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Gov. Wes Moore, flanked by Senate President Bill Ferguson and House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones, delivers his second State of the State address in the Maryland State House on February 7, 2024.

2.7.24 – WYPR – 88.1 FM Baltimore | By Rachel Baye

In his State of the State address Wednesday, Gov. Wes Moore highlighted efforts to improve public safety, make housing more affordable and assist Marylanders who are looking to launch a new business.

He said public safety is his administration’s top priority, but he said his approach will move away from the “false choices” typical of discussions on the issue.

“I felt handcuffs on my wrists when I was 11 years old because our community was overpoliced, and we knew it. However we still wanted to feel protected from violent crime and people who would have harm in our communities,” Moore said. “The people shouldn’t have to choose between feeling safe in their skin and feeling safe in their communities.”

He said public safety conversations need to involve the community, police, prosecutors and public defenders.

On housing, Moore promised to help both Marylanders who are struggling to pay rent and those who want to buy a home but can’t afford one.

“Our state faces a problem of supply and demand,” Moore said. “Prices go up because we do not have enough homes, so building more homes will help to bring prices down.”

Moore said he has introduced three bills to address that issue, including by cutting bureaucratic hurdles to building housing.

He said he also plans to “cut red tape” that makes starting businesses more difficult.

Senate Minority Leader Steve Hershey said he was glad to hear Moore discuss public safety issues, though he said Moore’s existing proposals addressing the issue don’t go far enough.

Likewise, he said Moore needs to do more than clear red tape to help Maryland businesses grow.

But Hershey said there was one part of the speech that made him raise an eyebrow.

“The whole issue about housing is something that we’re certainly just not concerned about,” Hershey said.

He pointed to Maryland’s slight population decline evident in the last U.S. Census.

“If we’re losing residents, but we don’t have enough housing — you know, we’re trying to figure out how that really matters,” he said. “And then at the same time, what is government’s role in housing?”

Other priorities Moore mentioned in his speech included increased funding for childcare subsidies, closing the racial wealth gap, and exploring new ways to pay for transportation projects.

But one of the biggest standing ovations came when Moore mentioned something his administration has already done: finalizing a deal to keep the Orioles in Baltimore.