“This Covid-19 pandemic has been part of our lives for nearly two years now. It’s what we talk about at our kitchen tables over breakfast in the morning, and again over dinner at night. It gets brought up in nearly every conversation we have throughout the day, and it’s a topic at nearly every special gathering we attend,” Rhode Island Gov. Daniel McKee noted in his recent 2022 State of the State address.
Indeed, that was a consistent theme among all six New England governors’ 2022 State of the State speeches. As were plugs for innovation in healthcare, especially mental health, housing, workforce development, climate strategies, children’s services, transportation, schools, budgets and, with varying degrees of gratitude, acknowledgement of federal infusions of relief money.
Here are links to the full New England State of the State addresses, highlighting some key points from the NEJHE beat …
“Our budget invests 10 times more money than ever before in workforce development—with a hyper focus on trade schools, apprentice programs and tuition-free certificate programs where students of all ages can earn an industry-recognized credential in half the time, with a full-time job all but guaranteed.
This investment will train over 10,000 students and job seekers this year in courses designed by businesses around the skills that they need.
This isn’t just about providing people with credentials, this is about changing people’s lives.
A stay-at-home mom whose husband lost his job earned her pharmacy tech certificate in three months and now works at Yale New Haven Hospital.
A man who was homeless was provided housing, transportation, a laptop and training. He’s now a user support specialist for a large tech company.
These are just two examples of opportunities that completely change the course of someone’s life.
We are working with our partners in the trade unions to develop programs for the next generation of laser welders and pipefitters. Building on the amazing partnership between Hartford Hospital and Quinnipiac University, we are also ramping up our next generation of healthcare workers.
I want students and trainees to take a job in Connecticut, and I want Connecticut employers to hire from Connecticut first! To encourage that, we’re expanding a tax credit for small businesses that help repay their employees’ student loans. More reasons for your business to hire in Connecticut, and for graduates to stay in Connecticut—that’s the Connecticut difference.”
“It is also our responsibility to ensure that higher education is affordable.
And I’ve got some ideas to tackle that.
First, I am proposing funding in my supplemental budget to stave off tuition hikes across the University of Maine System, to keep university education in Maine affordable.
Secondly, thinking especially about all those young people whose aspirations have been most impacted by the pandemic, I propose making two years of community college free.
To the high school classes of 2020 through 2023—if you enroll full-time in a Maine community college this fall or next, the State of Maine will cover every last dollar of your tuition so you can obtain a one-year certificate or two-year associate degree and graduate unburdened by debt and ready to enter the workforce.
And if you are someone who’s already started a two-year program, we’ve got your back too. We will cover the last dollar of your second year.”
“We increased public school spending by $1.6 billion, and fully funded the game-changing Student Opportunity Act.
We invested over $100 million in modernizing equipment at our vocational and technical programs, bringing opportunities to thousands of students and young adults.
We dramatically expanded STEM programming, and we helped thousands of high school students from Gateway Cities earn college credits free through our Early College programs.”
“Our way of life here in the 603 is the best of the best.
We didn’t get here by accident—we did it through smart management, prioritizing individuals over government, citizens over systems, and delivering results with the immense responsibility of properly managing our citizens tax dollars.
As other states were forced to buckle down and weather the storm, we took a more proactive approach in 2021. In just the last year, we:
• Cut the statewide property tax by $100 million to provide relief to N.H. taxpayers
• Cut the rooms and meals tax
• Cut business taxes—again
• Began permanently phasing out the interest and dividends tax
And while we heard scary stories of how cutting taxes and returning such large amounts of money to citizens and towns would ‘cost too much’, the actual results have played out exactly as we planned, record tax revenue pouring into N.H. exceeding all surplus estimates, allowing us to double the State’s Rainy Day Fund to over $250 million.”
“We all know that the economy was changing well before the pandemic. A college degree or credential is a basic qualification for over 70% of jobs created since 2008. Although we have made great progress over the last decade, there’s more to do.
Let’s launch Rhode Island’s first Higher Ed Academy, a statewide effort to meet Rhode Islanders where they are and provide access to education and training, that leads to a good-paying job. Through this initiative, which will be run by our Postsecondary Education Commissioner Shannon Gilkey, we expect to support over a thousand Rhode Islanders helping them gain the skills needed to be successful in obtaining a credential or degree.
Having a strong, educated workforce is critical for a strong economy—and Rhode Island’s economy is built on small businesses. Small businesses employ over half of our workforce. As these businesses continue to recover from the pandemic, we know that challenges still persist. That’s why in the first several weeks of my administration, I put millions of unspent CARES Act dollars that we received in 2020 into grants to help more than 3,600 small businesses stay afloat.
My budget will call for key small business supports like more funding for small business grants, especially for severely impacted industries like tourism and hospitality. It will also increase grant funding for Rhode Island’s small farms.
As our businesses deal with workforce challenges, I’ll also propose more funding to forgive student loan debt, especially for healthcare professionals, and $40 million to continue the Real Jobs Rhode Island program which has already helped thousands of Rhode Islanders get back to work.”
“The hardest part of addressing our workforce shortage is that it is so intertwined with other big challenges, from affordability and education to our economy and recovery. Each problem makes the others harder to solve, creating a vicious cycle that’s been difficult to break.
Specifically, I believe our high cost of living has contributed to a declining workforce and stunted our growth. As we lose Vermonters who cannot afford to live, do business or even retire here, that burden—from taxes and utility rates to healthcare and education costs—falls on fewer and fewer of us, making life even less affordable.
With fewer working families comes fewer kids in our schools. But lower enrollment hasn’t meant lower costs and from district to district, kids are not offered the same opportunities, like foreign languages, AP courses or electives. And with fewer school offerings, it is hard to attract families, workers and jobs to those communities.
Fewer workers and fewer students mean our businesses struggle to fill the jobs they need to survive, deepening the economic divide from region to region.
And for years, state budgets and policies failed to adapt to this reality. …
Let’s start with the people already here and do more to connect them with great jobs.
First, our internship, returnship and apprenticeship programs have been incredibly successful, not only giving workers job experience, but also building ties to local employers. To improve on this work, the Department of Labor assists employers to fill and manage internships statewide and we’ll invest more to help cover interns’ wages.
And let’s not forget about retired Vermonters who want to go back to work and have a lot to offer. I look forward to working with Representative Marcotte and the House Commerce Committee on this issue and may others.
Next, let’s put a greater focus on trades training. And here’s why:
We all know we need more nurses and healthcare workers. And as I previewed with Senator Sanders and Senator Balint earlier this week, I will propose investments in this area. But if we don’t have enough CDL drivers, mechanics and technicians, hospital staff won’t get to work; there will be issues getting the life-saving equipment and supplies we need; and we will see fewer EMTs available to get patients to emergency rooms. If we don’t have enough carpenters, plumbers and electricians, or heating, ventilation, air handling and refrigeration techs, there are fewer to construct and maintain the facilities in our healthcare system or build homes for the workers we are trying to attract.”