Florida State of the State Address 2000
By Stateline Staff
TALLAHASSEE, Florida - March 7 - Following is the full text of Gov. Jeb Bush's 2000 State of the State Address:
President Jennings, Speaker Thrasher, distinguished members of the Supreme Court, my partner Lieutenant Governor Brogan, members of the Cabinet, Honorable Senators and Representatives, distinguished guests, and my fellow Floridians, thank you.
It is fitting today, in this first year of a new century that we gather in these chambers also made new.
The beauty and detail of these wooden desks evoke our ties to the past, and the state-of the-art computers resting on them hint at the promise and complexities of the future.
And so it is appropriate that this year the State-of-the-State address is more than a status report. Florida, more than any other state, is never static and never frozen in time. Watch a storm blow in over the Everglades; stand in the glow of our cities' lights as they come alive at night; you will know that change is in the rhythm of our land and our lives. How we deal with change, and how we harness it to propel us forward, will be the standard by which you and I will be measured. Do we have it within us to take us where we should go?
I believe with all my heart that we do. Why? Because in one short year I have seen with my own eyes what you can do - what we can do, working together.
Accomplishments of the Past Year
Your accomplishments of the last year show the courage and vision of this body.
Through your enactment of the A Plan, you said that every child in Florida must be given a genuine opportunity to learn. You have refocused the school system on performance. Schools that were failing are now getting extra resources and attention, and children in those schools are working in smaller classes with more individual tutoring. Over time, we are transforming our public schools into centers of excellence.
You were uncompromising in your fight against crime. By enacting the 10/20/Life program, you sent a clear signal to criminals in our state: if they use a gun, they will pay a steep price. And trust me, they are. Already we have seen more than a thousand dangerous criminals charged under the new law. Crime is dramatically down. Gun murders alone dropped an astounding 22 percent last year. In fact, last year the state saw its greatest decrease in crime in almost 30 years.
The Florida Legislature should stand shoulder to shoulder with the men and women of law enforcement and take a bow for making Florida safer for Floridians and their guests. Thank you.
You made a long-term commitment to our quality of life by enacting the Florida Forever program. It's the largest land buying program in the fifty states and will ensure Florida's lasting beauty by protecting our most fragile lands for generations to come.
You returned over $1 billion dollars to the Florida taxpayer - the largest tax cut in the state's history - proving that state government can have the self-discipline to push away from the dining table after a square meal and not stay to devour everything in sight. And look how the economy responds. You have helped reduce Florida's unemployment to the lowest levels in an entire generation, while personal income is increasing much faster than inflation.
All these things combine to paint a picture of a state that is growing and prospering, vibrant and optimistic. As a result of your vision and courage and the talent and hard work of Floridians, the state of our beloved state is good, and getting better every day.
The Guiding Principles
Last session, you built your remarkable legislative accomplishments on cherished principles. We must carry these principles forward into this legislative session, and beyond.
Without these principles, our exertions are like a weathervane, constantly turning with each shift of the political wind. With them, our efforts are like a compass that gives order and promise to the map of this new century.
What are these principles? They are principles we share regardless of party affiliation, philosophical beliefs, racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds. They are what bind us as servants of the public.
First, we must create a place for Floridians where they can flourish. Second, we must care for those who are least equipped to care for themselves. And third, we must modernize and rebuild government so that Floridians have a government that is as good as they are.
It is our job to help build a place that continues to foster success. We must meet the fundamental needs of those we were elected to serve so they can grow and prosper. The availability of a good education and the opportunity to compete at the highest levels, the ability to live without fear of crime, the enjoyment of a clean and healthy natural world; these are some of the rights that must be made available to all.
But in our desire to see people achieve, we cannot turn a blind eye to those for whom achievement comes hard. It is too easy to place the first among us in the brightness at the center of the room, while those who start life with greater hurdles recede into its dim corners.
If you remember anything that I say today, remember this: we must never leave anyone behind.
And finally, we must grapple with the task of restructuring state government itself. We are part of a huge venture that clings to obsolete ideas.
How is it that you can get on the internet and buy a brand new car on-line, but when you go to renew your driver's license, you have to stand in line? What's wrong with this picture?
Why is it that you can drive to your local store and buy a computer for less money than the state pays for the same computer, even when the state buys thousands of them at a time? Does this make sense?
We must do better. We need to obsessively focus on delivering better services, faster. Floridians expect it. They deserve it. We must deliver it.
While these are the principles that should guide us, they are meaningless without the courage and commitment to see them through.
Many of you, like Toni Jennings and John Thrasher, will be leaving the legislature at the end of this first year of a new century. It's appropriate to reflect on what you and your leaders have accomplished. President Jennings has advanced the cause of school readiness more than anyone else in this state. Her efforts will make a difference in the lives of Florida's school children for generations to come.
Speaker Thrasher has focused like a laser beam on creating a business climate that will grow our economy, creating jobs and paying dividends for our children, and their children. I am so grateful for their leadership, their friendship, and their example.
But many of us will be left behind to carry on the work of those who came before. Let me ask each of you, both those leaving and those staying: have you accomplished what you hoped to accomplish?
Have you left a legacy for your children, and their children, and the children of Florida? Have you changed things for the better?
Admittedly, change comes hard. On a personal level, it can be grinding, excruciating, lonely. And so today I pose this simple question to each of us: who does the difficult things? The answer is: those who can.
Each of you is someone who can.
One Florida is Working
In the past few weeks I have been reminded of the public and private price of taking a stand on principle. I speak, of course, of the One Florida Initiative.
Here is the stark reality: just as we have seen in other states where the issue has been tested, the vast majority of Floridians favor the elimination of all affirmative action programs. It would have been politically expedient to simply let these programs be dismantled, with nothing to replace them.
But there is a difference between being politically smart and doing the right thing. And so in this case, I sought the advice of many to find a better way to affirmatively increase the opportunities for all Floridians, but in fair ways. I believe we have.
The One Florida Initiative creates a university system with greater diversity, where minority students get both the access and finances they need based on their talent and work, not the color of their skin.
If you walk two blocks from here to the campus at Florida State University, you will find a university that has already increased its acceptance of minority applicants by 18 percent this year over last, as a result of the outreach efforts encouraged under the One Florida Initiative. Florida State made these tremendous gains without using race as a factor. The plan is working.
And if you visit the state agencies housed all around us, you will see that more than ever minority contractors are actively recruited and included.
Fairness and diversity are achieved without pitting one group against another. There is a new energy for minority outreach that is unprecedented in state government. The plan is working.
Let me be clear. This year, more minority students will be admitted to our university system than last year. This year, the agencies that report to me will do more business with minority-owned businesses than the previous year.
We will not take one step back in the struggle against racism and discrimination.
The place we are heading is a place where opportunity is real and lasting, not false and forced by government. A place where our differences are celebrated and make us stronger, not exaggerated to a point where we are weakened.
But we cannot achieve this victory by steadfastly clinging to the rigid limits of a century now behind us. The time has come to take the next step in providing opportunity.
The time has come to look to our deeds and listen to our words and put their truth to the test. And this takes courage. But in this way, our children may look back on this day and know that it was here and now that we embarked on a path leading us all to a much better place.
Do we have the courage to achieve this victory? I look around this room and see courage everywhere. Dr. Adam Herbert, our chancellor, is a vivid reminder of the possibilities of the human spirit.
Here is an example of a man who by his own hard work and determination has elevated himself to a position of national prominence and respect. And at a time in his life when, frankly, he has earned the right to rest on his laurels, he continues to push forward. And he carries us with him. Here is a person who understands that long after we leave, principle endures. Thank you, Adam.
And like Adam, you, too, have a vital role in building a better university system. This year, I have asked that you give an extra $20 million in need-based aid to students who want to attend our universities, and an extra $10 million to prepare high-school students who dare to be college-bound. By approving these measures, you will elevate diversity and foster excellence throughout our colleges and universities.
In this way, we make Florida a better home. It's a home we build together - working as a team - across partisan lines - guided by the compass of our common principles. Creating an environment that fosters success, caring for those who are least equipped to care for themselves, and giving all Floridians a government that is as good as they are.
And so how should we apply these principles this session?
Raise Student Achievement
First, we must build on your remarkable accomplishments of last session to create a place where Floridians can prosper. At the core of this mission is rising student achievement.
The A Plan has become the catalyst by which that transformation is occurring. We can spend long hours debating the details of the plan, and we have. But let's hear from someone who is living the plan. Listen now to Tracy Richardson, a Pensacola mother whose daughter, Khaliah, received one of the first Opportunity Scholarships in Florida.
My name is Tracy Richardson and my daughter Khaliah is eight years old and she attends the Montessori Early School in Pensacola under the Opportunity Scholarship. The Opportunity Scholarship came along and I qualified to send my daughter to the Montessori School. Since then her progress has been dramatic, not only academically but socially and her behavior has improved greatly. As a parent, I'm very grateful to have the chance to choose where my daughter goes to school. We all want the best for our children and I think I not only speak for myself but for all parents. I'd like to thank Governor Jeb Bush and the Legislature for giving my daughter and I the opportunity for her to attend a better school and get a better education.
Tracy, this year we will create even greater opportunities. My budget reflects the importance of the A Plan. I propose that we increase K-12 funding by $720 million, or about 6.5 percent. I have also asked that we increase A supplemental funding to reward schools that improve, to help D and F schools achieve higher grades, and to provide extra assistance for teacher training and support.
Reduce Juvenile Crime and Illegal Drug Use
We will also make the state a safer place by redoubling our efforts to fight violent crime, especially among juveniles. Recently, in one year more than 12,000 young people entered our juvenile justice system as repeat violent felons. Strong anti-crime measures have the most impact when they are targeted at this group. That's why I am seeking to increase the average length of time the most serious juvenile offenders spend in residential facilities by 50 percent and to expand the adult prosecution of habitually violent juvenile offenders under a broader range of crimes.
These measures will continue to drive the tremendous decrease in crime.
Floridians have sent us a clear message on illegal drugs. Our children must be protected from the destruction and tragedy illegal drugs bring. That is why I have also asked for an additional $34 million, for a total of $442 million, to be targeted at reducing illegal drug use by fifty percent over the next five years. This is the goal we have set. Today, I reaffirm my commitment to meet it, and I ask you to reaffirm yours.
My wife, Columba, is actively involved in our effort to reach this goal, and she has become a vocal and visible advocate against drugs. Her emphasis has been on stopping substance abuse where it begins: with our young people. This year, I am recommending that we add over $15 million to the budget for substance abuse programs in juvenile justice and other corrections facilities. We will attack the drug problem where it has already shown its devastating effects.
Build Better Roads
Turning to transportation, a few weeks ago I announced with many members of the Legislature the Mobility 2000 Initiative, a program to speed up road construction by spending almost $4 billion. While the numbers are huge, the practical pay-off in our everyday lives is also huge. Floridians will spend less time sitting in traffic and new roads will boost trade and tourism. When we have hurricane evacuations, traffic will move faster and Floridians will be safer.
Relieve the Punitive Tax Burden on Seniors and Savers
We can build better roads, improve student achievement, and reduce crime, but if government burdens the people unfairly with taxes, we will have failed to responsibly govern. Building on last year's $1 billion tax cut, this year my administration is proposing additional tax cuts of more than a half-billion dollars. Together with last year's tax cut, this would amount to more than $6 billion in taxes not taken from Floridians over a four-year period!
The bulk of this year's tax relief package focuses on phasing out the oppressive intangibles tax; a tax that punishes seniors and savers. An astonishing 65 percent of all individual filers in Florida who pay the intangibles tax are over the age of 60. Let's listen to Norman Stoker, a retired Air Force officer now living in Tampa, as he explains the difficult economics of taxes and retirement.
My name is Norman Stoker, I'm retired from the Air Force, retired in 1973. My wife is Francis. We have a total of five children, we still have one little girl living with us, not little anymore, she's thirty five years old and Lisa is classified as educable mentally handicapped. And we didn't realize she had a problem 'till she was about two and a half years old. She just wasn't talking. So, since that time we have been putting everything we could into savings for Lisa and we have built up a pretty good nest egg. But every year, every year, the intangibles tax comes along and takes a little piece of it. I don't know how many people know it but this is a tax on savings. It's a tax on money that you've already paid a tax on. I would like to thank the Legislature and the Governor for the progress they've made so far in at least reducing the intangibles tax impact on people.
Mr. Stoker, I promise that we will make even more progress this year. For the Stokers and the thousands like them who live off their hard-earned investments, I say it is time to reward their thrift instead of penalizing it. To a generation that has already sacrificed so greatly for us, I say it is time to stop taking so much from them.
But let us not forget that the intangibles tax unfairly burdens more than retirees. It also burdens young families who are struggling to do the right thing and save for their future. Let's hear from Glenn and Cindy Sharpe as they tell us their story.
Glenn and Cindy Sharpe:
(Glenn) My name is Glenn Sharp and this is my wife Cindy Sharp and we live in Thonotosassa, Florida. (Cindy) My mother died about two years ago at the age of sixty-six and unfortunately she died penniless, she had no savings. She relied on state and federal assistance for everything that she needed from health care to housing. We take a very aggressive approach to savings and we do everything we can including investing as much as we can in our company 401K programs, putting money into saving's accounts or IRAs and investing in other options through companies like a stock option purchase plan. (Glenn) And the stock option plan is where they're hitting us with the intangibles tax and we don't think that's fair. (Cindy) No, it's not. I mean, we've put as much as we can into trying to invest in different things like a stock option plan and the intangibles tax comes along and it feels like it's a punishment for doing what's right.
Cindy, I couldn't agree more. Now it's our turn to do what's right.
Fund Everglades Restoration
While it is important for Florida families to invest for their future, it is also important that state government make a different kind of investment. There is no more valuable legacy we could leave them than a clean and bountiful natural world.
Do you remember what it was like to see God's creation through a child's eyes? I do. A few months ago I received a letter from Adam Gross and was reminded of the wonder all around us. Let's listen to Adam as he talks about the natural world.
My name is Adam Gross and I'm a fifth grader at Pelican Marsh Elementary in Naples, Florida. I strongly believe that the Everglades is a great part of our nation today. The Everglades is a wonderful place to live and to visit. But remember, if you live there or visit there, you have to treat it as a home. Our teacher spent lots of time to teach us about the Everglades and they tell us to respect it just as we would our parents, our friends and our teachers. Governor Bush has done a lot to help save the Everglades and we should all do the same. We have to remember, if men take away the Everglades, we cannot return it. It's Mother Nature's decision.
Although it may be Mother Nature's decision, trust me Adam, the legislature can help. That's why in this year's budget, I have asked for $100 million for the state's portion of the Everglades Restoration Project.
This money will free up federal dollars and allow us to move quickly to clean up the Everglades, protecting the ecosystem and the source of drinking water for South Florida. But we must also recognize the importance of other water projects around the state. That's why I have proposed an historic 40 percent increase for statewide water project funding. With these programs, we will protect water all over the state.
These, then, are some of the measures I have proposed to help Floridians prosper: excellent schools, safer streets, lower taxes, better roads, a cleaner environment. By wisely investing in these things now, we create greater potential for all our children.
Help the Most Vulnerable Among Us
While we should continue to build for the future, it is also important to remember that, today, many Floridians have needs that remain unmet. We need to redouble our efforts to provide more for the most vulnerable among us.
That's why this year I recommend increasing funding for child welfare by $134 million. This adds up to a 60 percent increase in only two years. I am also asking for an additional $136 million for the developmentally disabled; an unprecedented two-year increase of more than fifty percent.
You should know, too, that already your good work is showing a return. Last year there were 16,000 Floridians on the developmentally disabled waiting list.
This year, the waiting list has been reduced by half. We will not stop until the waiting list is eliminated and these fine people are empowered to live full and productive lives.
This goal is not an abstraction. Our work here is not detached from the human condition. In fact, there is no part of what we do that cuts quicker and deeper to what makes us human than the assistance of the developmentally disabled.
Here is the startling truth: by investing now, it is within your power to salvage lives that would otherwise be diminished or lost. Let's take a minute to listen to John Satterwhite, a man of great dignity, who has been given a voice because others cared.
Hi, my name is John Satterwhite from Tampa and I work at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa. I was in nursing home since I was five years old. At that time, everybody thought that I was retarded but one nurse knew that I was a smart kid. After I graduated from high school, I moved in my own apartment with a few failures sometimes, but I never give up on myself because I was very determined to be successful. I am a member of the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council in Tallahassee, Florida and now I am a new chairperson for the employment task force to the Council. I want to say thank you and the Governor for helping us last year and it is a start but we need to do a lot of work still for people with developmental disabilities. Please give us a chance to live and work in community like a normal person.
Smaller, More Efficient, More Effective Government
And lastly, the ship of state is in need of a dramatic overhaul. Here is where we can have our most immediate effect. Today, I ask that you join me in this vital mission.
We are advancing a number of measures that demonstrate our commitment to smaller, better government.
Our proposed budget represents only a two percent increase over last year's budget compared to our state's annual personal income growth of about six percent. We would cut the state government workforce by 1,200 positions, continuing a reduction that began last year. We would also eliminate more than a hundred boards and commissions that do not serve important state functions.
At the core of our mission is the need to harness the power of the information age. The explosion of information and its distribution through technology over the last decade has changed education and commerce in ways that were unimaginable a few years ago. The information revolution has expanded opportunities for access to the marketplace, but has it expanded access for the people we serve to the services we provide?
Florida spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year to buy the technology needed to harness the power of the information age. But we should buy our technology in a new way, leverage our tremendous buying power, and save millions of dollars.
Let's listen to one man who has not only seen the future of information technology, but like you, will help shape it in the years to come. I would like to introduce you to Steve Case, the CEO of America Online.
Thank you Governor. It's great to be talking to you all. I have a special place in my heart for Florida. My wife is from Florida, her family still lives in Southern Florida. So it's great to be talking to you. It's also great to be hearing everything that's happening in Florida, particularly this ITFlorida.com initiative, really getting the government involved in trying to better serve it's citizens. It's very important, trying to use these new technologies, the internet, to improve education, particularly linkages between parents and teachers. That's very important. I'm particularly excited to hear about some of the initiatives about bridging the digital divide. It is very important that as we build this new medium, as we build this more connected society, we don't leave anybody behind. It's great to hear that Florida is really trying to take the lead in defining how this should work and hopefully other states will follow and we can build a medium we can be proud of. Thank you.
And we will build it. I ask that you join with me in meeting the challenge to build the high-tech government of the future.
These are but some of the changes I submit for your consideration, but they give you a sense, I think, of the common goals that bind us as public servants. While they may be interesting to those who appreciate public policy, they are meaningless without the courage to see them through.
Some say we moved too quickly last session to address the pressing needs of our state. Some accuse us of rushing to effect change without methodically studying the problems that face us.
In the brief year I've been privileged to serve as governor, I've seen boards and commissions come and go, study commission upon task force upon blue ribbon committee issue report after report on issues we have examined for decades. The people sent us here not for study, but for action.
At some point in this session, after difficult debates that stretch into the night and weeks away from your families, each of you will question whether the result is worth the price you pay. I can only say this: it will be well worth it if the courage you show in seizing the future is equal to the opportunity the future holds for all Floridians.
Today we have heard a few stories from friends and neighbors all over the state. There are 15 million other stories that are just as unique, just as compelling. These people are the quiet heroes. They understand that upon sacrifice and resolve great things ride.
We have arrived at this place in time. The possibilities open up before us.
I say, let us now move forward, guided by the compass of the principles we share. We will accomplish great things together.
Thank you, God bless you all, and God bless the great state of Florida.