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Prepared text of Gov. O'Malley's State of the State address

January 23, 2008

ANNAPOLIS (AP) ? Prepared text of Gov. Martin O'Malley's State of the State address Wednesday to the General Assembly.

As we look to the urgent work of building a better future, I ask that you first join me in a moment of silence not only for the 20 sons and daughters of Maryland who gave their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq, but also for the four state and local law enforcement officials and one firefighter who gave their lives in the line of duty over the last year.

We are joined at the same time by the family of Maryland Transportation Authority Police Corporal Courtney Brooks, who was tragically taken while protecting us New Year's Eve. We are all very sorry for your loss, and we thank you for being here.

Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, Mr. Chief Judge, Mr. Attorney General, Mr. Comptroller, Madame Treasurer, my colleagues in local government, men and women of the Maryland General Assembly, my fellow citizens:

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We gather today in the very building where Marylanders, since the Revolution, have come ? generation after generation ? to assess our strengths and weaknesses as a community and to decide how we will rise to overcome the challenges of our time.

The most important days in life are not always the easy days.

Though time and again we have overcome challenges because of our respect for the dignity of every individual, because of our commitment to the common good, and because we have had the courage to protect our priorities especially when faced with great adversity.

For these reasons, Maryland has been a strong state. And in many respects we are stronger today than we were at this same time last year.

Majority of families finding it harder to pay bills

But the future of our state is very much determined by the strength and the security of the families of Maryland ? the hardworking and loving families that we have the honor and responsibility to represent. And today, the vast majority of Maryland's families, like families throughout our country, are finding it harder and harder just to pay their bills and maintain the quality of life that they have worked so hard to achieve.

This is not just a Maryland problem, this is a national problem.

For the sad truth of our shared reality is that over the last seven years, real wages in our country have grown by only 1 percent. And unfortunately, the same cannot be said for everything else a family needs to survive.

Over the last seven years, the price of a gallon of milk is up 30 percent, the cost of a loaf of bread is up 20 percent, and yet real wages have increased by just 1 percent.

The cost of a gallon of gasoline is up almost 100 percent over that same timeframe.

And the cost of health insurance is up 78 percent, and yet real wages have increased by only 1 percent.

Our families are struggling to get ahead, our parents working harder and harder as national economic forces and policy trends keep pulling us back. Our dollar is being devalued by huge national debt, unemployment nationally is up, and home foreclosures are at levels unprecedented in modern times ? up 600 percent in just one year in Maryland.

But we don't need those numbers and figures to tell us that people are hurting; we see it in their eyes, we hear it in their voices.

Protect our priorities

No wonder many of us are frustrated when ? in the midst of this national economic downturn ? we were also forced to confront a long neglected and huge structural deficit. The frustration is totally understandable. And there is good reason for all of us to be concerned and worried about our economic future.

But I submit to you that the way we get through these tough times ? and the way we get through them more quickly than other states ? is not by abandoning our priorities, but by protecting them.

The most important days in life are not always the easy days.

Our state has weathered difficult times before, and we will come through this national downturn more quickly than most other states ? but only if we can continue to come together to protect the priorities of the people of our state.

To strengthen and protect our middle class, our family owned businesses and family farms; to protect our commitment to improve public safety and public education in every single part of our state; and to protect opportunity ? the opportunity to learn, to earn, to enjoy the health of the people we love, as well as the health of the land, the water, the air and the bay that we love ? for more people rather than fewer.

To get through these tough times, the people of our state are working as hard as they can to protect their families and defend their quality of life. And in their hearts, they expect us to do the same ? even when it is not easy or politically popular.

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