Governors on Tech: Broadband and Telehealth Top the 2021 Agenda

State of the State addresses signal strong support for connecting citizens with investments in broadband expansion, more online services and virtual health-care delivery.

 

 



When the nation’s governors delivered their annual State of the State addresses in 2020, broadband was on a notable upswing. In fact, our story last year included in its headline “Broadband Is Critical Infrastructure,” detailing the increased prevalence of talking about connectivity needs in these speeches — the address each state’s top elected official uses to set their policy agenda for the coming year. In 2020, some even included specific plans and budget allocations to support their efforts.

In 2021, the prevalence of broadband references skyrocketed. COVID-19-induced remote everything exposed gaps and disparities in every state in the country. While the connected majority proved they had what they needed to learn and work from home, those without devices and a sufficient Internet connection found their disadvantages multiplied. The editorial team at Government Technology is reading and analyzing these speeches as they are delivered, picking out mentions that reference tech, and this year, it’s far more likely for governors to talk about broadband than not.

On a related note, 2021 marks a departure from the last several years in another way: Governors got a closer-than-ever look at how prepared (or not) states were to deliver services to citizens without face-to-face contact. The pressure on digital services and the back-end systems that support them continues to be intense, especially on programs like unemployment insurance, food assistance and other social services. It was technology’s time to shine. But did it? Many governors got specific about where their systems fell short, and talked about plans to fix them. Others mentioned swift changes they enacted to deal with the current crisis that will continue to serve them well far beyond it.

Beyond broadband and digital services, governors offered up a third clear tech-enabled priority: telehealth. Turns out medical care delivered virtually can be quite effective in a larger number of cases than people might have believed before the pandemic. In huge numbers, people accessed health care in this way and proved that it can work, leading to long-term support to broaden telehealth access even further.

We’ll update this story as additional addresses are delivered.

-Noelle Knell

Alabama State of the State Address

Address date: Feb. 2, 2021
Stars: 1
To sum it up: Now entering her fourth year in office, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s State of the State address in 2021 was an efficient and dense overview of her coming priorities, mostly economic in nature.

Her lone mention of technology was to talk about the state’s broadband Internet infrastructure, which she said the COVID-19 pandemic “exposed” as inadequate. She said the Legislature is already working on new efforts to expand access, and she has partnered with the Mississippi-based company C Spire on a three-year, $500 million project to build out its broadband network. Ivey expects the project to open up high-speed Internet to about 100,000 homes and businesses. Ivey also touted a $50 million program the state embarked on last year to bring Internet to low-income students so they could participate in remote learning.

The governor asked the Legislature to renew economic development incentives, exempt CARES Act dollars from taxation, protect businesses and medical providers from COVID-19-related lawsuits and give a 2 percent pay raise to teachers and state government employees.

The state is facing a busy calendar of infrastructure projects, including building new highways, prisons and mental health crisis centers.

Ivey closed out her speech by paying homage to the late congressman and civil rights advocate John Lewis, who represented Georgia but was born in Alabama. Lewis died in 2020 and became the first African American to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol.

Read the governor’s speech here.

Alaska State of the State Address 

Address date: Jan. 28, 2021
Stars: 0
To sum it up: Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s third state of the state address didn’t mention specific technology initiatives, but it touched on several accomplishments that involved technology and nodded to some 21st-century needs. He started by praising the state’s response to the pandemic and having the third-lowest COVID-19 mortality rate in the U.S. He said private businesses stepped up to make swabs or sanitizer, and he mentioned a new housing relief program, although he didn’t mention investing in online infrastructure to make it work. Without citing technology as a factor, Dunleavy talked about supporting innovative businesses in wind, geothermal, hydroelectric and other forms of renewable energy, and about wooing investors in unmanned aircraft research. He floated a possible $350-million bond package that includes energy upgrades and infrastructure, and he said he’s instructing the Department of Education to create summer camps to boost students’ coding skills, as well as reading and math. Reiterating the importance of energy for the state’s economy, he said Alaska is making progress on a natural gas line between its North Slope and developed areas.

Read the governor's speech here.

Arizona State of the State Address

Address date: Jan. 11
Stars: 1
To sum it up: Gov. Doug Ducey opened his State of the State address by commending everyday Arizonans for the resiliency they demonstrated in the last year, despite the unexpected trials that came with 2020. His speech emphasized the importance of restoring the economy, continuing to add jobs and distributing the COVID-19 vaccine.   

Technology received little attention beyond a general call to improve broadband expansion and access to telemedicine. Ducey did not follow up with any specific plans to address how the state will work toward either issue. Despite citing a $50 million investment in the Smart Corridor Program to pave the way for broadband infrastructure in last year’s address, there was no follow-up on its progress. 

Ducey affirmed that the digital divide has impacted public education, acknowledging that students across the state are falling behind in school due to limited access to Wi-Fi or laptops. But rather than investing in ways to provide the latter, he advocated directing resources to longer school days.  

Last, Ducey gave a nod to the transition to telework for many state employees. He signaled his support for entering the “new normal” by adding that he hoped to “shrink” the government by eliminating unnecessary state buildings to save taxpayer dollars. 

Read the governor’s speech here

Arkansas State of the State Address

Address date: Jan. 12, 2021
Stars: 1
To sum it up: In his final state of the state address Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson called attention to the stresses tugging at not only Arkansas, but the nation, including the COVID-19 crisis and societal divisions. In addition to calls for extending emergency rules around telemedicine, education waivers or aid for businesses beyond their Feb. 27 sunset date, the governor advocated for more spending and focus in areas like highspeed Internet. Hutchinson highlighted existing technical advancements like the Rural Connect Grant program, which invested $86.8 million into efforts to provide broadband service for some 70,000 residents. His proposed budget includes an additional $30 million for getting broadband to rural areas of the state in an effort to not only help close the digital divide in Arkansas, but improve quality of life and grow the economy by attracting news businesses to the state. Hutchinson also pointed to progress Arkansas has made in computer science education, and is advocating for requiring a credit in the course as a requirement for high school graduation.

Read the governor’s speech here here.

California State of the State Address

Address date: March 9, 2021
Stars: 1
To sum it up: Facing a likely recall, California Gov. Gavin Newsom largely repeated his strategy from 2020 and went very light on technology in his 2021 State of the State address, his first such dinner-time remarks. Newsom’s third State of the State clocked in shorter, at roughly 30 minutes, and wielded words commonly associated with IT — technology, innovation, data and equity — in their more traditional sense. “Technology” earned one mention, for bringing radar technology to bear on wildfires. The governor mentioned “data” only in passing, a reference to the state having “trusted in science and data.” Newsom applied “innovation” to homeless housing projects Roomkey and Homekey and in a reference to the state’s high level of innovation investment; and he landed on social, financial and vaccine equity, but not digital equity.

Read the governor’s speech here here.

Colorado State of the State Address

Address date: Feb. 17, 2021
Stars: 1
To sum it up: In his Feb. 17 State of the State address to Colorado legislators, Gov. Jared Polis reflected on the challenges the state has faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, which claimed the lives of nearly 6,000 Coloradans by the time of his speech and has threatened to overwhelm the state’s health-care facilities.

Polis said Colorado has raised over $24 million for the state’s COVID-19 emergency fund, and has devoted much of its vaccine supply to community health centers that care for uninsured patients and residents of color. The governor said Colorado now has “one of the highest vaccination rates and lowest transmission rates in the country.”

“We’ve also set up 58 vaccine pop-up clinics in rural and urban underserved areas. This ensures that regardless of Zip code, and regardless of immigration status, no Coloradan is left behind,” he added.

The governor also discussed the relationship between climate change and recent wildfires, citing ways in which the state has encouraged innovation geared toward environmental sustainability. To date, he said, Colorado has “secured commitments from electric utilities representing 99 percent of generation in our state to reduce emissions 80 percent or more by 2030.”

Polis noted that the state also plans to bolster efforts to modernize transportation and expand broadband access statewide for public school students and for small businesses. While specific details about tech-related initiatives were few and far between, Polis noted a desire to move away from fossil fuels through a variety of public transit options in the years ahead, including car shares and multimodal transit, as well as electric options.

Read the governor’s speech here.

Connecticut State of the State Address

Address date: Jan. 6, 2021
Stars: 1
To sum it up: In the introduction to his speech, Gov. Ned Lamont remarked that he has been working in a “virtual room.” In the rest of his address, Lamont made several references to technology, though he didn’t always connect the dots. The governor showed a commitment to electric vehicles, a greener power grid and enhanced cybersecurity, but more detail on these items would have resulted in a stronger statement. He underlined the importance of access to not only high-speed Internet but also to digital devices when it comes to ensuring that students can continue to learn as the pandemic continues. However, despite mentioning telework multiple times, he did not connect broadband expansion to the everyday person’s ability to work from home or run a small business. Clearly Lamont is aware of tech’s increased significance in these uncertain, unusual times, but his State of the State speech did not outline many specifics. 

Read the governor’s speech here

Delaware State of the State Address

Address date: Jan. 26, 2021
Stars: 3
To sum it up: Delaware Gov. John Carney touched on tech a number of times in his State of the State address. He highlighted Delaware’s efforts to extend high-speed Internet coverage over the last year, an effort that grew in importance with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. He noted that, since the start of the pandemic, 500 Delawareans have received broadband connections, a number that is still climbing. He also credited the Connect Delaware program for bringing reliable Internet connections to 25,000 low-income students in the past year when they were forced to take their education online. And Carney gave a shoutout to the state’s new CIO Jason Clarke and his team for all their hard work to make these broadband initiatives happen. 

The governor called for increased funding for what he dubbed Graduation Lab Space, an initiative in the state to invest in labs for startup science and tech companies to use to grow their business presence in Delaware. He also announced that the state would be setting a goal to transition 40 percent of the state’s energy usage to renewable sources by 2035. 

Gov. Carney also pointed to the state’s use of technology in order to keep the public involved in the business of government during the pandemic. He noted that, by using technology to conduct business like meetings and hearings online, the state government at all levels made its business “more accessible, more transparent and more efficient” for the general public. He therefore called for the state to continue the use of these technologies once the pandemic is over. 

Read the governor’s speech here.

Florida State of the State Address

Address date: March 3, 2021
Stars: 0
To sum it up: Gov. Ron DeSantis made no mention of tech but focused on the COVID-19 pandemic during his State of the State address, most notably reports of the state’s success in limiting deaths, protecting the elderly and keeping kids in school classrooms while a good portion of the nation was stuck in the throes of distance learning. He also touted a business climate that he said leads the nation in the number of people submitting business formation applications and is one of the top destinations for business relocation.

DeSantis cited an increase in revenue during the first three months of 2021 at more than $800 million, more than what had been estimated, and mentioned the unemployment rate stayed below that of peer states like Texas, California and New York.

DeSantis said from the beginning of the pandemic that the state was focused on protecting the elderly, establishing COVID-19-only nursing facilities to contain infections. The governor said that 40 states have suffered higher COVID-19 mortality for seniors on a per capita basis than Florida and that hospitalizations for seniors have plummeted by 80 percent since Jan. 30. The state also prioritized seniors when vaccinations became available, and DeSantis lauded those who have participated in the process for making vaccines available across the state from a multitude of sites, which included those in underserved areas.

Read the governor’s speech here.

Georgia State of the State Address

Adress date: Jan. 14, 2021
Stars: 1
To sum it up: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp spent much of his annual address talking about how the state navigated the many crises posed in 2020. In a general sense, the speech focused on the response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis; the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, who was shot and killed last February while jogging; and the state’s economic position in the union. Mention of technology, however, was scant. When it was mentioned, Kemp drew attention to the need for high-speed Internet across the state in urban and rural settings — especially for students. He announced $20 million in grants to boost rural broadband initiatives, with $10 million per year to follow.   

Watch the governor’s speech here.

Hawaii State of the State Address

Address date: Jan. 25, 2021
Stars: 2
To sum it up: Like many other governors, Gov. David Ige began his State of the State address recognizing the COVID-19 pandemic’s toll on Hawaii and how its plans for 2020 were flipped upside down. The governor’s speech emphasized improving public health, education and the state’s economic recovery.

To improve public health, Ige pointed to having access to accurate, reliable and timely information by having an effective coronavirus testing system in place that can be used to identify outbreaks, along with a comprehensive contact tracing network. It also means, he said, having the resources to isolate those with the virus and provide them with the medical care they need, and implementing a comprehensive strategy for the distribution of vaccines in every county. 

As for improving education, Ige pointed to improving remote learning and allowing schools to decide how and when they return to the classroom. In terms of economic recovery, Ige said the government has “been monitoring COVID’s impact on the state’s finances and taking action.” Some of those actions include reducing the state’s current budget by $402 million, transferring $345 million from its rainy-day fund and eliminating $350 million from state programs. 

As for how technology will play a role in Hawaii’s recovery, Ige pointed to a robust broadband network as key to shoring up the economy. During the pandemic, he said, “the importance of broadband to everything that we do was made all too real. All of us dramatically increased online activities, such as online learning, telework, telehealth, workforce development and training.” As a result, he aims to develop a broadband infrastructure that is accessible and equitable for all. 

Read the governor’s speech here

Idaho State of the State Address

Address date: Jan. 11, 2021
Stars: 3
To sum it up: Idaho Gov. Brad Little’s State of the State address began on a somber note, taking a moment of silence for the 1,500 Idahoans who died due to COVID-19. However, his speech was also hopeful and featured technology as a main way to move forward in 2021, citing broadband infrastructure as critical to education, commerce and economic growth. In addition to grants for small businesses, reductions in unemployment insurance taxes and refunds for property tax payers as means to help combat the struggles of the pandemic, Idaho invested $50 million in broadband to support remote work and learning throughout the state. Another $50 million went to a “Strong Families, Strong Students” initiative aimed to help families in need access the technology necessary to continue education through the pandemic, and education overall saw a 16 percent increase in investment. The governor noted, however, that at the time of the speech almost all Idaho school districts had full-time or partial in-person instruction. Little advocated for continued funding for Internet connectivity to make sure students do not fall further behind after this disruptive year, since they are the future of the state’s workforce.

As part of Idaho’s work to meet increased health-care needs in 2020, the state stood up COVID-only facilities, eased pathways to licensing for nurses, and changed regulations to improve access to telehealth. The state saw a 4,000 percent increase in use of telehealth services, a change Little hopes will be permanent. And to boost transparency and citizen engagement, and to make it easier for Idahoans to participate in state government, Little recommended the creation of a one-stop website to easily access all public meetings. 

Read the governor’s speech here.

Illinois State of the State Address

Address date: Feb. 17, 2021 Stars: 3
To sum it up: In his second State of the State budget address, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker opened in part by saying, “Good afternoon to the esteemed lawmakers who are joining us remotely.” This was a nod, of course, to his state’s — and, indeed, the entire nation’s — ongoing battle with COVID-19. But it also spoke to something else that came up at times in Pritzker’s remarks: using technology to respond to that crisis.

Perhaps the most prominent came when Pritzker discussed the need to better fund state services related to unemployment, with $60 million being directed that way. The money, Pritzker said, would go in part to upgrading technology to make unemployment services in Illinois more efficient. 

Like many governors this year, however, the bulk of Pritzker’s focus on tech had to do with broadband access and availability. Pritzker noted that the pandemic had emphasized the importance of broadband in the state when it came to vital functions such as remote learning, telecommuting, and telehealth services. Pritzker praised the state’s public-private Connect Illinois program for having connected 26,000 residents, before noting that at least $50 million of additional state matching grants would be awarded to the same work this year. Illinois, he reminded listeners, has a goal of hitting universal broadband access by 2024. In this way, it was encouraging to see Pritzker mention the importance of broadband not just during the pandemic but also beyond.

Read the governor’s speech here.

Indiana State of the State Address

Address date: Jan. 19, 2021
Stars: 3
To sum it up: Delivered on the eve of the presidential inauguration, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb’s fifth State of the State address described a state in a strong financial position, with a triple-A credit rating and the expectation of $2 billion in reserves at the end of the year. The address, while light on details, included several references to online government services, especially important amid the pandemic. In fact, one website mentioned was associated with the state’s vaccination effort, while others connect Hoosiers to jobs and another site, still in the works, will offer a one-stop shop of sorts for housing market information.  

Holcomb also discussed the $61 million that has so far been allocated to K-12 and higher education to assist in remote learning, noting how critical broadband is for students as well as farmers, entrepreneurs and other workers. He is asking for an additional $100 million to make more headway in the push to connect all residents. In a nod to more general government modernization, Holcomb stated a desire to move toward more always-on services that don’t require in-person contact — “more touchless, 24/7 and virtual.” Concrete examples of upcoming tech investments include body cameras for state police and the continued availability of telehealth services that have proven valuable during the pandemic.

Read the governor’s speech here.

Iowa State of the State Address

Address date: Jan. 12, 2021
Stars: 1
To sum it up: In a year that brought misery to all corners of the world, Iowa had a particularly bad year: On top of the COVID-19 pandemic, it also faced a derecho that damaged and destroyed buildings in one-third of the state, left half a million people without power and destroyed 100 million bushels of grain storage. 

So for her State of the State address, Gov. Kim Reynolds called on the state to remember the lessons of how it coped with the past year and apply them in the future. Her speech focused on recovery and several specific policy areas, beginning with broadband expansion. Reynolds called universal broadband a necessity, saying, “high-speed Internet is as vital to our communities as running water and electricity; if they don’t have it, they can’t grow.” She pointed out that Iowa’s broadband speeds are second-worst in the nation and said she intends to spend $450 million to extend affordable high-speed Internet to every part of the state by 2025. 

That was the main technological focus of her speech; she also asked the Legislature to address rural health care needs, create opportunities to send students back to school full time and pass police reform packages. 

Read the governor’s speech here

Kansas State of the State Address

Address date: Jan. 12, 2021
Stars: 4
To sum it up: In her third State of the State address, Gov. Laura Kelly explicitly called for investment in technology infrastructure, and she spoke more broadly about having a science-based approach to governing, from vaccines to economic development. Kelly singled out broadband as one of five focus areas for economic growth in Kansas, because it bolsters small businesses, agriculture, remote work, remote learning, higher education and so many other endeavors. She mentioned an executive order in October that established the state’s first Office of Broadband Development, which has disbursed $50 million in grants for underserved communities. Another one of Kelly’s five focus areas was infrastructure, for which she mentioned hundreds of projects had been greenlit to build a “more modern transportation infrastructure from top to bottom.” She also noted the state had committed $37.5 million of this year’s budget to modernizing legacy IT systems. For small businesses, another one of Kelly’s focus areas, the state launched its Main Street Program and the Main Street Affiliate Community program, which includes funding and technical assistance to reinvigorate rural downtowns. 

While not an entirely technological enterprise, COVID-19 vaccines factored heavily into Kelly’s address. At the time of her speech, she said Kansas was in the “top tier” of vaccinations per capita, with 84,555 Kansans vaccinated. She credited a coordinated effort, though not any specific technology by name, defended the science behind vaccines and warned that Internet conspiracy theories about them are nonsense. Kelly also highlighted access to telehealth as especially critical for rural citizens, and she wants the state Legislature to expand Medicaid to cover another 165,000 Kansans, which will help ensure that rural hospitals stay open. 

Read the governor’s speech here

Kentucky State of the State Address

Address date: Jan. 7, 2021
Stars: 3
To sum it up: In a speech dominated by Kentucky’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and how the commonwealth plans to pull itself out of the crisis, Gov. Andy Beshear highlighted his Better Kentucky Budget and its proposals for new spending in areas like school maintenance and construction, and the expansion of broadband to support virtual learning and other aspects of state government, calling it “the most important infrastructure of the future” in his virtual address to the Legislature. The budget includes $50 million to fund “the last mile of broadband,” the first time the state has helped to pay for expanding high-speed Internet. 

In his call for innovation in state government, Beshear is calling on cabinet secretaries “to identify ways to modernize with an eye toward determining what services can remain remote,” with an aim of putting more government services online to make it easier for residents to do business with state agencies. He also noted that telehealth services and remote health care have expanded, improving access for Kentucky’s rural communities. 

Beshear also singled out tech entrepreneurism as a focus for economic development, calling attention to AppHarvest, an ag-tech company known for innovating farming with its indoor grow areas, low water use and an adherence to growing chemical-free produce. The network of indoor greenhouses supports 300 jobs and produces millions of pounds of healthy produce. 

Read the governor’s speech here

Louisiana State of the State Address

Address date: April 12, 2021

Stars: 4

To sum it up: Much of Gov. John Bel Edwards remarks during the Louisiana State of the State address delivered in April centered on the response to and recovery from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Although Edwards touched on issues that run parallel to technology, including health care, workforce and education, it was starkly absent from his remarks. The digital divide, computer and skills training and many of the other talking points that were woven into the speeches of other governors were overshadowed by facts and figures about the Louisiana coronavirus death toll, the need to pay frontline workers a living wage and the need to get residents populated to stop the virus’ ongoing spread.

Read the governor’s speech here.

Maine State of the State Address

Address date: Feb. 23, 2021
Stars: 4
To sum it up: Gov. Janet Mills began her annual address by describing the many ways Maine, the United States and the world have changed since the onset of the pandemic. In the first half of the speech, the occasional reference to technology tended to revolve around education needs, such as digital devices for students and funding for remote and hybrid learning. But the second half of the speech was a grand slam in terms of providing details about Mills’ vision for a more tech-driven state. The governor emphasized the importance of making Maine a home to tech-related jobs that can be filled by a trained workforce. She even went as far as to say that the goal is to prevent residents from finding tech jobs in Silicon Valley. One of her more attention-getting promises was to double the number of clean energy jobs in Maine within a decade.

Perhaps the most powerful section of Mills’ address was when she cited multiple stories about citizens not being able to use high-speed Internet for essential activities. Afterward, she remarked, “Sometimes it can seem like that’s just the way things are and that’s the way it will always be. But I don’t believe that.” Mills went on to argue that broadband is as essential as roads, bridges and utilities. To address broadband infrastructure, the governor pledged to ask for $30 million, which is double the amount of money she requested for high-speed Internet last year. As if all of that stirring commentary wasn’t impressive enough, Mills, right before ending her speech, gave an inspirational shoutout to space technology that was developed within the borders of Maine.

Read the governor’s speech here

Maryland State of the State Address

Address date: Feb. 3, 2021
Stars: 0
To sum it up: Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s 2021 State of the State address was heavy on COVID and very light on tech. He praised the state for its efforts in responding to the pandemic, noting that 7.1 million COVID-19 tests and more than 570,000 vaccines have been administered in Maryland to date. He urged everyone in the state to get the vaccine when it becomes available to them, noting that the state is in the process of building a distribution infrastructure to get the shots into people’s arms as quickly as possible.

Gov. Hogan also touted Maryland’s efforts to prevent economic hardship during the pandemic, noting that the state had delivered emergency economic assistance totaling more than $700 million to families and small businesses in need. He then called for the Legislature to expand on these efforts by passing the RELIEF Act of 2021, an emergency bill that would provide $1 billion in tax relief and economic stimulus to those in the state who need it most.

Read the governor’s speech here

Massachusetts State of the State Address

Address date: Jan. 26, 2021
Stars: 0
To sum it up: Gov. Charlie Baker touted early on in his State of the State address the commonwealth’s response to COVID-19, specifically citing the fact that Massachusetts has conducted more than 13 million tests, making the commonwealth the second-largest tester per capita in the continental U.S. He also boasted of the commonwealth’s investing more than $400 million in long-term care facilities to keep seniors as safe as possible. The governor acknowledged the struggle small businesses have endured because of the pandemic and that the “Small Business Relief Program” has made a difference, putting more than $700 million into small businesses. He also touted the fact that schools in the commonwealth remain open in spite of the pandemic. He said schools have relied on state and federal guidance, as well as state funding, that has allowed districts to make in-person learning work since last fall. The commonwealth has been working with various lab partners to develop weekly COVID-19 testing programs for students, faculty and staff to be able to offer in-person learning. 

Read the governor’s speech here

Michigan State of the State Address

Address date: Jan. 27, 201
Stars: 0
To sum it up: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer began her State of the State address by remembering the lives lost during the COVID-19 pandemic. She praised Michiganders for their empathy and courage amid a year that brought myriad unprecedented challenges. Focusing heavily on public health, rebuilding the economy, public education, criminal justice reform and infrastructure, Whitmer made no mention of efforts to improve cybersecurity or modernization IT. Whitmer’s first priority is public health and safety, which she said are necessary steps toward growing the economy.

In last year’s State of the State speech, Whitmer introduced her Rebuilding Michigan plan to address the state’s infrastructure needs. In an update, she reported that the I-496 Rebuilding Michigan project was completed, with more projects to come for other interstates. Giving a nod to the plans she announced last year for improving Michigan’s water infrastructure, Whitmer stated that the MI Clean Water plan supports over 7,500 Michigan jobs and continues to deliver clean water to residents.

Read the governor’s speech here.

Minnesota State of the State Address

Address date: March 28, 2021
Stars: 0
To sum it up: Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz focused much of his March 28 State of the State address reflecting on the challenges of 2020, which he described as a “time of deep uncertainty.” On top of the need to address racial inequities and police brutality in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the governor said 7,000 Minnesotans have died throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite such hardships, the governor said state employees “worked around the clock” over the past year to help distribute ventilators and masks to health care facilities overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases. As of his speech, the governor said more than 1.5 million residents have been vaccinated as others continue fighting for their lives in hospitals throughout the state.

While little attention was given to tech specifically in his address, he said the state’s medical researchers have worked to advance “cutting-edge” medical treatments for COVID-19 patients as officials expanded testing to help track the spread of the virus. He said the state now tests about 40,000 Minnesotans a day, surpassing their original goal of 20,000, which was first set last year when the state was testing an average of 2,000 residents a day.

Read the governor’s speech here

Mississippi State of the State Address

Address date: Jan. 26, 2021
Stars: 0
To sum it up: As was the case with many governor’s this year, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves opened his 2021 State of the State remarks by bemoaning that he was not giving his remarks in person to the Legislature and other officials, as is the case in non-pandemic years. Unlike many other governors, however, Reeves struck an almost laudatory tone for his state having remained relatively open throughout the pandemic, noting that Mississippi of late has had more tourism spending than any other state in the country, having also slowed down but not closed its factories and farms. This did not leave much mention of the importance of tech.

In fact, whereas many other governors used the occasion of the pandemic to discuss an opportunity to bolster tech, Reeves instead described the pandemic as a chance to make a different giant move:  eliminating the state income tax. There were other places in the speech as well where Reeves entered territory adjacent to tech and innovation work — workforce development and education, primarily — but did not give even cursory mention of technology. Reeves talked about the importance of preparing residents of his states for better and more modern jobs, but he did not cite improved broadband access and availability as a way to do this, instead describing the importance of better skills and job training.

Read the governor’s speech here.

Missouri State of the State Address

Address date: Jan. 27, 2021
Stars: 2
To sum it up: With the banner year of calamity that preceded Missouri Gov. Michael Parson’s Jan. 27 address, it should come as no surprise that technology was not the primary focus of the speech. Tornadoes, flooding, protests and, of course, the pandemic have all tested the state’s resolve of late. When technology was mentioned, Parson’s comments acknowledged the business growth in the state from companies like Amazon and Accenture Federal Services, as well as real-world workforce training programs in the high school and higher education systems. The connectivity gaps highlighted by the pandemic and opportunities offered by high-speed internet connectivity were also key points in the governor’s remarks. Parson urged the Legislature to allocate $5 million in investment to expand broadband in the state and more than $4 million to expand telehealth and telemedicine opportunities for those with developmental disabilities.

Read the govenor’s speech here.

Montana State of the State Address

Address date: Jan. 28 2021
Stars: 0
To sum it up: In his first State of the State address, Gov. Greg Gianforte focused mostly on the COVID-19 pandemic and how the state will recover economically from the recession it has brought on. He acknowledged the lives and livelihoods lost across the state and outlined ways in which he will stop forcing businesses to take measures to prevent the spread of the virus, calling the previous administration’s measures “arbitrary.”

The governor did not mention technology; the closest he came was when he asked what kind of customer experience the state was giving to its citizens. Gianforte pledged to be “available, accessible and accountable,” and asked his agency heads to do the same. He did not provide details about what that would mean.

Gianforte called for several specific measures such as lowering the top personal income tax rate, extending the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Task Force, creating a Red Tape Relief Task Force to identify unnecessary regulations and funding more vocational training. He also asked for more restrictions on abortion. In the wake of voters approving a measure to legalize recreational marijuana in November, he proposed putting any tax revenue from cannabis sales toward addiction treatment. He also asked for $2.5 million to provide incentives for schools to raise teachers’ pay.

Read the governor’s speech here.

Nebraska State of the State Address

Address date: Jan. 14, 2021
Stars: 2
To sum it up: Gov. Pete Ricketts’ address understandably led with his state’s coronavirus response, as he praised the people of Nebraska for their actions that resulted in the continued availability of hospital beds and ventilators throughout the crisis. As it relates to technology, Ricketts made a brief reference to improvements to governmental efficiency, surely powered by tech, crediting those efforts with helping cut red tape, attract new jobs and maintain Nebraska’s low rate of unemployment. Also surfacing as a policy priority was the state’s bid to serve as host to the U.S. Space Command, with the governor recommending a $50 million investment to support the effort. Finally on the tech front, Ricketts outlined his state’s connectivity shortcomings, with broadband speeds lacking for 80,000 households. To date, CARES Act funding is chipping away at the digital divide, and the governor is proposing an additional $20 million this year and next to get closer to full broadband penetration. 

Read the governor’s speech here

Nevada State of the State Address

Address date: Jan. 19, 2021
Stars: 3
To sum it up: Gov. Steve Sisolak’s progress report for Nevada made clear that technological innovation is central to his plans for the state. After a brief rundown of recent achievements that included a comprehensive state climate strategy, intended to expand Nevada’s use of renewable energy, Sisolak gave a synopsis of the toll of, and response to, COVID-19. He mentioned the digital divide, and lauded a public-private coalition called ConnectKidsNV that tracked down every student in the state who was supposed to be doing virtual learning, then made sure they had the necessary devices and Wi-Fi connectivity. 

Even beyond the climate strategy, “energy” was a recurring keyword in Sisolak’s address. To promote electric vehicles, he said he wants to pass a clean energy bill that would boost related infrastructure, component manufacturing and lithium mining. He also wants to create “innovation zones” to attract emerging technology companies to develop their products in Nevada, mentioning an initiative by Blockchains LLC, which bought more than 67,000 acres east of Reno in 2018 to create a “smart city” that operates on blockchain technology. Sisolak added that physicists at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas are leading cutting-edge superconductivity research that could be a game-changer for energy efficiency. 

In the state’s new budget, Sisolak highlighted the fact that $75 million would go toward launching the new state infrastructure bank to help fund capital improvement projects, including rural broadband and renewable energy. 

In terms of IT specifically, he said the demands of the pandemic exposed how out-of-date some of the state government’s systems and services have become. He said the state staffed more people to handle a backlog of unemployment claims, but the government’s computer systems still need to be modernized. 

Read the governor’s speech here.

New Hampshire State of the State Address

Address date: Feb. 11, 2021
Stars: 0
To sum it up: New Hampshire Gov. Sununu started his speech by reflecting on the unprecedented challenges of 2020. He cited many of the state’s economic accomplishments despite those challenges but neglected to mention any plans for modernization or advancements in technology. The governor praised the state’s strong economy, noting its high wages and low unemployment rates. He went on further to commend the state’s efforts to prioritize public health while also reopening the economy and businesses. The governor established a state Department of Energy in his budget speech, “which will streamline government, eliminate the redundancies … and ensure a unified approach to energy policy, while keeping core regulatory functions separate from the programmatic and policy elements.” He also promised a financial commitment to public education, guaranteeing that there will be no cuts on education spending. Recognizing that seniors were some of the most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the governor pledged millions to create new mental health programs for vulnerable populations. Other topics covered include health care and frontline workers, police accountability, drug addiction, and tax cuts.

Read the governor’s speech here.

New Jersey State of the State Address

Address Date: Jan. 12, 2021
Stars: 1
To sum it up: New Jersey is putting its mark on clean energy as the state becomes a leader in offshore wind-generated electricity with the development of the New Jersey wind port and a new manufacturing facility at the Paulsboro Marine Terminal. 

In New Jersey, as in many states, the COVID-19 crisis highlighted inequalities and inequities across society, often revealing a digital divide which the pandemic naturally took aim at. More than 230,000 students, many from disadvantaged households, lacked the devices or connectivity needed for remote learning.   

“So we got to work closing that digital divide, and, today, 95 percent of those students have the tools they need, and we’re close to getting the outstanding gap to zero,” said Gov. Phil Murphy, speaking to an empty auditorium during his virtual State of the State address.   

“We have already begun to direct funding to school districts that need the most help in getting students back on track,” Murphy added. 

Read the governor’s speech here.

New Mexico State of the State Address

Address date: Jan. 26, 2021
Stars: 2
To sum it up: Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s State of the State address focused on creating a strong future for New Mexico, one she said must be built on bold ideas and forward thinking. Underpinning that future is high-speed broadband, which Lujan Grisham said the pandemic proved to be a high priority. To that end, she asked the Legislature to commit $200 million, nearly half its capital outlay, to getting reliable Internet connections across the state. That constituted the governor’s main discussion of technology, although she also noted that in 2020 the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department stood up the country’s first text-only hotline for children to report abuse and neglect, pushing even more investment in behavioral health services going forward. 

Lujan Grisham’s other priorities include a proposed budget that includes almost $500 million for pandemic relief, plus funding for health care, schools and the economy. This year, New Mexico will launch its Health Care Affordability Fund to get coverage to 23,000 uninsured residents. The governor describes her education budget as “equity-first,” and says it will get funding to students and schools that need it most, plus invest in early childhood and special needs education. She wants to continue a program making higher education free for those who need it, reporting that the state covered all tuition and fees for 5,000 in the fall semester of 2020, and aims to bring that number to 30,000 in 2021. 

New Mexico has doubled its investment in renewable energy in the last two years and is making solar energy more affordable for homeowners. The state is installing EV charging stations along highways, and the Department of Transportation is working on more than 200 infrastructure projects. To continue growing the economy, the governor wants to make more money available for small businesses, particularly those that are minority-, Native- and women-owned. 

Read the governor’s speech here.

New York State of the State Address

Address date: Jan. 11, 2021
Stars: 0
To sum it up: Given that New York was hit hard by the coronavirus during the early months of the pandemic, it’s unsurprising that the topics of infection and vaccination dominated the content of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s speech. Cuomo shared a lot of vaccine supply numbers in his address, emphasizing that some individuals who want to get vaccinated immediately may have to wait. Noting that new variants of COVID-19 keep popping up, the governor also hammered away at how critical it is for people to behave responsibly in order to curb the spread of the virus. While, again, one can understand Cuomo’s focus on fighting COVID-19, technology does not surface as a priority at all in his speech, despite the fact that issues like cybersecurity and access to high-speed Internet have only grown in importance over the last year.   

Read the governor’s speech here.

North Carolina State of the State Address

Address date: TBD 

North Dakota State of the State Address

Address Date: Jan. 5, 2021
Stars: 2
To sum it up: In his State of the State address, Gov. Doug Burgum reflected on a year that included black swan events like flooding, drought, the pandemic, market crashes and major economic contractions and called for bold action for a brighter future. Burgum touted his administration’s effort to reinvent government services to make them more efficient, and as part of that effort, announced the new Unified Spill Reporting System. The one-stop reporting system helps protect the state’s water, air and soil, providing the public with a one-stop option for reporting hazardous material spills instead of having to report to multiple agencies. The governor also emphasized the opportunity, with historically low interest rates, to bond for roads, bridges, career and technical education centers and other infrastructure projects. He also touted the state’s efforts, including those from citizens, businesses and federal and local partners, to combat the pandemic as the state ranks among the top three states in COVID-19 testing per capita and third in the number of people initiating vaccination. 

Read the governor’s speech here.

Ohio State of the State Address

Address date: TBD

Oklahoma State of the State Address

Address date: Feb. 1, 2021
Stars: 0
To sum it up: In his Feb. 1 State of the State address to Oklahoma lawmakers, Gov. Kevin Stitt discussed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in Oklahoma, where more than 3,000 residents have died since the public health crisis began nearly a year ago. Stitt celebrated the efforts of the Oklahoma Department of Health throughout the crisis, citing a 45 percent decline in weekly cases and 35 percent decline in hospitalizations. Stitt noted that health officials established 80 test sites throughout the state and converted a diagnostic lab in Stillwater, which he said “dramatically raised” testing capacity. In addition, he noted that Oklahoma now ranks seventh in the nation for vaccine distribution.

The governor also lauded efforts to reopen the state’s economy in June of 2020 and criticized President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 executive orders, which he believes will “kill jobs and put burdensome regulations on our businesses.”

In a brief mention of education technology, Stitt championed state efforts to restart “most schools” in August 2020. He said he believes remote digital learning through platforms such as Zoom isn’t a viable alternative to in-person learning for many of the state’s public school students. In addition, Stitt briefly recognized Secretary of Transportation Tim Gatz, the Department of Transportation and the Turnpike Authority for their efforts to modernize and consolidate agency services, for which little details were discussed.

Read the governor’s speech here.

Oregon State of the State Address

Address date: Jan. 21, 2021
Stars: 2
To sum it up: Gov. Kate Brown’s 2021 State of the State address was much heavier on poetic metaphor than it was on mentions of public-sector technology. The central conceit of Brown’s speech was that the past 12 months has been like a marathon, and it was from within this idea of a long race that Brown recapped the tumult of recent months, doing so in a way that discussed the state government’s responses to both COVID-19 and reckoning with injustices.  

Within that discussion, however, Brown did make time to emphasize the importance of broadband and digital equity. She noted that the pandemic has proven that broadband within the context of modern society is just as essential as electricity, likening high-speed Internet to a utility. As a result, Brown said that this year’s state budget will invest more than $100 million in fostering better broadband access across Oregon, focusing on communities that were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Another point of emphasis for that money is making sure every one of the state’s schools has effective broadband access.

The other major mention of tech was vaguer, having to do with Oregon’s pioneering automatic voter registration system, which the governor did discuss but not in any way that substantially noted the system’s use of tech. Still, the broadband talk was direct, detailed and timely, even if it was just one small segment of a much wider speech.  

Read the governor’s speech here.

Pennsylvania State of the State Address

Address date: Feb. 3, 2021
Stars: 1
To sum it up: Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf framed his annual budget speech around the idea of what it would be like to be a young family just starting out in the state, and what barriers could be removed to improve their future. This meant his remarks were economically driven, although he did briefly touch on technology in a move to get more Pennsylvanians connected to the Internet. In addition to funding for roads and bridges, Wolf’s proposed infrastructure investments included money for rural broadband as part of his interest in removing barriers for both businesses and workers in Pennsylvania, as well as increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour. The governor proposed reducing taxes for families of four earning less than $84,000 annually, and cutting business taxes by 25 percent, as well as more than doubling investment in schools. Wolf also called for allocating $145 million to help businesses still struggling amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read the governor’s speech here.

Rhode Island State of the State Address

Address date: Feb. 3
Stars: 0
To sum it up: Gov. Gina Raimondo delivered what was likely her final State of the State address on Feb. 3, since she was nominated to serve as commerce secretary by President Biden, and it is likely she will be confirmed. Her speech read like a handoff to Lt. Governor Daniel McKee as she noted his experience and dedication, as well as his commitment to keeping the state’s COVID-19 response team in place. The bulk of the speech, however, was backward- rather than forward-leaning, as Raimondo itemized progress during her term in various areas. Direct technology mentions were few and brief.
 
She detailed various aspects of Rhode Island’s pandemic response, complimenting residents on their fortitude and perseverance amid challenging times. Raimondo also touted investments in infrastructure, job creation, and both K-12 and higher education. Along with school construction, this includes expanded access to early childhood education, career and technical training at the high school level, and free community college tuition for high school graduates — a program just made permanent by the Legislature. One particular feather in her cap is the state’s status as first in the nation to incorporate computer science education into all public schools. Raimondo was a rare governor whose speech did not directly speak to broadband needs or expansion plans within the state.  
 
Read the governor’s speech here.

South Carolina State of the State Address

Address date: Jan. 13, 2021
Stars: 2
To sum it up: Gov. Henry McMaster’s State of the State address covered a lot of ground, including homages to lost lives as well as specific policy proposals ranging from bureaucratic reform to abortion to education.

Technology was sprinkled into several areas; McMaster praised the state’s deployment of more than 92,000 Wi-Fi hot spots to students without Internet access to support remote learning and mentioned the construction of a $314 million Agriculture Technology Campus in Hampton County. Action items related to technology were sparser — he asked that all applications and awards for state grants be put online and called for a $30 million increase in broadband funding, acknowledging high-speed Internet as “a necessity for health care, education and telework.” 

The governor also threw his weight behind efforts to reform state government in several ways, including splitting up the Department of Health and Environmental Control and increasing executive oversight of the agency. He also criticized the state-owned water and electric utility Santee Cooper as a “rogue agency” and asked the Legislature to reform it, without getting into details about how. 

McMaster’s pandemic focus was largely economic; he praised his state’s decision not to close down in the early months of 2020 while claiming that the actions of New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago “infringed on the Constitution and trampled personal freedoms.” He did not mention the scientific studies that showed such restrictions likely reduced the spread of the virus and saved lives. The governor also asked the Legislature to send him a bill outlawing abortion as soon as a heartbeat is detected.

Read the governor’s speech here

South Dakota State of the State Address

Address date: Jan. 12, 2021
Stars: 2
To sum it up: Reviewing the current state of South Dakota and outlining a vision for the new year, Gov. Kristi Noem mentioned several roles for technology. In 2020, she said, the state put money toward projects from partners in various industries, including technology, manufacturing and agriculture, that will add up to a combined $2.8 billion in capital investment. One notable large project is an Amazon distribution center. 

A focus point for Noem was the digital divide: She said 135,000 South Dakotans still lack broadband, and she called for state funding, combined with industry funding and federal grants, to remedy that. She added that, especially since COVID-19 made remote work so common, ubiquitous broadband access would make it feasible for more people to move to South Dakota to avoid high costs of living and taxes in other states. 

When explaining the medical challenges around COVID-19, Noem mentioned that South Dakotans have used telehealth services associated with Medicaid more than 70,000 times since March. She called for legislation to make those services available permanently. 

The other technology-related initiative in Noem’s address was South Dakota’s investments in scholarships and technical colleges. To help workers displaced by COVID-19, she said the technical college system worked with the Department of Labor and Regulation to offer online certificates for high-demand fields, including information technology, business, health care and manufacturing. Her administration also added technical colleges to the state’s tuition program for military veterans. 

Much of the rest of Noem’s address focused on social or economic issues, from anti-abortion legislation to foster homes, crop yields, business permits, a state hunting program and tourism. 

Read the governor’s address here.

Tennessee State of the State Address

Address date: Feb. 8, 2021
Stars: 1
To sum it up: Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee proposed some $200 million toward investing in broadband Internet expansion, particularly across rural communities to improve education outcomes, the governor told the Legislature in his State of the State address Feb. 8. 

Lee also proposed an expansion of the Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education (GIVE) Act, a partnership with the Ayers Family Foundation to bring job training to rural areas. Lee proposed an investment of $10 million to form 10 new GIVE sites. Lee is also proposing a $200 million investment in local government infrastructure grants to help upgrade utilities, IT systems, school construction and more.

In his in-person address Lee called attention to state’s struggle with COVID-19, which was the national epicenter of the virus in the days leading up to Christmas. Tennessee has since been a leader in vaccine rollout, and the state’s economy, the governor said, is bouncing back. “Many sectors of our economy are roaring,” he quipped, pointing out the formation of the Tennessee Talent Exchange, which helps to connect unemployed workers with jobs. 

The governor also reported the outcome of a recent legislative special session address teacher pay, allocating nearly $43 million toward teacher raises.  

Read the governor’s address here.

Texas State of the State Address

Address date: Feb. 1, 2021
Stars: 2
To sum it up: Like many governors across the country, Greg Abbott began his State of the State remarks by acknowledging what an unprecedented year 2020 was and mourning lives lost to the COVID-19 pandemic, but he was confident that Texas is on its way to a return to normal and referred to the state as the nation’s “economic engine.” While the state will continue to support small businesses, he noted that major companies, including tech giants like Oracle and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, have relocated their headquarters to the Lone Star state in the past year. Taken together with Tesla’s expansion to Texas, the governor said these companies are looking at the state’s innovative future. In more direct remarks on technology, Abbot said he’s putting expansion of broadband as an emergency item on his agenda. He also spoke of closing the digital divide and working with school districts to make sure students have both an Internet connection and the appropriate devices to learn. In addition to getting COVID-19 vaccinations to Texans as quickly as possible, the governor wants to build a healthier state by continuing to invest in virtual access for mental health services, as well as make permanent regulations easing access to telemedicine. Other non-tech items on Abbott’s agenda included getting law enforcement the tools and training they need to keep communities safe, shoring up election integrity, advancing anti-abortion legislation, and protecting both the border with Mexico and Second Amendment rights.

Read the governor’s address here.

Utah State of the State Address

Address date: Jan. 21, 2021
Stars: 1
To sum it up: With a powerful story about the late-1800s rebuilding process that has allowed the Salt Lake Temple to stand for more than a century, Gov. Spencer Cox’s speech hit the mark in terms of providing inspiration to citizens who are likely tired of dealing with the effects of the pandemic. Yet Cox, despite his background in technology, didn’t spend much time addressing how tech would help Utah recover and prosper in a reality so different than the status quo before COVID-19. The newly elected governor does seem committed to investing in both broadband and technical educational institutions, but it’s hard to grasp Cox’s overall vision when it comes to the role of technology in moving state government forward based on the speech. Last fall, the Utah Virtual Digital Government Summit showcased the previous administration’s dedication to everything from artificial intelligence to cloud computing. Based on the scant details of this address, we can only speculate that Cox will carry on Utah’s tech-focused legacy.   

Read the governor’s address here.   

Vermont State of the State Address

Address date: Jan. 7, 2021
Stars: 2
To sum it up: In last year’s statewide address, Gov. Phil Scott did not mention information technology, or anything directly related to it. That changed this year. To be sure, Scott’s remarks were focused on the searing headlines and national tumult that marked 2020, but within that context, the governor cited the state’s data collection and forecasting tools as vital in addressing the outbreak of COVID-19 in Vermont. There were also passing mentions made to remote learning in the state’s schools, expanding broadband access for it, and taking advantage of increased national telecommuting to boost economic prosperity. The only action related to these tech references, however, was an impending request from the governor to the Legislature to consider how remote learning can expand education options, like facilitating more computer coding classes as well as foreign language education. Overall, this year the Vermont governor’s address showed an awareness of the government’s role in tech and innovation work to better serve residents, even if specific actions were largely absent.   

Read the governor’s speech here.

Virginia State of the State Address

Address date: Jan. 13, 2021
Stars: 1
To sum it up: In his State of the Commonwealth address, Gov. Ralph Northam first acknowledged the toll of COVID-19, having killed more than 5,000 Virginians, and gave a nod to the National Guard members who have spent the last few months working on pandemic response and testing, and who will soon be a large part of the drive to vaccinate up to 25,000 Virginians a day. The governor prioritized in his speech the need to take action on broadband and education. He equated broadband now as being as important as electricity was in the last century and called it an issue of equity. He reported that an estimated 660,000 Virginians were without broadband in 2018, and that number has been cut by 20 percent. He said his budget provides $50 million each year to maintain those increases. On education, the governor acknowledged a desire to get students back in classrooms and to make sure students don’t continue to suffer from the hardship caused by the pandemic. Northam said Virginia will put $500 million into schools to make sure they don’t lose funding from drops in enrollment, with a proposed $26 million to increase the number of school counselors. 

Read the governor’s speech here.

Washington State of the State Address

Address date: Jan. 12, 2021
Stars: 0
To sum it up: Kicking off his third term in office, Gov. Jay Inslee spoke to the unexpected challenges of the past year and praised the resiliency of Washingtonians in the face of COVID-19. While his State of the State speech did not directly address the state’s many technology efforts, he did note private-sector innovations from companies like insole and footwear maker Superfeet, based in Ferndale, Wa., which used its 3D printing experience to make 30,000 pieces of personal protective equipment, almost 50,000 respirator hoods and 350,000 medical gowns to help combat COVID.   

A major theme of Inslee’s address was equity, with which he wants to approach in everything from heath care and education to pollution and housing. He spoke of continuing to give Washington residents pathways to jobs through the Career Connect program, as well as addressing disparities in education and expanding early childhood education. He noted, in particular, the need to reduce the negative impacts the pandemic has had on students.

Also of major import to the governor are the long-term impacts of climate change and pollution on health outcomes, including diseases like COVID-19, as well as natural disasters. Inslee noted that 2020 was one of the worst wildfire seasons Washington has ever seen. He wants to recommit to environmental justice and improving conditions for communities disproportionately affected by pollution, an effort he says will be led by business leaders. For example, the Seattle Kraken are building the world’s first carbon-neutral hockey arena.

Read the governor’s speech here

West Virginia State of the State Address

Address date: Feb. 10, 2021 
Stars: 1
To sum it up: In his signature style, West Virginia billionaire, coal magnate and Gov. Jim Justice delivered an optimistic State of the State address on Feb. 10, noting economic progress in the state from when he initially took office in 2017. Though not many specifics were offered, Justice did reference West Virginia’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout, widely viewed as one of the most successful in the country. Justice’s boldest proposal of the speech was to repeal the state income tax, which he pitched as a strategy for bringing in more residents. To compensate for the loss in revenue, he proposed a 1.5 percent hike in the sales tax, additional taxes on carbonated drinks and cigarettes, a wealth tax and a tax on professional services.  
 
As far as technology, Justice made three brief references in his address: first, to a $500 million hyperloop testing center, set to start construction in the state this year. Second, he touched on the essential nature of broadband: “We need to do any and everything we can to blanket our state with broadband.” Last, Justice praised a $25 million investment from Intuit Executive Chairman and former CEO Brad Smith to develop a program at West Virginia University to lure remote workers from other states to do their jobs in West Virginia.  
 
Read the governor’s speech here.

Wisconsin State of the State Address

Address date: Jan. 12, 2021
Stars: 3
To sum it up: In his third State of the State address, delivered virtually for the first time in state history, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers declared 2021 the “Year of Broadband Access.” He highlighted how the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored, and in some ways exacerbated, the digital divide, echoing the sentiments of many by stating that it “is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity.” He then announced that his 2021-23 biennial budget would allocate $200 million in broadband investment over the next two years, almost quadrupling the investment from his previous budget.

Evers also announced that he would be calling a special session of the Legislature to create a modernization plan for the state’s unemployment system. He noted that the system is so old that it was around when Richard Nixon was president, and that the need for modernization is long overdue and was brought into stark relief during the pandemic. 

Technology also came up when the governor addressed his goal to fix the state’s gerrymandered congressional district maps. Last year, he created a nonpartisan redistricting committee, the People’s Maps Commission, to draw up and recommend new maps from 2020 Census data. He noted that, for the past several months, the commission has been gathering resident feedback on its work through virtual meetings hosted in every congressional district within the state. 

Read the governor’s speech here

Wyoming State of the State Address

Address date: March 2, 2021
Stars: 0
To sum it up: Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon touched on a number of topics during his State of the State address ranging from the state’s work with local tribes to the pandemic and vaccination efforts to the state’s financial health. However, one topic that remained constant during the governor’s speech was the strength of Wyoming and its people. “We are weathered, tested and resilient,” he said, and “we are a stubborn people, unwilling to concede during tough times. It is in our DNA.” Because of this mentality, he said, Wyoming has been able to weather the worst of the pandemic and come out on the other side.

This concept of unity was touched on again when the governor asked for his constituents’ help to keep Wyoming a state that stands by its coal, oil and natural gas industry. To achieve this, he pointed to incorporating new hydrogen-based technologies, which can be produced through carbon capture and the state’s supply of fossil fuels to boost the economy while keeping carbon at the forefront.

As for the governor’s plans moving forward, he said, “There are choices to be made. We can no longer stick our heads in the sand. What we do today can mean that the Wyoming we love, that many of us grew up in and that all of us admire, remains. Or it can become a husk of itself if we take without putting back.”

Read the governor’s speech here.