplus funds flush in the case of a recession.

He described his budget plan as being "bold without being reckless."

"It is time for our state to be bold, but that doesn't mean we are being reckless," he said. "Our administration has put forth a plan to make historic investments in people, AND it spends $1 billion less than the last fiscal year."  

He proposed to the General Assembly the Maryland Educator Shortage Act – to strengthen the pipeline of qualified teachers in Maryland.

"This bill will create new pathways to address the shortage of qualified teachers, giving our students the mentors and leaders they need to explore the full range of opportunities in emerging sectors," Moore said.

Moore's State of the State Address came one day after Moore joined hundreds of people in Annapolis calling for stricter gun laws, as he assured gun safety advocates he stands by them.

"These deadly weapons and these illegal guns have no place in our society and we will work and create laws to remove them," he said alongside the crowd of activists. 

Moore, a military veteran, said the state is full of "people who refuse to quit who lift you up when you are down," which was a reason he said he became governor.

"They are the social workers, who reach into their pockets to ensure their clients have enough to eat," Moore said.   hey are the linemen, who after a disaster, work double shifts to ensure we can turn our lights back on. They are the educators, who get up before the crack of dawn, and stay after dark, to make sure their students get the extra help they need. And yes, it's the lawmaker who gets up and comes to Annapolis, who sacrifices time with their family, months from their business."

The governor, who served as a paratrooper and captain in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, also has set aside $33 million in his budget plan for tax relief for military retirees to encourage veterans to remain in Maryland.

"If we are serious about growing our economy, it begins by making Maryland the best state to be a veteran," Moore said. "They are lifelong contributors, and lifelong taxpayers."  

Moore also wants to reach a $15 hourly minimum wage at a faster pace than the gradual increases approved by lawmakers in 2019 and index it for inflation. Under current law, the state won't reach $15 until 2025. The minimum wage rose to $13.25 last month.

Moore also underscored the importance of his proposed salary increases for state employees — in order to make state government a more attractive place to work. He also wants to fill about half of the state's 6,500 vacant positions in executive branch agencies.

"This isn't about creating big government," Moore said. "This is about creating a better one."

During his speech, Moore introduced several guests to illustrate the need for the legislation he supports this session. One of them was Angela McCullough, a retired U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant, and the owner and CEO of Maryland-based consulting firm, Tri-Logistics.

"She's an example of what our state needs more of," Moore said.

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