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Moore focuses on public service, rebuilding state workforce in first State of the State Speech

Kaitlin Newman The Baltimore Banner
“We can, and we will, end child poverty in the state of Maryland," said Gov. Wes Moore in Annapolis, Maryland. "That mission begins this year, right now, during this legislative session.”

Two weeks after taking office, Gov. Wes Moore delivered his first State of the State address to the Maryland General Assembly Wednesday afternoon. But Moore’s speech had a similar main theme to that of his campaign and inauguration — public service.

Moore used that major theme to push his plans to rebuild the state government workforce.

“Despite the challenges we have seen, I know the Marylanders I have spoken to, not only are they fast to offer solutions,” Moore told a joint session of the Maryland General Assembly Wednesday afternoon. “But they’ve also expressed a deep hope and desire to be a part of the solution.”

Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner
Speaker of the House Adrienne A. Jones stands to applaud for Gov. Wes Moore while he delivers the State of the State address Wednesday — in his remarks, Moore acknowledges he’s the first African American to ever be in the position to deliver this speech.

The vacancy rate is almost double that from 10 years ago, and Moore argues it’s hampering the state’s overall economic picture because of a lack or delay in certain public services.

“Building a workforce of dedicated public servants saves us the expense of costly contractors and external vendors, and if properly managed, delivers us better results,” the governor said.

Maryland Public Television
Wes Moore enters the chamber in the Maryland General Assembly to deliver the State of the State address.

Moore became Maryland’s first Black governor when he was elected last fall, and only the third elected Black governor in U.S. history. His lone nod to the history of that brought the loudest applause break of his 47-minute speech.

“I only realized recently that the word service actually comes from the Latin word servitium. Which means slavery,” Moore told lawmakers. “So it’s fitting as the first African American in Maryland to deliver this speech, standing in a building that was built by the hands of enslaved, that we are now putting service towards the good of all.”

Moore’s nod to history segued into his plan to reverse the record high vacancy rate in state government. He said more than 2,800 people have applied to be in his administration in its first two weeks in office. To go further, Moore says they’ll look at educational requirements for many state positions.
“While Maryland is home to some of the greatest institutions of higher education — something you all should be very proud of — we have to end this myth that young people must attend one in order to be successful,” the governor said.

Public safety is one area that Moore has talked about extensively in rebuilding the state workforce. In particular, hiring in the Maryland Department of Parole and Probation, which Moore has set aside millions for in his first budget proposal to accomplish.

“We have also seen an unacceptable rate of incarceration of young Black men and boys and neighborhoods in fear of criminals and of the forces sworn to protect them,” Moore said, while also noting that violent crime in Maryland has risen in the past eight years.

He added that these two facts don’t have to be in opposition to each other.

“To paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald, who’s buried in Rockville, Maryland, ‘We must hold these two contradicting items together at the same time, and be determined to make them otherwise.’”

Crime was also on the mind of House Minority Leader Jason Buckel, who gave the Republican response to Moore’s speech. The Allegany County delegate focused though on spending priorities in the governor’s budget.

“Increasing the size of the Attorney General’s office by 30% and pouring millions of new dollars into the Public Defender’s office. Investments that appear to only help those working for the criminals, not the safety of our citizens,” said Buckel in a recorded speech played directly after the governor’s address concluded on Maryland Public Television.

House Minority Leader Jason Buckel
Maryland Public Television Screenshot
House Minority Leader Jason Buckel

Another spending priority — or lack of it — decried by Buckel was the BOOST program that uses state money for scholarships to private schools, something that had been championed by former Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican like Buckel.

“Maryland’s public schools are funded with billions of dollars. They are not competing with funding with children in the BOOST program,” Buckel said. “This is a false choice, and an unnecessary cut, and those families and students should not be left behind.”

But with a Democrat in the governor’s office for the first time in 8 years, along with strong Democratic majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly, Republicans will have little power to stop Moore’s budget. Lawmakers must pass a spending plan by the time they adjourn for the year in April.

Prefer to read Gov. Wes Moore's prepared remarks? See below.

Below are prepared remarks by the Maryland House Republican Caucus.

Matt Bush spent 14 years in public radio prior to coming to WYPR as news director in October 2022. From 2008 to 2016, he worked at Washington D.C.’s NPR affiliate, WAMU, where he was the station’s Maryland reporter. He covered the Maryland General Assembly for six years (alongside several WYPR reporters in the statehouse radio bullpen) as well as both Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. @MattBushMD
Kristen Mosbrucker is a digital news editor and producer for WYPR. @k_mosbrucker
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