As Gov. Wes Moore (D) delivered his first State of the State address on Wednesday, he highlighted six Marylanders for their service to their communities and the state.
Judy Roopnaraine has worked the last eight years for the state’s Department of General Services doing maintenance work mostly inside the State House. Wednesday marked the first time she watched the State of the State address in person, seated next to first lady Dawn Moore and the governor’s family.
“Tens of thousands of government workers through our state serve our people,” Moore said before Roopnaraine blew a kiss toward him from her perch in the House of Delegates gallery. “They do so despite the fact the pay could be better, the incoming complaints could be fewer, the challenges could be easier. They do it because, like you and I, they love our state.”
Moore used Roopnaraine’s presence to highlight the nearly 10,000 vacancies in state government jobs and his proposal to increase wages for workers such as nurses, attorneys and emergency technicians.
The next person Moore introduced was Ronnie Beard, a Frederick County teacher who sported a Maryland flag necktie for Wednesday’s event.
Beard, who teaches at Oakdale High School, received a scholarship that paid for part of his tuition and internship while at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore through the state’s “Grow Your Own” teacher program, which seeks to boost minority students into the teaching profession.
He also called on lawmakers to support the Maryland Educator Shortage Act, a bill the administration will sponsor to support the hiring of qualified and diverse teachers.
Moore continued an education theme with the introduction of Jefferson Vasquez-Reyes, a freshman at Montgomery College who’s following a similar path as the governor in attending a community college.
Vasquez-Reyes is an immigrant student who moved to Maryland from El Savador. After college, he plans to become a doctor.
“Thanks to scholarships and state funding, he is on his way, tuition-free, to achieving his dream,” Moore said. “Let’s please honor his determination and his commitment to our state.”
Another of the Moore administration’s initial budget proposals is assistance for military veterans.
Moore, an Army veteran, welcomed Angela McCullough, who served in the Air Force for 23 years. She’s now the CEO of Tri-Logistics in Prince George’s County.
In introducing McCullough, Moore highlighted his “Keep Our Heroes at Home Act,” which would exempt a portion of military retirement income from taxation and benefit McCullough and more than 362,000 veterans.
“She’ll be able to put that money back into her business, hire more people and grow our economy,” said Moore, who received a salute from McCullough.
Marsha Briley of Baltimore County was honored for her decades of work in state and county government. The Baltimore County resident has worked for 27 years in the Department of Corrections, Anne Arundel County police department and now the county’s detention center.
Moore praised Briley’s work as a mentor and friend, helping youth and young adults with workforce training, clothing and temporary housing.
The governor urged legislators to allocate more than $30 million to recruit and retain corrections, probation and parole officers, hard-to-fill jobs in state government.
The sixth and final guest, Ryan Hemminger, works as chief financial officer for Fearless, a tech company based in Baltimore, and co-founded a mentoring program with his wife, Sarah, called Thread Inc.
Moore noted how Hemminger grew up in “crippling poverty” as his parents battled pain pill addiction. He settled in the state after attending the Naval Academy.
Moore focused on Hemminger’s background to request that lawmakers extend the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit and expand the Child Tax Credit as a way “to end child poverty.” The expansions would help nearly 40,000 eligible families, Moore said.
The governor also said lawmakers can lift families up by accelerating the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by October, ahead of the planned increase in 2025.
“What I called for…weren’t Democratic beliefs. They weren’t really partisan at all. These were the things we all hope for, for all Marylanders,” Moore said, though Republicans in Annapolis have already expressed concern about raising the minimum wage, which Moore would also tie to hikes in inflation in the future.
Near the end of his speech, Moore noted that more than 2,830 people have applied to his administration with another nearly 1,600 wanting to join a board or commission.
But he asked lawmakers and residents for help to seize momentum and become a state of service.
“It is why I am now asking you, begging and pleading you, for your help. You believe in this work, so I know many of the people around you do as well,” he said. “If we are going to execute on this vision, if we’re going to make this state work again, we need people willing to serve.”