Five takeaways from Maryland Gov. Wes Moore’s State of the State speech

Originally published by Baltimore Sun.

In Maryland’s version of the president’s illustrious State of the Union speech, Gov. Wes Moore delivered his State of the State address in Annapolis on Wednesday, telling hundreds of state lawmakers and other dignitaries that he needs their help to tackle his long list of audacious goals.

For Moore, a Democrat serving his second year in elected office, the speech served as both a celebration and a path forward.

“We learned a lot of lessons — some hard lessons,” Moore told a joint session of the Maryland General Assembly while discussing his inaugural year. “But solving big problems does not happen overnight.”

Here are five takeaways from Moore’s speech:

Four themes for his priorities

Moore outlined four themes to describe his priorities moving forward — public safety, affordability for workers, competition for businesses and public service.

The 16 bills he introduced this year all fit into those categories, which build off his “work, wages, wealth” campaign slogan from 2022.

Among the highlights of the package that he discussed in the speech is an initiative to create a gun violence prevention center modeled after a similar federal effort and a $15 million grant program to revitalize neighborhoods with the highest concentration of poverty.

A forthcoming ‘state plan’

The lone announcement from Wednesday’s speech was that Moore’s administration intends to unveil a comprehensive “state plan” that will provide a detailed roadmap for the remaining three years of his term.

While he often talks about vast, aspirational goals like ending child poverty and eliminating the racial wealth gap, the new plan will “lay out specific, actionable, realistic and measurable goals,” Moore said.

The plan is scheduled to be unveiled Thursday during a town hall-style event with Moore and state employees.

Word of the year: ‘partnership’

Beyond identifying priorities and revealing the idea for the new roadmap, the theme of Moore’s speech can be summarized with a single word — one he has uttered eagerly and often in speeches, interviews, and conversations for the past year — “partnership.”

The governor even offered a slight jab at himself to emphasize his point that solving Maryland’s problems can only happen by working closely with the legislature.

“I know I talk a lot about partnership,” Moore said. “If the state received a nickel for every time I said the word ‘partnership,’ we would have all of our budget issues solved.”

What was the response?

Democrats who control both the House and Senate with supermajorities have been largely enthusiastic about Moore and his policy agenda, and they gave him many extended standing ovations on Wednesday.

Republicans have also been supportive, joining Democrats in applauding Moore’s talking points on public safety, improving the state’s business climate, and supporting military families, to name a few. But they’ve also lobbed some warnings and criticisms, like on the lack of a plan to solve a projected $3 billion structural budget deficit by 2029, or on not having a “proactive” enough plan to address crime.
“Gov. Moore is a good speaker, and he talks a big game, but Maryland is enduring public safety and fiscal crises under his leadership, and it is clear that Republicans are the only ones bringing serious solutions,” Maryland Republican Party Chairwoman Nicole Beus Harris said in a statement.

What’s next?

Moore’s speech came about a third of the way through the annual 90-day session of the General Assembly.

Over the next two months, they’ll consider hundreds of bills — including Moore’s legislative package — along with the governor’s $63.1 billion state budget proposal in the historic State House in Annapolis.

Moore is expected to testify on a few of his bills in legislative hearings, continuing a trend from last year that was a departure from his predecessor, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.