Governors Pitch Ambitious Programs

 
State
Speech date
Alabama
Feb. 6
Alaska
Jan. 15
Arizona
Jan. 14
Arkansas
TBA
California
Jan. 8
Colorado
Jan. 10
Connecticut
TBA
Delaware
Jan. 17
Florida
March 4
Georgia
Jan. 16
Hawaii
Jan. 22
Idaho
Jan. 7
Illinois
TBA
Indiana
Jan. 15
Iowa
Jan. 15
Kansas
Jan. 14
Kentucky
Jan. 14
Louisiana
April 18
Maine
Jan. 9
Maryland
Jan. 23
Massachusetts
Jan. 23
Michigan
Jan. 29
Minnesota
Feb. 13
Mississippi
TBA
Missouri
Jan. 15
Montana
TBA
Nebraska
Jan. 15
Nevada
TBA
New Hampshire
TBA
New Jersey
Jan. 8
New Mexico
Jan. 15
New York
Jan. 9
North Carolina
TBA
North Dakota
TBA
Ohio
Feb. 6
Oklahoma
Feb. 4
Oregon
TBA
Pennsylvania
Feb. 5
Rhode Island Jan. 22
South Carolina
Jan. 16
South Dakota
Jan. 8
Tennessee
Jan. 28
Texas
TBA
Utah
January
Vermont
Jan. 10
Virginia
Jan. 9
Washington
Jan. 15
West Virginia
Jan. 9
Wisconsin
Jan. 23
Wyoming
Feb. 11
Compiled by Stateline.org staff
Billion-dollar deficits in California, New York, Arizona and other states haven't stopped governors from proposing big-ticket items for 2008. As the new legislative year gets under way, consider:
  • Republican California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to push ahead with sweeping health-care reform despite a projected $14 billion deficit.
  • New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) aims to expand health care, cut property taxes and create a $1 billion fund to create jobs in upstate New York, but will have to do so while patching a $4 billion budget hole.
  • Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) wants to give free tuition to every Arizona child who graduates from high school with a B average while plugging a $1.5 billion deficit.
These are just some of the ideas governors are offering in their annual "state of the state" addresses that lay out their priorities for the year. Attached is Stateline.org's exclusive summary of all the governors' 2008 speeches, given thus far this year. Stateline.org will continue to update this article as governors give their speeches.
Property tax cuts
Governors in the following states are calling for property tax cuts because of the weak housing market:
  • Georgia
  • Indiana
  • Nebraska
  • New York
  • Vermont
Governors continue to shy away from raising taxes. New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine (D) proposed a 50 percent hike in tolls to close the state's $30 billion debt. New York's Spitzer wants to privatize the lottery . California's Schwarzenegger suggested cutting nearly every state program by 10 percent, closing some state parks and letting 22,000 inmates out of prison early over the next two years. Fresh off the Democratic presidential campaign trial, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has called for all New Mexicans to have health insurance by 2010. Expanding health-care coverage also is a top priority for the governors of Colorado, Maine, Missouri and Vermont while boosting pre-kindergarten programs is a popular theme for governors from Colorado, Iowa, Kansas and Virginia. Click here for Stateline.org's issue page that includes daily stories about this year's governors' speeches and the full text of 2008 addresses. Click here to access Stateline.org's archive of the full text of governors' "state of the state" addresses since 2000.

Summaries of each governor's speech
ALASKA
In her address to the Republican-controlled Legislature on Jan. 15, Gov. Sarah Palin (R) touted the revenue benefits of the multi-billion natural gas pipeline deal she helped engineer last year. She also called for significant new education spending, increased energy conservation and alternative power use and lower business license fees. She also urged lawmakers to streamline the state's health care business rules and promised to study policies other states have adopted to encourage businesses to provide healthcare benefits for their employees. To increase the number of health-care providers in the state and lower costs, Palin urged lawmakers to do away with requirements that companies apply for so-called certificates-of-need before building new facilities.
On education, she urged lawmakers to approve a spending bill early in the year so schools could make future plans without having to issue "pink slips." Palin also proposed a new apprenticeship program to train high school graduates and university students for jobs in construction, engineering and health care - professions in great demand in Alaska, she said.

To read the full text, click here .




ARIZONA Facing an estimated $1 billion budget shortfall, Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) listed several higher education initiatives in her Jan. 14 speech to the Republican-controlled Legislature. Napolitano laid out plans to double the number of bachelor's degrees issued by state colleges and universities by 2020. The governor, re-elected to a second term in 2006, is calling for a fixed, four-year tuition rate beginning with next year's college freshmen. Beginning in 2012, Napolitano wants to offer a scholarship program to give all the state's high school graduates with a B average or higher a free ride to state colleges and universities. And Napolitano is reviving a measure introduced last year to raise the age students can drop out from 16 to 18. Napolitano also asked lawmakers to require the state to get 15 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources, such as wind or solar power. And she asked them to approve a ballot measure to increase transportation funding.

To read the full text, click here .


CALIFORNIA Facing a projected $14 billion budget deficit, Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger urged lawmakers to "face our budget demons" and approve a constitutional amendment to rein in spending. The governor, however, said the bleak budget picture should not imperil his proposal to overhaul health care. "Now, I understand the concern that we have now a deficit, and that our plan is maybe too daring, or too bold, or expensive," Schwarzenegger said in his Jan. 8 address to the Democrat-controlled Legislature. "But sometimes you have to be daring, because the need is so great." The California Assembly approved the governor's health care package aimed at covering 3 million more uninsured residents, but the Senate has yet to vote on it. Schwarzenegger said a constitutional amendment that would impose a spending cap would end the "binge and purge" nature of the budget process. The governor proposed a similar idea in 2004, but state lawmakers rejected it. Such a plan would require voters' approval. On the education front, the governor announced California would be the first state to use powers under the federal No Child Left Behind education law to intervene in school districts that failed to meet student achievement levels. Schwarzenegger said he would continue to push for more partnerships between state government and private industry to help fix the state's crumbling infrastructure. He estimated the state faces $500 billion worth of infrastructure needs in the next 20 years.
To read the full text, click here .




COLORADO In his address given Jan. 10, Gov. Bill Ritter (D) proposed what he called "the most revolutionary shift in education policy this state has seen in years" - one that treats all primary and secondary students as potentially college-bound. Noting that a third of Colorado's college freshmen need remedial coursework, Ritter proposed making students from pre-school to high school verify what they have learned through "a seamless system of expectations, policies and tools." Ritter proposed extending all-day kindergarten to 22,000 more children and sending 70 counselors to middle and high schools to help students get into college. Ritter repeated his hope for all Coloradans to have "quality, affordable health care," though he didn't make specific proposals for universal coverage. He called on the Democrat-controlled Legislature to expand health care to 17,000 more children and enroll more families in Medicaid. The governor retained as a second-year priority a focus on renewable energy, including a plan for cheaper and more efficient home-heating.
To read the full text, click here .




DELAWARE Gov. Ruth Ann Minner (D) asked lawmakers in her address Jan. 18 to create a registry of health disparities among minorities and ethnic groups, provide cervical cancer vaccine to all uninsured girls and launch a homeland security initiative that would finger-print every fourth-grader in the state. Minner also asked the politically split General Assembly to ease the First State's already business-friendly tax code. This was Minner's last address. She is term-limited and cannot run for re-election when her term expires January 2009. Delaware is one of nine states committed to joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative - a group of Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states that aims to reduce greenhouse gases in the region. Minner asked lawmakers to pass a law endorsing that agreement. She also sought additional conservation and alternative energy measures for state government. Among her funding requests, Minner recommended continuation of a full-day kindergarten and a health program designed to reduce infant mortality and expansion of a two-year scholarship program to include four-year bachelor degrees. She also asked for more assistance for students ages 16 to 18 who have dropped out or have been expelled from high school.
To read the full text, click here .




GEORGIA Gov. Sonny Perdue (R) gave an upbeat Jan. 16 state of the state speech before a Republican-controlled Legislature on the same day he released a $21.4 billion budget that would update the state's water system and give homeowners a small tax cut. Under the budget, Georgia - mired in a drought for the past two years - would allot $120 million to build reservoirs and water and sewer improvements. Perdue also proposed to eliminate the portion of the property tax that goes to the state, decreasing each household's tax by about $30. The move was a surprise because when his 2006 gubernatorial opponent, Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, suggested the same thing, Perdue's camp dismissed the plan. The governor's budget also includes money to increase the number of state troopers, help local governments finish their transportation projects and improve the state's trauma centers. Perdue proposed to partially fund the trauma centers with a bigger fine on "super speeders."
To read the full text, click here .


HAWAII

In her sixth annual address, delivered to lawmakers Jan. 22, Gov. Linda Lingle (R) asked the Democratic legislature to approve the purchase of an embattled, 850-acre resort. Turtle Bay resort on Oahu's North Shore has met stiff opposition to expansion plans that local residents say will spoil the rural nature of their community. State ownership of the property would preserve the Hawaiian way of life, she said.

She also sought investment in education programs she said are needed to transform the state's economy from one "based too narrowly on land development to one based on the infinite talent and intellectual capacity" of Hawaii 's people. Lingle proposed new public school courses to prepare young people for jobs in animation, digital media, game development and writing and publishing.

The popular governor also asked lawmakers to help Hawaii - the most oil-dependent state in the country - develop alternative energy sources. She proposed a new government entity to encourage new business ventures "from wind to solar, from wave and ocean thermal to biofuel, from algae to even energy from space!"


IDAHO Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter (R) targeted tax relief, crowded prisons and college scholarships in his Jan 7 address. He renewed his call to decrease the sales tax on groceries for the poor - a tax-credit proposal that state lawmakers rejected in 2007. Otter also urged the Republican-controlled Legislature to phase out the personal property tax. As an alternative to the state's practice of shipping prisoners to other states to relieve overcrowding, Otter called for spending $70 million on a new prison for the mentally ill and for converting a warehouse at the Idaho Correctional Center into a 304-bed drug-and-alcohol rehabilitation center. Other big-ticket items included a proposal to spend $50 million for college scholarships for low-income students and $20 million for a comprehensive study of every Idaho aquifer. He also called for a 5 percent pay increase for state employees.
To read the full text, click here .




INDIANA Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) spent most of his speech delivered Jan. 15 urging lawmakers to overhaul the state's property tax system. For the General Assembly, where Democrats control the House and Republicans control the Senate, it is the "one paramount assignment, one act for which it will be remembered," he said. "We must resolve to stay at it until success is achieved," he said. Repeating his plan for reducing property taxes first outlined to lawmakers in October, Daniels said he wants to raise the state sales tax from 6 to 7 percent which would start paying for services that are now funded through local property taxes, such as child welfare protection and many school-related expenses. Daniels also called for strict limits on local governments' spending and borrowing, an overhaul of the property assessment process and a property tax cap for homeowners.. The governor said the changes would reduce property taxes by $1.19 for each $1 in new taxes. The proposal has met stiff resistance from local government officials, but Daniels said one of the benefits of the changes would be reducing local government.
To read the full text, click here .




IOWA During his "condition of the state" address Jan. 15, Gov. Chet Culver (D) emphasized the need for lawmakers to limit new spending this year, while proposing new initiatives in health care, education and the environment. On the health-care front, Culver said he supported a smoking ban and more physical activity in schools. Culver also called for an expansion of state-run health insurance to an additional 7,500 people. "Why shouldn't every Iowan get the same type of insurance coverage that elected officials get? Well, that's my goal," he said. To pay for more environmental protection activities, Culver told the Democrat-controlled General Assembly that he wants to double the state's nickel-a-bottle deposit for bottles and cans. One cent of the deposit would go to programs protecting the environment, he said. Culver plugged renewable fuels and an effort to reduce odors around livestock farms. On education, the governor proposed expanding early childhood education to make it available to all Iowans by 2010. Culver said he wanted to raise new revenue to build roads, bridges and other infrastructure but he ruled out a gas tax hike. He also announced his support for building a new prison in Fort Madison, to replace the existing penitentiary there.
To read the full text, click here .




KANSAS Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) focused her Jan. 14 speech on calling for more early childhood education, improving health care and developing more clean and renewable energy. Sebelius told the Republican-controlled Legislature that an educated workforce is a key to future economic prosperity and proposed adding money to pay for all-day kindergarten. The governor, in her second term, also asked lawmakers to ban indoor smoking in public buildings statewide and to approve a 50-cent hike in the state's cigarette tax to help fungo to health care. Kansas also should play a greater role in developing biofuels for the nation and cut greenhouse gas emissions in the state by using more renewable sources of power and improving energy efficiency, she said.. Past chairwoman of the Democratic Governors Association, Sebelius has landed an even bigger stage, when she was scheduled to deliver her party's response to President Bush's State of the Union address on Jan. 28.
To read the full text, click here .




KENTUCKY Making his first state of the Commonwealth address after being elected last November, Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear on Jan. 16 bluntly warned legislators, "The revenue outlook is grim." Vowing not to raise taxes, Beshear said his administration would address the state's unprecedented budget shortfall - estimated at nearly $900 million over two years - by trimming government spending and making state agencies more efficient and responsive. Beshear offered few specifics on the budget and made no reference to his own proposal to increase revenue by allowing casino gambling in the state. Despite the state's dire fiscal outlook, Beshear said he would not abandon goals to lower prescription drug prices for seniors, increase college aid and improve secondary education to send more students to college. He also called for the politically split Legislature to approve an ethics package that includes limiting the governor's power to pardon.
To read the full text, click here .




MAINE
In his Jan. 9 address, aine Gov. John Baldacci (D) asked the Democrat-controlled Legislature to stretch Maine's flagging revenues without raising taxes or dipping into financial reserves, and without cutting education funding or programs for the needy.
At the same time, he called for expansion of the state's groundbreaking universal health care program, Dirigo Health; greater use of wind power; and smaller state government.
To help reduce costs, Baldacci called for cuts in two departments: health and human resources and natural resources. He also said he would seek lower prescription drug prices for state workers by pooling purchases among the top three state unions.
To expand Maine's Dirigo program, Baldacci called for market reforms to make coverage more affordable and asked lawmakers to help him find "less contentious and more sustainable" funding for the program.
To read the full text, click here .



MARYLAND

 

Gov. Marin O'Malley (D) asked the Democrat-controlled legislature Jan. 23 to help him fight violent crime, unclog the state's roadways by investing in mass transit, and crack down on the mortgage banking industry. He also proposed greater protections for the state's sensitive Chesapeake Bay areas and new measures designed to conserve electrical power and lower energy costs.

 

To fight crime, O'Malley called for greater use of DNA identification of violent criminals, use of Global Positioning System technology to track juvenile offenders and more juvenile detention and treatment centers.

 

The first-term governor apologized for recent tax hikes and cuts in service, and promised to help families at risk of losing their homes by lengthening the time it takes for banks to foreclose and increasing oversight of the lending industry.

 

Saying, "deregulation has failed us in Maryland ," O'Malley vowed to find ways to lower energy prices, limit greenhouse gases and improve power generation through stepped up regulation.


MASSACHUSETTS

Gov. Deval Patrick (D) used his Jan. 24 address to push the Democratic legislature to legalize casinos, the first-term governor's No. 1 revenue generating initiative. He also renewed his 2007 request for $1 billion to fund life sciences - including controversial embryonic stem cell research - a program that he said would create 250,000 new jobs.

Two other bills - one promoting renewable energy sources and conservation and another providing broadband services to the state's western and central regions - also would create jobs in the Bay State, where he said some 125,000 people are looking for work.

Patrick also asked for record-high spending for public schools, all-day kindergarten and extended-day learning programs. To fight crime, he asked for tougher gun laws and use of technology to track released offenders.

Funding for these programs - plus a 13 percent business tax cut and property tax relief for nearly half a million households - will come from closing gaps in the corporate tax code and new casino licensing fees, Patrick said.

 


MISSOURI Facing a difficult re-election bid, Gov. Matt Blunt (R) used his Jan. 15 address to recommend spending an additional $400 million on health care and education, while cutting tens of millions in taxes. The centerpiece proposals of his speech to the Republican-controlled Legislature were a $348 million program to insure low- and middle-income working parents, and more than $137 million for the state's replacement program for Medicaid. In all, Blunt's budget would add up to the largest budget in state history and increases spending at a rate double the expected rise in revenues. The increases are a reversal for the governor who slashed Medicaid spending during his first year in office and removed more than 90,000 people from the state's health care rolls. Attorney General Jay Nixon (D) is challenging Blunt in this year's gubernatorial race.
To read the full text, click here .




NEBRASKA Gov. Dave Heineman (R) focused on several new tax cuts in his fourth state of the state address on Jan. 15., including nearly doubling a property tax credit that was approved last year. Heineman also proposed to the nonpartisan Legislature increasing business tax credits for companies that create at least 75 new high-paying jobs in the state. At the same time, the governor suggested transferring $15 million from the state's general fund to cover an expected shortfall in transportation funding. He also proposed pumping $10 million into new technology for the University of Nebraska system. Heineman said he plans to thrust the state into the ongoing national debate over immigration, with a call for the state and local governments to require more verification of people seeking public benefits.
To read the full text, click here .



NEW HAMPSHIRE

 

Gov. John Lynch (D) Jan. 23 called for a new "wellness" program for small businesses and a tax credit to help lure new businesses to the northern part of the state, but said a slowing economy will prevent the state from launching expensive new programs.

 

"Barring an emergency, I will not support any bills that require additional spending this year," Lynch told the Democrat-controlled Legislature.

 

Lynch urged lawmakers to create New Hampshire HealthFirst, which would require insurance companies to offer a wellness insurance plan to small businesses. Rhode Island passed similar legislation last year, he said.

 

Citing a string of company shutdowns in Coos County , Lynch proposed the state provide a $1,000 tax credit for businesses for each of the next five years for each new job that pays twice the minimum wage.

 

He also reiterated his call for a constitutional amendment on education funding that he said would allow the state to focus aid to needy districts.

 

Lynch spotlighted the state's Jan. 8 presidential primary. "(B)ecause of our engaged citizens, our record-breaking turnout, and our willingness to let the people decide - New Hampshire should and will remain the first primary in the nation.."



NEW JERSEY "It is up to those of us in this room to change the 'credit card' culture of New Jersey's finances," Gov. Jon S. Corzine (D) told legislators during a somber Jan. 8 speech focusing heavily on the Garden State's more than $30 billion debt. Corzine proposed to the Democrat-controlled Legislature a four-pronged plan to confront what he called the "financial emergency" facing the state: freezing state spending at current levels, tying future spending to revenue growth, dramatically increasing tolls on the state's roads and requiring voters to approve all future debt that doesn't have a dedicated revenue source. Acknowledging that the most controversial aspect of his plan is the toll-road component, Corzine called for a 50 percent hike in tolls starting in 2010, with subsequent hikes of up to 50 percent in 2014, 2018 and 2022. Corzine said his proposal would allow the state to eliminate $16 billion in debt in "one fell swoop" and was better than huge increases in income or gas taxes. He also vowed not to sell or lease state roads to the private sector, calling instead for a non-profit "public benefit corporation" to manage - but not own - the roads.
To read the full text, click here .




NEW MEXICO Gov. Bill Richardson (D) delivered his Jan. 15 state of the state address fresh off the campaign trail after dropping his presidential bid. After disappointing finishes in the Iowa presidential caucuses and New Hampshire primary, Richardson returned to propose universal health care to the Democrat-controlled Legislature. His plan calls for all New Mexicans to have health insurance by 2010. The state has the second highest rate of uninsured in the nation. The governor also said he will revive a bill to give same-sex couples some of the legal benefits that married couples have. Nine other states allow gay partners to enter into civil unions or domestic partnerships, while Massachusetts is the only state that sanctions same-sex marriage. Richardson said ethics and campaign finance reform would be another of his priorities during the 30-day lawmaking session.
To read the full text, click here .




NEW YORK After a year of partisan battles with the Legislature, Gov. Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat, struck a more conciliatory tone in his Jan. 9 address, outlining an ambitious package to cut property taxes, expand health care coverage and fund higher education by privatizing the state lottery. "Join me in good faith. I will meet you with an open hand, an open door and an open mind," Spitzer appealed to lawmakers. Many of Spitzer' accomplishments in his first year in office were largely overshadowed by clashes with Republican Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno. Democrats control the Assembly. One of Spitzer's boldest plans involves leasing the New York State Lottery to private investors to fund an endowment for higher education, which would be the first in the country . On health care, Spitzer proposed using state money to include 400,000 children in the state's Children's Health Insurance Program that the Bush administration last year said were ineligible for SCHIP because their families earned too much. He also unveiled a "Doctors across New York" program that would provide grants to physicians willing to move to the state's inner cities and rural areas. They would use the money to repay their medical school loans. Building on last year's $1.3 billion property tax cut, Spitzer announced he has formed a bipartisan commission to study why New York taxes are so high and whether capping property taxes levied by school districts might be a solution. He also pitched a $1 billion fund to create jobs in upstate New York. On energy, Spitzer said he would push "15 by 15," which would set a goal of reducing statewide electricity use by 15 percent from projected levels by 2015.
To read the full text, click here .




SOUTH CAROLINA Gov. Mark Sanford (R) repeated his goals for the state during his Jan. 16 speech before the Republican-controlled Legislature: restructuring the government, installing tougher drunk driving laws and increasing tax cuts. Sanford, who perennially tries to cut spending, pushed for lawmakers to pass a law limiting government spending. He also proposed again to end the state budget board and bring its duties under the executive branch. The governor proposed tightening the state's DUI laws and increasing the state's 7-cent, lowest-in-the-nation cigarette tax to be able to cut state income taxes. Sanford also asked the Legislature to repeal tax breaks aimed at specific businesses, which he called unfair to small businesses. Last year, lawmakers passed an incentives package to draw mega-sporting goods store Bass Pro Shops to the state. But Sanford backs incentives for students to graduate early: $2,000 to each student who finishes high school a year early and $1,000 for a semester early. This would cost the state less than keeping these students in school, he said.
To read the full text, click here .




SOUTH DAKOTA Gov. Mike Rounds (R) highlighted the state's energy potential in his annual state of the state address Jan. 8 and urged legislators to restrain spending on education and transportation. Rounds proposed new incentives to boost bio-diesel production and said he supports the construction of a major new oil refinery and a petroleum pipeline running from Canada through the Midwest. Both the refinery and pipeline have drawn opposition from residents and some local governments over environmental concerns. The governor also outlined before the Republican-controlled Legislature his budget proposals, focusing on a 2.5 percent increase in education spending and criticizing school districts for keeping too much money in reserve. On transportation spending, Rounds suggested cutting spending for the state highway patrol as one way to cover for the shrinking amount of state and federal gasoline tax dollars.
To read the full text, click here .



UTAH

 

Health insurance and education topped Gov. Jon Huntsman's (R) priorities when he gave his first State of the State speech in Utah 's newly remodeled Capitol on Jan. 22.

While hailing the state's economy and praising its resilience amid national uncertainty, Huntsman identified Utahns' lack of health insurance as a problem "crying out for a fix." More than 300,000 residents have no health coverage, the governor said, challenging the Republican Legislature to work toward major changes that will expand access - though he offered few specific proposals.

Huntsman also called on lawmakers to make "historic investments in education" to lure more teachers to the state, both in primary and secondary schools and in colleges. He asked legislators to raise teacher salaries and give principals more power "to reward the good teachers and replace the bad ones." He said students must take too many standardized tests and proposed a year-round school year for students who need extra help.



VERMONT Gov. James Douglas (R) called for tax reforms and environmental measures and asked the Democrat-controlled Legislature to make affordable health care its top priority in his Jan. 9 speech. For the most part, the governor proposed tweaks to current programs, rather than new initiatives. Douglas recommended lowering the top and middle-class income tax rates, but increasing the capital gains tax on investment income. He also suggested the state cut property taxes and increase school construction projects by leasing the lottery to a private concern, an idea sure to spark debate. On health insurance, Douglas called for programs to prevent obesity, reduce insurance costs for small businesses and allow more young adults to remain on their parents' insurance plans. Douglas also recommended cutting carbon emissions in the rural state by setting up a database to link commuters to carpools and helping businesses set up vanpools. He also proposed to double the number of park-and-ride spaces over the next decade.
To read the full text, click here .




VIRGINIA Gov. Tim Kaine (D) used his Jan. 9 address to call for tighter gun laws, increased mental health funding and repeal of the state's much maligned abusive driver fees. He also urged lawmakers to enact new protections against identity theft, make it easier to use absentee ballots and pump more money into pre-K and higher education. In response to the tragic shooting deaths by a mentally ill student at Virginia Tech last year, Kaine asked the politically split General Assembly to close a loophole in existing law that allows firearm purchases at gun shows without conducting a background check. To reduce identity theft, Kaine called on lawmakers to ensure consumers are notified when sensitive data is compromised and allow them to freeze their credit report to prevent thieves from opening credit in their names. Kaine sought repeal of steep traffic fines designed to promote safe driving and boost transportation revenues. The six-month-old fees drew a firestorm of protest and have not resulted in fewer accidents, he said. To making voting easier, Kaine said absentee ballots should be made available electronically to soldiers fighting in Iraq and to all citizens who cannot travel to the polls for any reason.
To read the full text, click here .




WASHINGTON Gov. Chris Gregoire (D) - facing a tough reelection bid this year against Dino Rossi, the Republican she narrowly defeated four years ago - used much of her address Jan. 15 to tout her administration's achievements, including converting a budget deficit into a "huge surplus" in three years. Under her watch, Gregoire said, Washington added 218,000 jobs and last year recorded the lowest unemployment rate in state history. But Gregoire hinted at the possibility of "less prosperous times" in the future, urged lawmakers to avoid expensive programs and leave at least $1.2 billion in the state's "rainy day" fund. Gregoire asked lawmakers to build on a recent crackdown on sex offenders that followed the murder last year of a 12-year-old Tacoma girl. Gregoire called for a program that would automatically e-mail families when a sex offender moves into their neighborhood. The governor also called on the Democrat-controlled Legislature to authorize drunk-driving checkpoints. Washington is one of 11 states that do not have such checkpoints.
To read the full text, click here .




WEST VIRGINIA Gov. Joe Manchin (D) used his Jan. 9 speech to announce a campaign to stop student bullying, a first-in-the-nation health screening program for kindergarten pupils and a free prescription drugs program for uninsured workers. He also asked the Democrat-controlled legislature for better mental health counseling for returning Iraq soldiers and a tougher anti-drug program. Revoking the driver's licenses of students who commit a serious offense, like assaulting a teacher, would be one way to curb school violence, he said. The kindergarten health program could be funded with State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) dollars and should include follow-up exams in second, fifth and eight grades, the governor said. The free prescription drug program would rely in part on donations; improved mental health counseling for returning veterans would come from churches and other community organizations, Manchin said. West Virginia's crack down on illegal drugs includes educational programs, "drug courts" and rehabilitation programs to help abusers become productive members of society, Manchin said.
To read the full text, click here .

Staff writers John Gramlich, Eric Kelderman, Christine Vestal, Daniel C. Vock and Pauline Vu contributed to this report.  
 
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