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9:35 am
Fri January 24, 2014

Governor Pushes Minimum Wage Hike, Touts Track Record In State Of State Speech

Originally published on Fri January 24, 2014 2:59 pm

Governor Pushes Minimum Wage Hike, Touts Track Record In State Of State Speech

  

Governor Martin O’Malley delivered his final state of the state speech today in Annapolis. Over the course of about 30 minutes, O’Malley took something of a victory lap, listing his achievements over the last seven years – from legalizing same sex marriage and passing the DREAM Act to repealing the death penalty and enacting gun control legislation. All in all, he said, the state of the state is strong.

“In fact, not only is Maryland stronger than before,” he told legislators and guests. “Maryland is cleaner, smarter, safer, healthier, more entrepreneurial and more competitive than she was before the recession hit.”

O’Malley focused on economic growth, and on the investments the state has made in education and health care – mostly paid for by raising taxes.

He also emphasized the fiscal discipline of his administration: $9.1 billion in spending cuts, the smallest executive branch in the state since 1973, and a plan in his budget proposal to eliminate the state’s deficit.

 “But cuts are only part of our story,” O’Malley said. “No state has ever cut its way to greater prosperity.”

The key to prosperity, he said, is to bolster the middle class. And he said the best way to help middle class and the economy is to raise the minimum wage.

 “When every worker earns more money, every business has more customers,” O’Malley said. “And, by the way, every taxpayer is relieved from funding poverty programs for workers who are being paid poverty-level wages.”

He said he wants an economy focused on people and not stock markets or corporate profits. Women, he said, are especially hurt by wages too low to live on.

“Very often they are moms who are trying to support a child or two on their own, leaning on everyone around them for day care, working 16-hour days and yet falling further behind,” he said. “This is not how our economy should work. No person who works full time and plays by the rules should be forced to raise their family in poverty.”

On health care, O’Malley said that some 453,000 previously uninsured Marylanders now have health coverage. But he also acknowledged that a lot of people trying to get health care couldn’t because so many problems have plagued the state’s online health marketplace.

 “Being accountable also means acknowledging when we have fallen short,” he said.

Republican Sen. Nancy Jacobs said there was a lot she wasn’t thrilled with in the speech, but at least he acknowledged the problems with the health exchange. “I have yet to see an apology for it but at least he acknowledges they have made mistakes.”

Senate Minority Whip Joe Getty said the governor made an impassioned speech but said the governor’s sunny economic picture got it wrong.

“The last eight years has been an enormous tax burden on our middle class families,” Getty said. “That has eliminated jobs in Maryland and made it harder for the entry level workers to succeed.” 

This was the governor’s last state of the state address. He’s term limited and can’t run again. Sen. Jamie Raskin says his speech summed up a strong track record.

“His administration has been one of inclusion in doing marriage equality and the DREAM Act and it’s been one of dramatic policy progress – the repeal of the death penalty,” Raskin said. “And it’s been one of fundamentally commitment to the prosperity of all Marylanders.”

The governor has said he’s considering a presidential run in 2016. And if he does, he’ll be hitting the same list of highlights of equality, accountability and prosperity.

Karen Hosler contributed to this report.

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