States of the States, or "You won't believe what these governors said..."

The State of the Union speech in Washington gets plenty of attention, but as local governments seem to be hurtling in different directions, the annual reports from governors may be more relevant to voters. Most of the addresses for 2014 have been delivered (some states don’t have them at all), and Governing.com is posting videos, transcripts, and analysis. Here are some highlights from the speeches, beginning with common themes.

The state of the state is…

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It’s almost unthinkable for a president to say the United States is anything but “strong,” but governors can get away with more nuance. Delaware’s Jack Markell (D), for example, hedged a bit with, “The state of our state is stronger today than when I addressed you a year ago,” and Chris Christie (R) said New Jersey is “good and getting better.”

Governors can also speak of a dark time for the nation that his or her state is valiantly trying to survive — especially if the other party controls the White House. “Our nation is an overloaded ship, slowly sinking as even more passengers come on board,” said Alabama’s Robert Bentley (R). “If we continue down this path, the America our founding fathers envisioned will no longer exist.” Mary Fallin (R) didn’t like the path any better: “Washington is leading this country in the wrong direction, but Oklahoma isn’t about to follow.”

“Today, the nation dithers,” said Sam Brownback (R), but “Kansas is leading an American Renaissance.” Nikki Haley (R) declared, “it is my firm belief that the federal government causes far more harm to South Carolina than good.” And Gary Herbert (R) said, “Whether the issue is marriage, Medicaid, or management of our public lands, our right to find Utah solutions to Utah issues is being hindered by federal overreach.”

But New York’s Andrew Cuomo (D) said his state’s problems were internal (at least until he got there): “Long before Washington D.C. put gridlock on the front pages, the story in Albany was gridlock. And it always happened at the time of the budget.”

Kentucky’s Steve Beshear (D) said, “the tone of discourse in this country has grown louder, uglier and more hateful,” but he didn’t lay the blame entirely in Washington. “Fueled by social media and talk radio,” he warned, “we’re losing the ability to listen.” Colorado’s John Hickenlooper (D) seemed angry at greater forces. He noted that his state has recently been “scorched,” “flooded,” and beset by “senseless, inexplicable violence.” But he returned to the positive: “Despite everything that was thrown at us … the state of our state is strong.”

West Virginia was one of only two states (the other was Maine) to lose population last year, and Earl Ray Tomblin (D) accompanied his “strong” assessment with gardening metaphors: “For those who have left the Mountain State — come home. Come home to take advantage of the growing opportunities we are creating for you.  Come home. West Virginia’s garden is thriving and we will yield a great harvest for years to come.”

I call on the Legislature to…

The State of the State address can an opportunity to shame state lawmakers into doing something — or, at least, a chance to go on the record as trying to shame them. “I’m once again asking this Legislature to repeal the dangerous law that gives driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants,” said New Mexico’s Susana Martinez, showing her Republican stripes in a state dominated by Democrats.

Cuomo urged lawmakers in New York to “drop the regulatory barriers that are stopping businesses from growing in this state.” Pennsylvania’s Tom Corbett (R) demanded public pension reform. (“Billions in new debt to our state is the cost of doing nothing.”) Dannel Malloy (D) roused his audience with “For the first time in our history, let’s commit Connecticut to achieving universal pre-kindergarten,” and New Jersey’s Christie dissed an “antiquated” calendar and called for longer school days and academic years.

Iowa’s Terry Branstad (R) pitched one for the troops (“Join me in telling veterans that we will no longer tax their military pensions”) and one for the children (“I call on both houses and both parties to support the Bully Free Iowa Act of 2014”).

South Carolina’s Haley said it was time to clean up government’s image: “I ask each and every one of you — Republican and Democrat, senator and House member — to send me a strong ethics reform bill this year.” Oklahoma’s Fallin (R) asked legislators to clean up a more literal mess, by passing a bond to pay for repairs to the Capitol: “Guys, the water stains you’ve seen on some of the walls downstairs? I have bad news for you. That’s not just water. Raw sewage is literally leaking into our basement.”

Scott Walker (R) called on legislators to help him by helping themselves (to become more popular with voters): “I ask you to work with me over the next few weeks to return the vast majority of the new surplus directly to the hard-working taxpayers of Wisconsin.”

But when the governor’s party does not control the legislature, he may seek to go over its head, as Maine’s Paul LePage (R) did: “Let’s ask Mainers in a statewide referendum if they want to lower taxes.” Rhode Island’s Lincoln Chafee, the only independent governor, also stood out by calling for a bond referendum not to fix roads or hire teachers, but to invest in the creative economy and make a “true ‘State of the Arts.’”

Deval Patrick (D) had a request to the private sector: “I ask Massachusetts businesses to do what only you can do to grow our economy. Hire somebody.”

Criminal justice

As noted on this blog, criminal justice reform is being embraced by both major parties. Cuomo illustrated the backlash to tough-on-crime rhetoric by making a comparison between his state and one in the (shudder) South: “Our juvenile justice laws are outdated. Under New York State law, 16- and 17-year-olds can be tried and charged as adults. Only one other state in the nation does that; it’s the state of North Carolina.” Like many governors, Cuomo was also careful to show some teeth, vowing to toughen penalties for driving while drunk or while texting.

On the Republican side, New Jersey’s Christie said that it’s time “to change our approach to non-violent drug offenders, and mandate treatment, not imprisonment,” but he balanced this emphasis on rehabilitation with a call for bail restrictions. (“Courts should have the right to keep dangerous criminals off the streets and in jail until trial.”)

New Hampshire’s Hassan also called for a more treatment-oriented approach to drug offenses: “I do not believe that a young person with a substance problem should end up in jail, prison or with a criminal record on their first offense.” But she paired this plea for reform with opposition to another movement that’s picking up steam: “The evidence suggests that legalizing marijuana will increase the number of minors who use this drug, will make our workforce less productive and our roads less safe, and will undermine public health.”

Delaware’s Markell proposed a “ban the box” law so that applicants for state jobs will not have to disclose criminal convictions: “One of the best predictors of whether a person will commit another crime is whether they have a job. …  Why are we putting so many hurdles in the way of job opportunities for ex-offenders?” Also: “I ask you to eliminate the arbitrary loss of a drivers’ license for crimes that have nothing to do with automobiles.”

“Justice is not fully served if we’re only tough on the front end, but give no help to those who have paid their debts and want to be a part of their community again,” said Virginia’s Bob McDonnell (R). In Georgia, Deal focused on the savings that could come from helping prisoners gain job skills: “Reforms will allow non-violent offenders to break their addictions, reclaim their lives, and keep taxpayers from spending $18,000 per inmate for each year they are in prison.” And South Dakota’s Dennis Daugaard (R) boasted results from a new program that allows “parolees to reduce the duration of their parole —30 days of reduction every time they complete 30 days of perfect compliance.”

But Kansas’s Brownback stayed in the tough-on-crime camp, praising his state’s new “Hard 50” law limiting parole for convicted murderers. And Rick Snyder (R) reported, “We’ve had four cities in Michigan that have been on the top ten list for most violent crime in the United States for multiple years. That’s unacceptable.” Snyder also referred to “blight” as a public safety issue, doubtlessly exacerbated by the population loss in many Michigan cities.

Health care

Republican governors are using the ACA as a piñata, and Alabama’s Bentley really went to town: “The Affordable Care Act — or Obamacare — and Medicaid expansion is taking our nation deeper into the abyss of debt, and threatens to dismantle what I believe is one of the most trusted relationships, that of doctors and their patient.”

Georgia’s Deal played the sovereignty card: “We will not allow ourselves to be coerced into [Medicaid] expansion. Be assured, I am prepared to fight any intrusion into our rights as a state.” Indiana’s Mike Pence (R) also objected to national mandates on health insurance: “Most Hoosiers didn’t like Washington intruding on our health care long before it became a reality. Now, more people than ever know why we were right to stand up to the federal government.” Nebraska’s Dave Heineman (R) used a think-of-the-children tack in explaining his opposition: “Expanding Medicaid will result in less future funding for state aid to education, special education, early childhood programs, the University of Nebraska, our state college system and our community colleges.”

In contrast, Martinez, a Republican governor in a state that voted heavily for the president, said, “I wasn’t a supporter of ObamaCare. But … we chose to expand Medicaid because it was the right thing to do for New Mexico.”

Maryland’s Martin O’Malley (D) was among the few to enthusiastically mention the law: “Thanks to President Obama and the Affordable Care Act, not a single person can be denied coverage because of a preexisting condition, and no one can be dropped from their insurance because they get sick.”

New Hampshire’s Maggie Hassan (D) said of the newly insured in her state: “These are real people. … They are our restaurant employees, healthcare workers, construction workers, retail clerks.” Kentucky’s Beshear alluded to the “historic opportunity created by the federal government to address Kentucky’s poor health” and boasted about his state’s ACA-enabled health insurance exchange, saying “Kentucky [is] leading the way on providing affordable health care to all of its people.” It was one of the achievements cited as proof “we are shrugging off an historic reputation for backwardness and instead are writing a new narrative founded on change and innovation.” (Maybe the promotion of a modern image is why the Bible Belt Democrat avoided religious imagery and even the “God bless” sign-off.)

Missouri’s Jay Nixon (D) admitted, “We all know there are problems with Obamacare, and Washington’s implementation of it has been abysmal.” But he urged his state to approve the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, and after telling the story of an uninsured home-health worker with $100,000 in debt from cancer treatment, he said, “I challenge each one of you to think of any other bill that would make this kind of real and immediate difference — the kind of difference Medicaid expansion would make — in the lives of the people we represent.”

Poverty and jobs

Few governors devoted much time to poverty or income inequality, preferring to stress education initiatives as a way to help provide job opportunities. (Maine’s LePage: “I escaped generational poverty, and lived the American Dream. … Education saved my life.”) Bill Haslam (R), for example, unveiled the “Tennessee Promise,” vowing that every kindergartner will eventually be able to “attend two years of community college or a college of applied technology absolutely free.”

But Alabama’s Bentley did not skirt the issue: “Everyone in this room knows Alabama is one of the poorest states in America, where one in four children live in poverty.” Still, he condemned the War on Poverty launched by Lyndon Johnson a half-century ago: “Those programs today have grown, expanded and have become a lumbering giant threatening our nation’s economic stability, national security and the very freedom of our people.” Instead he praised the “freedom for the breadwinner” that can be found in “hard work and sacrifice.”

South Carolina’s Haley said, “We should be proud of those workers, those South Carolinians who traded the false stability of a welfare check for the true dignity of a well-earned paycheck.” She was echoed by Wisconsin’s Walker: “We are helping people live the American Dream, which comes, not from the heavy hand of the government, but from the dignity that comes from work.” LePage was more blunt: “Big, expensive welfare programs riddled with fraud and abuse threaten our future. Too many Mainers are dependent on government handouts.”

But Washington’s Jay Inslee (D) said there are “thousands of working moms and dads with full-time jobs — sometimes two or three jobs — who some days cannot afford to put adequate food on the table.” He called for an increase in the state’s minimum wage, saying, “Every job offers dignity, but not every job offers a living wage.”

In Massachusetts, Patrick painted poverty as a more stubborn thing: “there are children here in our own Commonwealth whose future is still defined by the zip code in which they were born.” He added, “government —we here in this chamber tonight —have a solemn duty to help all our people help themselves.” Vermont’s Peter Shumlin (D) contrasted his state’s overall economic health with “a lack of hope and opportunity” among many who are “born into poverty.”

And Rhode Island’s Chafee took as shot at “the Tea Party and so-called conservatives”: “It seems as though the battleground in the ‘War on Poverty’ is increasingly the fundamental question of whether the government has a role to play in helping Americans help themselves out of poverty and up into the middle class. To that question, I answer an unequivocal: yes, government can be a force of good in people’s lives.”

“God bless”

As with the State of the Union, “God bless the great state of X” is the customary sign-off. The few exceptions included California’s Jerry Brown (D), but he was also one of the few governors to include a lesson from the Bible: “Boom and bust is our lot and we must follow the ancient advice, recounted in the Book of Genesis, that Joseph gave to the Pharaoh: Put away your surplus during the years of great plenty so you will be ready for the lean years which are sure to follow.” Virginia’s Bob McConnell (R) did a “God bless” but also said of his administration, “we tried to follow the words of Jesus in the Scriptures to love your neighbor as yourself.”

Rhode Island’s Chafee (I) didn’t ask God for anything, but he looked to the Vatican: “I strongly agree with Pope Francis, President Obama, and other leaders who have expressed alarm at the widening disparity of opportunity in our communities.” Illinois’s Pat Quinn (D) did the same: “Pope Francis has urged all of us to say ‘No to a financial system which rules rather than serves.’ No ‘to an economy of exclusion and inequality.’ No to a world in which ‘the powerful feed upon the powerless.’ And the Pope is right.”

Sam Brownback of Kansas (R) was less of a “No” Man: “Our dependence is not on Big Government but on a Big God that loves us and lives within us.”

Below are more quotes from each state.

Alabama: It is OK to question the federal government. As a matter of fact, it is our duty. It is my duty and that’s exactly what I am doing. The tenth amendment to our great Constitution gives us that authority. Government cannot grow unless we give it permission to grow. If states do not stand firm and say “no more,” there will be no one left to stop the out of control spending in Washington. I love Alabama. And I love America. If we continue down this path, the America our founding fathers envisioned will no longer exist. Gone will be the promise that was once based on opportunity, independence, and individual liberties. — Robert Bentley (R)

Arizona: We stood united in saying to Washington: Do your job! Keep the Grand Canyon open … Government should never close that which God has created. Arizona’s ability to deal with our own issues stands in sharp contrast to the federal government's inability to deal with their core responsibilities — like securing the border, fixing immigration and righting our national fiscal ship. On behalf of the people of Arizona, I say to the president and Congress: Quit fighting, and get to work for the American people. — Jan Brewer (R)

California: Among all our uncertainties, weather is one of the most basic. We can’t control it. We can only live with it, and now we have to live with a very serious drought of uncertain duration…. We do not know how much our current problem derives from the build-up of heat-trapping gasses, but we can take this drought as a stark warning of things to come. The United Nations Panel on Climate Change says —with 95 percent confidence — that human beings are changing our climate. This means more droughts and more extreme weather events, and, in California, more forest fires and less snow pack. — Jerry Brown (D)

Colorado: Just as we must implement the voters’ wishes on marijuana, we are obligated to make sure that children and parents understand brain development and the risks of underage use. We are committed to a securing a safe, regulated and responsible environment. This will be one of the great social experiments of this century, and while not all of us chose it, being first means we all share a responsibility to do it properly. — John Hickenlooper (D)

Connecticut: There are those who claim that any action taken in support of employees is, by definition, harmful to our economy. I fundamentally disagree. A balanced approach that supports both workers and their employers is not only possible, it’s the only responsible path. A great example of that balance is the important work we did two years ago to guarantee paid sick leave for employees. It was the right thing to do, it was done in the right way, and it has benefited the people of our state. Last year, we moved forward once again when wecame together to raise Connecticut’s minimum wage. — Dannel Malloy (D)

Delaware: We can’t eat our fish from the St. Jones. We can’t swim in too many parts of the Inland Bays. The Christina and Brandywine rivers are laced with toxic pollutants. This is embarrassing. This is unacceptable. We must change it. — Jack Markell (D)

Georgia: According to the Tax Foundation, Georgia has the lowest tax burden on its citizens of any state in the nation. I don’t know about you but I see that as a good thing, and I will fight to keep it that way! — Nathan Deal (R)

Hawaii: Protection of our environment from invasive species must be a top priority. We are experiencing a biological crisis and deadly threat to our isolated ecosystem, our natural resources, and our economy. A multitude of invaders such as the little fire ant that can blind animals and destroy nesting birds and hatchlings, the coconut rhinoceros beetle, and parasites attacking coffee crops graphically illustrate the seriousness of the issue. — Neil Abercrombie (D)

Idaho: One form of growth we don’t want to encourage is in the wolf population that was imposed on Idaho almost 20 years ago. With your unflinching support, we were able to fight through the opposition of those who would make Idaho into a restricted-use wildlife refuge and take back control of these predators from our federal landlords. — Butch Otter (R)

Illinois: After our meetings in Japan, Nippon Sharyo a world-class high-speed railcar manufacturer chose Illinois for their expansion. And after meeting with Denmark’s Grundfos the largest water pump manufacturer in the world they moved their North American headquarters to Downers Grove. — Pat Quinn (D)

Indiana: We balanced our budget, created jobs, cut red tape by 55 percent, improved our schools and roads, and paid down state debt. I even put the state’s plane up for sale. If you know anyone looking for a great deal on a Beechcraft King Air 200, give me a call! — Mike Pence (R)

Iowa: More than 25,000 people joined us through an online petition to keep Olympic wrestling. The entire Iowa congressional delegation joined us, and more than 30 other governors came together joining me in a letter to the IOC to keep wrestling. And together, we kept wrestling in the Olympics and the Olympic dreams of Iowa wrestlers alive. — Terry Bradstad (R)

Kansas: In Kansas, you could go as far as your talents, hard work, and the good Lord took you. That freedom, that sovereignty, is also part of what we owe our three millionth Kansan and all who come after her. One of the ironies, though, of our age is that government has become omnipresent, yet the people have never felt more distant from it. — Sam Brownback (R)

Kentucky:Tobacco use is the single-biggest factor negatively impacting our health. During this session, I will again support comprehensive, statewide smoke-free legislation. More than two-thirds of the states and 38 cities and counties within Kentucky regulate toxic smoke in public places. … We must fill in the map and protect all our people. — Steve Beshear (D)

Maine: We must keep our young people in Maine. Recently, I asked some Bowdoin College students, “What can we do to keep you here?” One of them was Grogoire Faucher from Madawaska. He is eager to hear what the future of Maine holds for him. Comment ca va, Gregoire? Ca me fait plasir de vous avoir ici ce soir. Unfortunately, Gregoire hears more about job prospects in Boston or New York or even New Hampshire than right here in Maine. He wants to stay in Maine. But he may have to leave to find higher-paying jobs and better opportunities.— Paul LePage (R)

Maryland: To strengthen and grow our middle class — this has been the North Star of everything that we have done as an Administration. — Martin O’Malley (D)

Massachusetts: When I came to work here in 2007, I expected to face economic challenges, but not a global economic collapse. I expected to find a sub-par transportation system, but not a bankrupt and dysfunctional one. I expected to face public safety challenges, but not the failure of a key water supply, a tornado, or a terrorist attack. — Deval Patrick (D)

Michigan: If you go to the last decade in the state of Michigan, we were broken. What did we lead the country in? We led the country in joblessness, reduced income levels, and loss of population. … Michigan is the comeback state. We've come farther and faster than most any other state in the economic recovery since the beginning of the Great Recession, and we should be proud of that. — Rick Snyder (R)

Missouri: When we [elected officials] knocked on doors and folks asked if we believed in public education, we all said yes. And at every town hall meeting, when someone raised their hand and asked what we’d do for teachers, we said we’d support them. And on the campaign trail, I’ll bet almost all of us made a promise to invest in our students and our schools. Well, you know what? It’s time to put our budgets where our campaign brochures are. — Jay Nixon (D)

Nebraska: When we talk about lowering the top individual income tax rate, some will argue that only benefits the wealthy in our state. That is not accurate.If you are a single person in Nebraska with an adjusted gross income of $29,000 a year or a married couple earning $58,000 a year, you are paying at Nebraska’s highest income tax rate. — Dave Heineman (R)

New Hampshire: Soon, our state will begin to lose 75 million dollars per year to new casinos right across our border in Massachusetts. Developing New Hampshire's own plan for one high-end destination casino will create jobs, boost our economy, and generate revenue to invest in critical priorities. — Maggie Hassan (D)

New Jersey: Even though the competition among the states is fierce, no state has shown more bipartisan cooperation over the last four years than New Jersey. Let’s do it again. Let’s resolve that in spite of politics, we will continue to put our people first. We will choose to do our jobs. — Chris Christie (R)

New Mexico:College isn’t for everyone. For those who want to go to work instead, they’re ready and they already know the local industries. So let’s fund a second round of early college high schools to create a workforce for local small businesses. That’s what supporting a diverse economy is all about. — Susana Martinez (R)

New York: Why are our property taxes so high? Because we have too many local governments and we have had them for too long. 10,500 local governments. These are towns, villages, fire district, water district, library, sewage district, one district just to count the other districts in case you missed a district. … We actually passed a law that made consolidations easier for local governments. Since we passed that law, how many local governments have actually consolidated? … Two. — Andrew Cuomo (D)

Oklahoma: Those who like bigger government and higher taxes will say the sky is falling. Entrenched interest groups and even some agency heads may say the same thing. But guess what? It’s not. The cuts we’ve proposed this year amount to 5 percent or less of agency budgets, and in total amount to about one percent of state spending. … When I was a single mother, I had to take care of my children while cutting a whole lot more than 5 percent from my family budget. I know most Oklahomans have had to make the same kind of tough budgeting choices at times, and we manage. — Mary Fallin (R)

Pennsylvania: We have to reform our antiquated system of state-owned liquor stores. Visitors often wonder about it unless they’re from Utah. Our own people don’t think much of the system, either, because it’s inconvenient and they don’t appreciate paying monopoly prices. About the only ones who do like it are the stores in New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland that pick up the extra business. Pennsylvania loses about $80 million a year that would otherwise be spent here. So here’s a thought, let’s make 2014 “last call” for state-controlled liquor in Pennsylvania. — Tom Corbett (R)

Rhode Island: We are becoming an increasingly diverse state, and our economy is changing in turn. Consider that Rhode Island’s share of people of color increased from 7 percent to 24 percent between 1980 and 2010. … All of our state’s recent population growth is attributable to people of color, who will continue to drive growth for the foreseeable future. — Lincoln Chafee (I)

South Carolina:We were able to pass into law the largest investment in South Carolina’s roads and bridges in more than two decades. A billion dollars. And we did it without raising taxes. South Carolinians are about to see orange cones popping up all across our state. It’s a beautiful thing. — Nikki Haley (R)

South Dakota: South Dakotans believe in hard work. When we promote South Dakota as a good place to do business, we promote the work ethic of our people. Those who do business in multiple states, including South Dakota, will often remark to me that their South Dakota location is their most productive, because South Dakotans know how to work. — Dennis Daugaard (R), who ended his speech with “Let’s all work hard this year.”

Tennessee: In Tennessee we still actually make things, and we make things that are known around the world. We make things that people use every day like cars, tires, ovens, chemicals, and medical devices, and we make other things that occasionally get consumed as well like M&Ms, ice cream, and Jack Daniels. — Bill Haslam (R)

Utah: A few months ago, these fourth-graders [attending the speech] asked a question many of us have wondered about for years: “Why is our Utah state tree the Colorado Blue Spruce?” Their persuasive argument has convinced me that with regard to the state tree, it is time to branch out and turn over a new leaf. They have also persuaded Senator Ralph Okerlund and Representative Brad Wilson to introduce legislation to make Utah’s new state tree the Aspen. — Gary Herbert (R)

Vermont: In every corner of our state, heroin and opiate drug addiction threatens us. It threatens the safety that has always blessed our state. It is a crisis bubbling just beneath the surface that may be invisible to many, but is already highly visible to law enforcement, medical personnel, social service and addiction treatment providers, and too many Vermont families. It requires all of us to take action before the quality of life that we cherish so much is compromised. — Peter Shumlin (D), who devoted almost his entire speech to drug addiction and related crime

Virginia: Looking forward, there are many important structural reforms left to address in state government which I would have done myself if you had just approved a two-term governor! We need to reform the tax code for the modern Virginia economy, re-examine state and municipal authority and service responsibility, fight for a balanced federal budget and the restoration of federalism and maybe one day finally end the outdated and nonsensical state bourbon and vodka monopoly. I’d say you can still knock all of that out this session if you move real fast. — Bob McDonnell (R) whose term ended in January

Washington: We wished that Boeing would have chosen Washington based just on our state’s clear advantages and stellar record in aerospace manufacturing. But there were a couple dozen other states that were more than happy to take those jobs. Those states lined up to give away land, training, and anything else they could to attract these new jobs. — Jay Inslee (D), referring to tax incentives given to Boeing to keep “thousands of aerospace jobs” in the state

West Virginia: Serving new markets for coal, Carbonyx, a Texas-based company, will invest tens of millions of dollars in a new Jackson County plant. This new development will create 60 jobs in its first phase. The plant will make a carbon alloy replacement for coke, a key ingredient for steelmaking. And best of all, Carbonyx will use West Virginia coal in its manufacturing process. To keep our coal industry alive and well and I promise you we will — we must continue to seek out new markets and uses for it, while doing what we can to help the industry reduce costs, and be more productive, efficient, safe and environmentally friendly. — Earl Ray Tomblin (D)

Wisconsin: Many of the employers moving from Illinois to Wisconsin mention our stable fiscal situation, as well as our improving economic climate, as reasons for their move north.Unlike Illinois, our pension fund is the only one in the country that is fully funded. Wisconsin's per capita pension and debt level is one of the lowest in the country. Stability at both the state and local level is good for employers, who want to grow, and for those who want to come to Wisconsin.— Scott Walker (R)

Wyoming: Wyoming is rated … Number 1 by the Tax Foundation in 2013 and again in 2014 as the most business friendly tax climate. … On top of all this, we have been rated the state with the best license plate in the country, which we knew. The bucking horse and its rider against the mountain backdrop represent freedom, independence and natural beauty, and we are proud to have these images as emblematic of our state.— Matt Mead (R)

At top: Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, chair of the National Governors Association, gives her State of the State address.

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