The annual addresses delivered by governors around the country underscored policy priorities that routinely top the lists of state chief executives — education, economic vitality, health care and transportation. And while state-to-state differences are evident, what also comes through is that many elected leaders now see technology as an important tool that helps meet their policy objectives. And many of them are talking about it.
The most viable solutions come from well-informed policymakers. This year’s speeches revealed that data-driven government is catching on. Many governors, including New Mexico’s Susana Martinez, talked about the role of data in powering more effective education policies. Martinez touted the role of data in reducing truancy and setting students on a path to success, while Washington Gov. Jay Inslee noted its importance in tackling the issue of gun violence. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie spotlighted data analysis that found that more than 86 percent of the state’s costliest Medicaid users suffer from mental illness and/or substance abuse. That finding is fueling improvements to treatment options that can also help lower costs.
The Office of Personnel Management breach was the highest profile public-sector cybersnafu in 2015, reminding leaders at all levels of the importance of protecting IT infrastructure from threats, known and unknown. Colorado’s National Cybersecurity Intelligence Center, touted by Gov. John Hickenlooper, will position the state as a cyberleader, while Idaho Gov. Butch Otter urged support for a cybersecurity program at Boise State University to complement the work of the Idaho Cyber Security Task Force created last year. Meanwhile, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe proudly announced new cyberfacilities too: both the Air Force Cyber Operations Squadron at Langley Air Force Base and the recently opened VISA cyberfusion center.
The ongoing challenge of incorporating ride-sharing into local economies was confronted head-on in two governors’ speeches. West Virginia’s Earl Ray Tomblin proposed that Uber and Lyft be welcomed in his state, provided they secure permits from the DMV, and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey encouraged a friendlier climate toward the ride-sharing companies as well. Ducey took his pro-sharing economy stance one step further, issuing an executive order establishing a council devoted to finding ways for the state to benefit from the growing sector.
Evident in this year’s speeches was a nearly across-the-board realization that competing against neighboring states for new and expanding businesses and preparing the next generation to participate in the 21st-century economy requires connectivity in every corner of the state. While every state is capable of improvements, many governors spoke about their specific plans for broadband. Wisconsin’s Scott Walker spoke of tripling broadband investments, while Gov. Andrew Cuomo vowed billions in infrastructure support, including broadband, for upstate New York. Speeches in Colorado, Michigan, Delaware, Hawaii and Alabama also made direct references to more broadband support from the state.
Check out page 2 for our detailed analysis of each State of the State speech delivered to date.