But beyond the means of a working government are the goals of improved public education and improved public safety _ the very foundations of strong neighborhoods, strong counties, and a stronger and growing middle class.To improve public education in every part of our state:
In order to make Maryland a leader in improving homeland security, we will:
I also ask for your support for several other initiatives in this year's proposed budget:
And finally on health care, I ask for your support of a Universal Vaccine Purchasing Task Force, so we can better understand how to protect Marylanders against the flu and other foreseeable diseases.
Because health care is a battle of a thousand partial victories, I look forward to working with Chairman (Peter) Hammen, Chairman (Thomas "Mac") Middleton and others in the weeks ahead, as we roll up our sleeves to craft ways to improve health-care coverage and our health-care outcomes.
When it comes to the urgent work of protecting and improving the health of our Chesapeake Bay watershed for the benefit of generations to come, there is no time to waste. Nor is there a better time to begin looking toward the next generation of technologies- to protect our environment and build our economy.
Because smart sustainable growth is absolutely central to preserving our quality of life in this sensitive bay watershed, I have directed our secretary of planning to re-establish the Office of Smart Growth within his agency to help coordinate growth across agencies lines.
As we move forward with the development of BayStat- to apply performance measured management to all of our bay restoration efforts _ please know that the following items are all contained in the proposed budget before you: Every dollar of Open Space funding this year- an estimated $289 million- will be spent on open space. An additional $138 million, with your support, will go to improve local water and wastewater systems for the benefit of the health of the bay.
And with your support, this budget will also provide record funding for cover crops and will triple Maryland's investment in the development of agriculture and resource-based industries through MARBIDCO.
By making sustainable farming in Maryland more profitable, we preserve open space and improve the health of the bay.
Speaker (Michael) Busch has been a tremendous champion of another bill I am asking you to support. The Oyster Restoration Act will, for the first time, allow our Department of Natural Resources to lease parcels of land on the floor of the bay for oyster restoration projects. We need to restore this natural aquatic filter to the Chesapeake if we hope to turn it around.
As we accept our responsibility in the fight against global warming, I ask you to support the Clean Cars Act, adopting stricter pollution emission standards for cars sold in Maryland. By taking action, we can help children suffering with asthma. We can remove pollutants from the air and the bay. And we can join 11 other states in getting this done, this year.
We will also be revamping the Maryland Energy Administration to spearhead our state's effort advancing the development of clean and renewable energy, including the next generation of bio-fuels- like cellulosic ethanol- which our academic institutions and private companies are already pursuing. And government should lead the way by increasing the percentage of clean fuels we purchase each year and by investing in green building technologies. Maryland can and should lead on energy independence.
Because the decisions we make about transportation determine- in a very real way- the future character of our state, this year's budget also fully protects the integrity of the Transportation Trust Fund. I ask for your support for the over $1 billion dollars in highway and roads projects across our state, and the $300 million in mass transit projects.
And I look forward to working with all of you in the months ahead as we bring greater balance to our efforts in transportation- solutions that foster smarter and more sustainable patterns of growth for our future. But all of us must recognize that however efficiently and effectively we stretch our state's current investment in transportation solutions, we will never be able to multiply "bread and fishes" to cover the multitude of needs without new dollars.
My friends, there are many other initiatives that will strengthen and grow our middle class- the agency fee legislation that allows state workers the right to organize and have their collective voice heard, and an end to the cruel and antiquated practice of using ground rents to evict families from their homes.
In the days of this first session, I hope that we will be able to spend the vast majority of our time solving problems and coming together around the solutions about which there is so much consensus- 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, slots and the future of Maryland's 18,000 racing jobs, and Maryland's ineffective death penalty law- let us do so recognizing that there are good and decent people on both sides of these debates.
We cannot resolve every unsettled issue in just 90 days; nor can we heal in 90 days 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 the people of our state. For success breeds success. Mutual respect builds mutual trust. And important things done well make even greater things possible.
This year, together, we are choosing to make progress on the priorities of the people who elected us. Implicit, however, 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 year ahead.
If not, we risk going back to a time that we were not particularly proud of _ making life less affordable for middle-class families. Cutting funds to local government. Stealing from our children's future by taking money away from open space, and shifting transportation dollars away from reducing traffic. I don't believe that is the sort of future we would choose.
With all humility, I promise you I will not squander the year ahead. To the contrary, I will do everything in my power to bring spending under control with professional management. I will do everything in my power to squeeze savings out of your government with performance measurement and accountability. And I know you will do your tough jobs, as well.
So, let's get to work. For a better and stronger future. For the people of our One Maryland. So, let's get to work.