An analysis by the National Governors Association of thirty-five recent State of the State addresses found that most governors focused on tough budget choices, smaller government, and strategies to create jobs. Some of the other key areas that Interim Analysis: 2011 State of the State Addresses discovered in governors’ speeches included:
- Education: Nearly every state mentioned education as a priority. Governors recognize that education has implications for states’ future prosperity, and some governors are looking at redesigning their education systems with the goal of maximizing efficiency and performance. Predominant themes among governors for K-12 education are: maximizing state resources in the classroom; teacher pay; and school choice, with a heavy emphasis on charter schools. Governors view their higher education systems as a critical foundation for future prosperity. To increase college completion rates, governors plan to use two main strategies: performance-based funding for public colleges and universities and increased access for students.
- Economic Development: Economic development is a major challenge for states this year. Governors talked about growing state economies and creating jobs, but have limited capacity to do so. The main strategies discussed in the State of the State addresses are investing in public universities; changing the state governance structure to better support private sector growth; and assisting small businesses through tax credits and regulatory reform, among other ideas.
- Health Care: Nearly every state mentions health care as a priority. Governors’ speeches focus on health policy, including options for health care reform implementation. Medicaid was also mentioned as an important issue for governors’ 2011 agendas.
- Transportation and Infrastructure: At least 10 governors emphasized transportation as a state priority. Some governors have even proposed new investments despite tough economic times.
- Taxes: The word “tax” is mentioned more than 370 times in the 35 State of the State addresses surveyed for this issue brief. Governors are focusing on two actions: lowering taxes and examining tax expenditures to determine if they are producing the desired results, such as job creation.