Pennsylvania Executive Budget Address 2001
By Stateline Staff
HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania - Feb. 5 - Following is the text of Gov. Tom Ridge's 2001 Executive Budget Address:
Thank you, Lieutenant Governor Schweiker and Speaker Ryan.
We the People, in order to form a more perfect union.... I told you this would be a good speech! Of course, those words belong not to me, but to the Preamble of the United States Constitution. They were written not by Jefferson or Madison, but by a 35-year-old Philadelphia lawyer named Gouverneur (GOO-ver-ner) Morris.
Listen as he describes the purpose of this amazing enterprise called America: "...Establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity."
Who else but a Pennsylvanian could have written such stirring and optimistic words? Who else would have envisioned a future for America so promising, so prosperous, so just? Morris believed that, for this young nation, greatness was within reach. Well, I believe that same spark is within Pennsylvania. We can awaken the ghosts of history and make a little history of our own. I believe greatness is within our reach.
In the last few years, we have worked to "form a more perfect Commonwealth." "Establish justice"? Victims of adult and juvenile crime finally have a Bill of Rights. "Ensure domestic tranquility?" There are fewer labor strikes than ever before. "Provide for the common defense?" Serious crimes are at their lowest levels in a decade. "Promote the general welfare?" Two hundred thousand families are now off welfare. "Secure the blessings of liberty?" We're freeing working families from the state income tax.
Six years ago I asked you to make Pennsylvania a leader among states and a competitor among nations. I asked you to "control spending," to "ensure the safety of our citizens," and to "help those who cannot help themselves." We have done those things and more. Now we must set a new goal: Greatness. This budget charts a course to take us there.
What defines a great state? One dimension is economic. A great state doesn't just become competitive -- it stays competitive even when times are tough. A state's prosperity should not rise and fall with the stock market. It should be a foundation -- firm enough for every entrepreneur to build a business; every family to build a life. Time was, when the nation's economy caught a cold, Pennsylvania got pneumonia. The business cycle used to be a real white-knuckle ride. No longer!
The fundamentals of our economy are stronger than they've been in decades. Taxes are much lower, there are fewer regulations, our energy markets are competitive, our workers' comp system works. And state government is finally under control. The growth of government spending is nearly half what it was in the ten years prior to 1995. And our Rainy Day Fund will hit a record: $1.3 billion -- 20 times larger than when we came in.
Our preparedness is timely. The economy is slowing, and pessimists talk of a recession. But there will be no white-knuckle ride. Pennsylvania can make it through the next recession without raising taxes or making drastic cuts in services!
The surest way to make our economy great is to return more money to our families. Last year Pennsylvanians enjoyed the largest tax cut in state history -- $775 million. Add it all up, and since 1995 we've cut taxes by $5.4 billion. We've come a long way from the old days and the old ways of trying to tax ourselves into prosperity!
With a slowdown looming, it's is no time to revert to old bad habits. This budget includes our 7th tax cut in seven years -- nearly $220 million. Some have characterized it as "modest". A quarter-billion dollar tax cut? "Modest"? I love it! That's clear proof that we have changed the way Harrisburg thinks! First, we will cut taxes on working families for the fifth straight year. It's called "Tax Forgiveness," and please forgive me if I boast about it. When I came into office, a working family of four making $15,400 a year still paid state income taxes.
If you accept my plan, that family will be able to earn $30,000 -- nearly double! -- without paying any state income tax. It's $840 back in their pockets -- not ours. We estimate a total of 1.2 million households will be helped.
What will families do with the extra money? Perhaps they'll buy their first home computer. Our budget offers two new "Tax-Free P.C." holidays when consumers can purchase a home computer without paying sales tax. Our first holiday was last August. Retailers called it a "phenomenal success"!
Now K.C. Dietsch TK of Philadelphia has a good idea. She sent me an e-mail (read e-mail) saying: "Please extend the tax-free week...to include items like printers, scanners, and other accessories." Okay, K.C., next year we will!
We will also make more cuts in our business taxes. Because it's not just businesses that benefit. When business taxes are high, our competitiveness suffers. And that's everybody's business. To get competitive, we've lowered Pennsylvania's taxes on job-creators by over $3.4 billion in the last six years. To stay competitive, we must keep our commitment to phase out the capital stock and franchise tax for good. It's another $172 million in relief next year alone -- another powerful signal that Pennsylvania means business.
The true test of a great economy is jobs. And Pennsylvania continues to manufacture them -- over 350,000 since the beginning of 1995. Last year it seemed like every other week I attended another jobs announcement. Corning, 1,000 new jobs. Marconi, 1,000. CIGNA, twelve hundred. Merck, 3,000. And the granddaddy of them all: 6,000 new jobs at the Vanguard Group, our largest single job creation announcement in 25 years!
Once again, I emphasize, to be great we must stay on top. We will increase our job-creation tax credits by $2.5 million. We'll invest over $37 million in customized job training, a four-fold increase from just seven years ago. And we will look to expand our tax-free Keystone Opportunity Zones to bring jobs to places that have been bypassed by our prosperity. Experts call KOZ's the "Best Targeted Economic Development Program" in the country.
Of course, a great state understands that its economy no longer stops at the water's edge. A great state seeks out global partners. The entire world is an opportunity zone! Every day barriers and borders mean less and less -- relationships mean more and more.
Last fall 40 companies joined me on our biggest trade mission ever. We visited three nations reaching for greatness themselves: Brazil, Argentina and Chile. In that nine-day trip, those 40 businesses made 850 face-to-face contacts with potential customers. Pennsylvania is introducing itself to the world -- and the world likes what it sees!
We now have 17 overseas trade offices -- more than any other state. And that's part of the reason exports are up 33 percent --creating more than 67,000 good-paying jobs. It's quite a turnaround for this Industrial Age giant -- and proof that the people most helped by trade live right here at home.
Government has a role in helping our companies and workers, but it has a responsibility to lead by example. Greatness requires that government be fluent in the language of technology. In all, our budget contains over $46 million to continue to revamp our government's technological infrastructure, from top to bottom. We've invested over $300 million already in this effort. It's paying off.
It's our 3-year project to streamline accounting, budgeting, payroll and other core functions of government.
It's our PA PowerPort Internet site -- the flagship of our "Friction-Free" government. This award-winning state website is about to log its two billionth hit!
It's our partnership with Microsoft that's standardizing software for 40,000 state computer users. Savings? Nine million dollars. And it's the conversion of our public television stations to digital -- giving the state a powerful new educational tool in the process.
Here's another high-tech achievement: two years ago we became the first state to buy supplies through an on-line auction. Let me introduce the company that made it possible: FreeMarkets. Joining us live from the 24th floor of the FreeMarkets Center in downtown Pittsburgh is Vice President David McCormick.
If you don't keep your best and brightest at home, people like David McCormick, you can't achieve greatness.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Pennsylvania's single greatest challenge -- this year, next year, for all years -- is to keep our talent at home. With our economic fundamentals in place, we have begun to reverse our decades-long "Brain Drain." In 1995, the Census Bureau projected Pennsylvania to lose 50,000 residents by the year 2000. Instead, we gained more than 230,000! It's like adding another Dauphin County to the state.
That's good, but that's not good enough. Companies tell us they want to stay in PA -- but they need the talent to grow. Students also tell us they want to stay -- but they're unaware of the job opportunities Pennsylvania has to offer.
Our number one challenge as citizens is to bring them together. Made in PA shouldn't just be a tag on our hats -- it should be the proud title of our workforce. This budget invests $10 million to turn our Brain Drain into a Brain Gain. It's a powerfulinvestment. We'll award grants for inventive local Brain Gain ideas. We'll create new internships to bring our companies and young talent together. And we'll launch a new marketing campaign to alert young people to the extraordinary opportunities in Pennsylvania. You've seen our successful "Come Invent the Future" ads. We want our young people to "Stay, Invent the Future."
But we can't kid ourselves. Marketing won't be enough. Government spending won't be enough. Our businesses must dedicate themselves to hiring Pennsylvanians. Our guidance counselors, teachers and professors must commit to helping their graduates find jobs here in Pennsylvania. We can only turn our Brain Drain into a Brain Gain when we tackle it together. If we build it --they will stay!
When people decide where to live, when companies decide where to invest, the single most important factor is education. People may come to Pennsylvania for opportunity -- but they'll stay for our schools. Our schools must be our best advertisement!
That's why, in our quest for greatness, we first set out to reform public education. All children able to read. High classroom standards. High teacher standards. Parents who know what those standards are. Rewards for good teachers and good schools. Technology in the classroom. And Pennsylvania's first charter schools -- now 21,000-students strong.
We can't stop now. This budget makes the largest increase in the basic education subsidy in ten years -- $152 million. Special education gets a 10 percent raise -- $78 million more and also the largest increase in a decade. All told, our public elementary and secondary schools will receive a record $6.4 billion. The funds will go where they're needed most. Poorer school districts will get as much as $5,000 per student. For the first time ever, school districts whose property values have declined will get extra help. Special education funds will also be targeted to poorer districts -- but all districts will get at least 5 percent more.
Once again we emphasize reading. Thanks to Harrisburg's most effective unregistered lobbyist, (First Lady) we continue our unprecedented support for libraries. They'll get a 21 percent increase in direct state aid. Twenty-one percent! We'll give our libraries $94 million --nearly triple what they were getting when we came to Harrisburg. And they deserve every penny.
The results are there for everyone to see: larger and better collections, world-class catalogues and databases, longer hours, more community support. We now rank among the top three in the nation in state support for local libraries. If its citizens can't read, a state cannot lead. So we invest in the third year of "Read-to-Succeed," our nationally recognized effort to ensure that all students read at a third-grade level by the end of the third grade.
Adult and family literacy programs, now in every county, get a 10 percent increase, including a new program to help adults earn their high school diploma. In all, it's a record $138 million investment in reading.
Now, a state shouldn't measure its greatness just by what it spends on education. The yardstick must be results. Schools that improve on past performance should be rewarded -- and they are.
Our budget contains nearly $37 million for school performance incentive grants -- a 10 percent increase. Washington is now talking about performance funding; in Pennsylvania we've been doing it.
Last year we worked together to pass the Education Empowerment Act. It's helping our most troubled school districts, where half the children are failing reading and math. This year we must turn our attention to all of our struggling students! For kids in grades 3-5 performing below grade level in reading and math, we'll give their parents up to $500 for after-school help to get them back on track. We're investing over $23 million in this innovative program. Tens of thousands of children will get another chance to master the basic skills of learning. We're not the only ones committed to these children. Concerned business leaders are ready to help too. We should reinforce such behavior. We'll create a 50 percent tax credit for employers that lend our kids a hand. Up to $30 million could be invested in scholarships and innovative public school programs.
This budget offers another public school option: "Independent Schools." Same district, same building, same faculty, same contract -- but with new freedoms and new ideas. Let's empower each of those schools with their own budget, their own leadership, their own path to greatness. Schools would be run in the best interests of the children by those who know the children best. It's a 21st Century model of educational excellence.
Finally, this budget implements statewide teacher testing -- not to target individual teachers, but to help school districts target professional development to where it's needed most. If, for example, a district's teachers excel at our math standards but lag behind on reading, districts for the first time will be able to identify and correct the problem. Thousands of school children have read the words on the wall of the State Museum, quote: "If I thought I was going to die tomorrow, I should plant a tree nevertheless today." Good advice.
Over the last six years, we have planted many trees together. We have literally rebuilt Pennsylvania's quality of life infrastructure. From roads to museums, from stadiums to state parks, we are giving our dreams a place to live.
You should all be proud of that record.
With this budget we build upon it. We begin with our State Museum. It is a wonderful place to visit, as 300,000 visitors a year [and the Ridge family] will attest. But truth be told, it needs a little work. Some exhibits haven't changed since the first time the Beatles topped the charts. Our State Museum should display dinosaurs -- not become one!
So we invest $80 million to put this Commonwealth treasure and the State Archives building back in mint condition. Another $20 million will repair and improve our 'Trail of History' -- legendary sites such as the Pennsylvania Military Museum -- the Drake Well Museum -- the Washington Crossing Historic Park -- and the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. It's a golden opportunity to achieve greatness -- to build world-class venues worthy of the stories we have to tell.
In the words of Council on the Arts Chair Susan Kemenyffy, the arts "encapsulate the soul and spirit of our humanity." As you saw in the video, the arts are a vital ingredient in our quality of life. And they're very important to this Governor. Our budget offers over $15 million for grants to the arts -- a 10 percent raise over last year and a 71 percent increase since 1994. These quality of life investments help keep Pennsylvania among the five most-visited states. We're the place to be!
Last year we hosted the Republican National Convention. This year we welcome a more straitlaced crowd: the ESPN X-Games. What do they have in common? More tourism, more jobs, more Brain Gain. Remember, "Pennsylvanian" is another word for a tourist who decides to stay!
While we're on the subject, here's another quality of life issue: energy. Pennsylvania was the second state to deregulate its electric industry -- but the first to get it right! Did you see USA Today last week? Once again we were named the number one state for electric deregulation.
Why? We have plenty of juice -- we're plugged in. Customers have greater choices. And consumers and businesses have saved over $3 billion. So if any companies in California are listening, come on over to Pennsylvania. We'll leave the lights on for you!
When it came to the wise use of our natural resources, nobody topped Governor Gifford Pinchot. He defined conservation as "the greatest good to the greatest number for the longest time."
Well, thanks to Growing Greener, we've got some pretty great numbers ourselves! Over five thousand acres of strip mines, reclaimed. Four thousand acres of wetlands, protected. Nearly 400 miles of streams, cleaned. And perhaps our greatest accomplishment: more than 36,000 acres of farmland, preserved! In fact, we've just been named the number one state for farmland preservation. Some of those responsible are with Secretary Hayes in the Gallery. Please stand and be recognized so we can thank you.
The budget contains $140 million for the third year of "Growing Greener". The budget also includes nearly $5 million for "Growing Smarter." We will further develop land-use tools, without trampling on private property rights. That's why the National Governors' Association called Pennsylvania an innovative national leader in fighting sprawl.
Our next land-use challenge is landfills. Right now Pennsylvania has more landfill space than we need -- enough, in fact, for 11 years' worth of trash. Yet the requests for new and larger landfills, mostly from out of state, keep piling up. One man's trash may be another man's treasure -- but it's Pennsylvania's problem. We must work together to pass meaningful landfill legislation.
As we reach for greatness, let us remember that the health of our state is inseparable from the state of our health. Pennsylvania has good role models here.
Benjamin Franklin and Benjamin Rush were not just Founding Fathers, but pioneers who founded America's first hospital and first free medical clinic. Together we have done much to build on their legacy. We built our Children's Health Insurance Program into a national model. Six years ago CHIP had 40,000 enrollees. Now more than 100,000 children have quality health care, with good benefits at little or no cost.
Gov. Casey would be pleased, don't you think? Today is the first time we have gathered together in this hall since his death. Let us honor him with a brief moment of silence.
We must do more for our health. The national tobacco settlement gives us that chance. We all agree the money should be used to make Pennsylvanians healthier. Now let's agree to act. You know my plan. It is a good one. I urge you to pass it now. Every day we wait means another uninsured parent goes without health care -- another grandparent is forced to move into a nursing home -- another youngster tries his or her first cigarette.
Because of the delay, we find ourselves with a one-time tobacco fund surplus. Let's use part of it to make an innovative new investment in Pennsylvania's health -- a statewide BioTech Greenhouse. It will be patterned after our Digital Greenhouse in Pittsburgh. Seeded with a $90 million investment -- and sustained by grants from the ongoing settlement -Pennsylvania's BioTech Greenhouses will be centers of discovery and magnets for talent. They will spark the research that cures disease -- and may even turn Pennsylvania into the "BioTech Valley."
I'm not the only one excited about this idea. I'd like to introduce you to Sherrill Neff, President and Chief Operating Officer of Neose [NEE-ose] Technologies in Montgomery County. Hi, Sherrill! It is my hope that our BioTech Greenhouses can someday help unlock the causes of disabilities. That will be a great day.
Until then we must continue to break down the barriers faced by Pennsylvanians with disabilities, at home and on the job. This budget invests over $400 million in state and federal funds for year four of my Disabilities Agenda. These funds will be used to tailor care to individuals and bring services to the home. A $56 million "Medicaid buy-in" program will provide new insurance options for low-income Pennsylvanians with disabilities. It will ensure the door to good jobs is always open. And this marks the second year of our five-year, $850 million commitment to persons with mental retardation and their families.
We'll get thousands of Pennsylvanians off waiting lists and into new community placements and programs. There is another group of Pennsylvanians overcoming difficult challenges. Let me take this opportunity to thank students from the Scranton State School for the Deaf for coming today. They also benefit from our budget.
A great state recognizes its greatest resource is children -- children who must grow up healthy, safe and ready to learn. That's why we invest nearly $3 billion in our children beyond education. And it's why we will direct an additional $100 million in state and federal funds for a new Early Childhood Initiative.
For thousands of families it will mean pre- and postnatal care, child nutrition, and other programs we know to work. Innovative programs, like home-based literacy, where kids learn how to read and parents learn how to help them to read. It also includes a $30 million grant program to help local communities start child-care centers. And we launch year two of CyberStart with a $10 million investment. It's our first-in-the-nation campaign to link all 4,000-plus child care centers to the Internet.
One of our greatest successes for children has been to help their parents get off welfare. Welfare reform in Pennsylvania has worked! More than 200,000 families have left cash assistance -- and not returned. For them, greatness means not just entry into the economy, but access to the American Dream.
Truly inspiring. Satreia [sah-TREE-ah] Melton and Angela Williams and their wonderful caseworkers are with us today. Please stand up and be acknowledged.
You've kept your end of the bargain -- and we'll keep ours. Our budget invests $434 million to help people get off welfare for good. Job training. Education. Child care. Rural and urban transportation assistance.
We're going to duplicate these success stories all across the Commonwealth. Our investment in people will pay dividends down the road. It will help us break the iron triangle of poverty, ignorance and violence that often locks whole communities in fear.
Six years ago, it would have been inconceivable that public safety would take up so few words in a Budget Address. But last year, once again, serious crime in Pennsylvania was down across the board. And we earned our status as the "uncontested national leader" in juvenile-crime prevention" -- with 16,000 fewer juveniles arrested.
This year's budget provides $130 million for crime-fighting and crime prevention. Our best violence-prevention tool, the Children's Partnership, gets an additional $11 million -- double last year's amount. This money will go to proven programs such as mentors, tutors and after-school activities. It will get us closer to placing Communities That Care in all 67 counties.
I also propose $43 million for safe schools and alternative education. None of us should take safety in the classroom for granted. We were reminded of that last week at North Hopewell-Winterstown Elementary School in York County. The courageous actions of the teachers and principal undoubtedly saved many young lives. That principal and those teachers are true heroes.
We'll also invest $50 million to give our State Police the latest high-tech tools to fight crime. We'll install computers in eleven hundred patrol cars. It will help cut paperwork time in half. It's like deploying an extra 200 troopers on the streets and highways.
A great state -- a great democracy -- starts with its elections. Florida was a wake-up call for all 50 states. Ours is a patchwork quilt of mechanical voting machines, modern electronic balloting and plain old punchcards, chads and all.
Our system of elections -- the basic infrastructure of our democracy -- must be made worthy of the voters' trust. My budget includes $8.5 million to create a statewide integrated voter registration system. We will allow all counties to track and share voter-registration data. Voter rolls will be made more accurate, and voter fraud more difficult.
Our state Constitution says, "Elections shall be free and equal." Are we sure they are?
I will soon sign an Executive Order creating a task force to find out. We'll partner with legislators and county officials to examine every stage in the process: from ballot design to vote-counting to certification. We'll look at how technology and the Internet can play a role in our elections. Already our Department of State is partnering with Cumberland County on an on-line voting project.
The people of Pennsylvania have legitimate questions. We're going to get some answers -- and act on what we find.
In the meantime, there are more elections this year - judicial races. You may have heard me say, from time to time, that we should trust the people. But we cannot ask the people to make good judgments on judicial candidates, when we expressly prohibit those candidates from sharing their views on the issues. It makes no sense.
The federal government and 27 states have shown that appointing judges works. I ask you to pass, by the end of this two-year session, a referendum to change the way we select our appellate judges. Let's put the question before the people of Pennsylvania.
Finally, I ask that we work together to update our 44-year-old Open Records law. Times have changed, but this law sure hasn't. It didn't even contemplate the photocopier, let alone electronic record-keeping! We will propose a series of amendments to make public information easier to request and faster to obtain -- with stricter penalties for officials who refuse to respond.
I respectfully suggest one other change: to include the General Assembly under this law. The General Assembly of 44 years ago may have feared disclosure. This one need not.
After my first Oath of Office, I addressed many of you. I asked us to work together to make Pennsylvania a leader among states and a competitor among nations. Ladies and Gentlemen, we have done just that. Now, together, we can reach for greatness. We've done it before. Earlier I spoke of Gouverneur Morris. He was not a native of the Commonwealth. He was born and raised in New York. But at age 27 he came to Pennsylvania -- because it was the economic, cultural and political heart of America. He was one of our first Brain Gain successes!
Morris first became a successful businessman -- then an influential Founding Father. He came to Pennsylvania to find opportunity. He stayed to build a nation. Greatness is Pennsylvania's legacy. Greatness must be our destiny.
Today, you and I --"We the People" -- begin.