Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Real State of the States ... I watch, listen and read so you don't have to (part 1)

Each year, I watch, listen or read the state of the addresses from every governor in the nation.  The annual ritual gives me better insight into the priorities of each governor and a sense of what issues or opportunities could arise from those priorities.  It allows me to better serve my clients and develop better advocacy strategies.  Simply put, it makes me a better state lobbyist.

This year I am starting what will be an annual tradition - highlighting the state of the state addresses.

In 2010, the country elected the largest class of new governors.   So in 2011, most governors had just received the keys to the mansion and were still finding their way around.  Fast forward four years, and the country elected the largest class of incumbent governors.  And now in 2015, many of those governors are considering their legacies via state of the state or inaugural addresses.  

This post is the first of three posts that will cover the 2015 State of the State addresses.  Two will cover speeches from incumbent governors.  A third will focus on newly-elected governors, as they outline the goals of their first (and maybe only) term in office.

Click HERE for Governing ( collection of video and/or text of all the addresses.

This week, I'm highlighting the two longest serving governors in America and the current chair of the RGA and next chair of the DGA, as they all won reelection in 2014.

Governor Brown's legacy is certainly secure as he enters the second term of his second stint as governor, and fourth term over all. Hard to believe he was sworn in for his first term 40 years ago. In his address, he highlighted the success of several programs including: two recent ballot initiatives (Save Water and Save Money), and his record paying down the debt.
"Over the next four years and beyond, we must dedicate ourselves to make what we have done work, to see the massive changes in education, healthcare and public safety are actually carried out and endured. The financial promises we have already made must be confronted honestly so they are properly funded. The health of our stat depends on it."

The governor's address touched on several programs in areas of education, healthcare and public safely (corrections). He touched on his next phase of pension reform program and his plans for funding long-term infrastructure - including a fund to invest in bridges and roads.  All part of what I believe Governor Brown believes legacy to be - returning the state to fiscal health.

One thing I learned?  Governor Brown was a former Jesuit priest.

Governor Brandstadt is another governor whose legacy is all but assured, even before he gave his record sixth traditional Condition of the State address.  Governor Brandstadt will soon become the longest serving governor in history.  Hard to believe he needs more of legacy than that.

However, after informing the audience that the condition of Iowa is strong, he dove into the theme of his address - "Together, we can."

"Together, we can," strengthen school safety; invest in rural infrastructure; make college more affordable; and make Iowa the most transparent government in the land.  Those represent the goals of the governor's agenda over the next four years. 
Governor Haslam started his state of the state address by saying it would be the shortest in state of the state in Tennessee history - mainly because he gave his second inaugural address two weeks before.  I pulled from both speeches to get a sense of what Governor Haslam would like to be most remembered for.

I think it is clear that Governor Haslam wants to be remembered for vastly improving the state's education system - both K-12 and higher education.  Both speeches and his budget priorities point to that.  The state has made significant statistical improvements over the last four years and the governor wants to continue them.  He also wants to ensure access to higher education and continue his program of making Tennessee community and technical colleges affordable (if not free) for every citizen of the state.  

The governor talked about how these important education improvements and reforms would lead to better jobs, economic growth and a better Tennessee for all. 

Governor Malloy led off on several significant accomplishments - raising the minimum wage, reducing the uninsured by half, and legislation aimed at reducing gun violence.  But his speech was all about transportation and infrastructure.
"To be competitive regionally, nationally, and internationally, we need a transformation. For our roads, bridges, rails and ports, even our walkways or bikeways. We need to change the way we commute, the ways our businesses move their products, and the ways we get around our cities and towns. It's time for a Connecticut to establish a collective vision for the next thirty years. A vision for a best-in-class transportation system."
Among some short term goals, Governor Malloy called for widening I-95 state-wide and fixing its entrance and exit ramps, and a significant improvement of the state's commuter rail lines and bus lines.  He also called for a transportation lock box, ensuring all transportation funds are actually spent on transportation projects.

Next week, I'll look at some of the 2016 presidential contenders.