Utah State of the State Address 2000

 

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah - Jan. 17 - Following is the full text of Gov. Mike Leavitt's 2000 State of the State Address:

Good evening President Beattie, Speaker Stephens, members of the Legislature, Chief Justice Howe, Lieutenant Governor Walker and my fellow Utahns.

Tradition requires the State of the State address on the opening day of the Legislature. Timing allows it to coincide with remembrances of Martin Luther King Jr. I join you tonight in acknowledgment of both.

Tonight we stand on the edge of two millennia, looking back on one and straining to see as far into the next as time's light extends. We've seen the passage of a century in a state barely older than a century. We've welcomed the dawn of 2000. We are the lucky ones who drew this date with destiny and with it the assignment to match expectations of great hope with actions worthy of this place and this moment. The possibilities are endless.

I watched on New Year's Eve as millennium celebrations unfolded in each time zone across the globe the fireworks from Beijing to Paris; the prayers offered by entire islands in the South Pacific; the exuberance of America, from Times Square to Gallivan Plaza. It was a sight never before seen the entire Earth celebrating a single event in a similar way.

Now the corner has been turned. A new century is here, and with it a world transition to an era of unprecedented reach and connectivity. At the last turn of the century, Utah was four years old. In 1900, most Americans went out in the fields to work. It was still a nation of dirt roads and kerosene lamps. The paper clip and cable car were newly patented. The first trans-Atlantic telegraph had been sent.

One day, 100 years ago, my great-grandfather, George Okerlund, waited at a port in Europe, hoping a ship from America carried a letter from his family in Utah. Communication was an arduous journey by horse, boat and train. Fastforward a century. I was in Europe on a trade mission. I got up in the middle of the night to check the Jazz playoff game on the Internet. A familiar voice interrupted. "You've got mail." The e-mail was from my 8-year-old son, Westin. "Dear Dad. I just stapled my thumb. Love, Westin."

I could picture Westin in my study, stapling drawings into a scrapbook. A staple in the thumb is world news for someone, so he reached for a tool now commonplace: the Internet. My son's message traveled the same distance as my great-grandfather's letters. Instead of three months, it took three seconds. This is our world now, where an 8-year-old can reach across continents for instantaneous sympathy and comfort from a father. It is not about distance and boundaries anymore. It is about networks, bandwidth and knowledge.

Technological advances are coming fast and furious in business, medicine, communications and even life spans. "E" is the hot prefix ... e-mail, e-commerce, e-Utah. Fitting then, that the key to success in this brave new world is another e-word: Education.

EDUCATION

It begins with a simple formula: invest more; expect more. ver the past seven years, our state has invested aggressively in education. We have built or replaced nearly 100 schools, added technology, reduced class sizes, hired more than 1,700 teachers, and we now pay teachers substantially better. We are producing better-than-average results on less money per student than any other state. But prosperity in the new economy will demand superiority.

I have proposed a 7.4 percent increase in our public school budget aggressive, but achievable. It can be done by re-balancing spending on roads and schools. Our investment in better roads is sound, but our efforts to pay bonds off seven years early have diluted our education investment. We can restore balance by prepaying the road bonds at a more moderate pace. We must "invest more, expect more" in public education.

"Expect more" means accountability. Accountability occurs when a student walks through the door and a parent asks about homework; when a teacher keeps parents informed; when schools stretch every student; when success is rewarded and low performance brings action. Accountability is measuring how much our children learn. It is our entire state holding itself to higher standards.

Utah has a core curriculum defining what every child should learn. But there's a problem. Our standardized tests don't measure how much of the core curriculum a student has mastered. Improving accountability requires that we do this. The Legislative Task Force on Standards and Accountability has recommended a system called UPASS the Utah Performance Assessment System for Students. UPASS would measure what we expect students to know. I add my support to their idea.

By the spring of this year, the State School Board should be prepared to answer what constitutes basic mastery of each subject at each grade. That standard must be set with the world in mind. With a definition of what students should know and a way of measuring it, we can define our ultimate expectations, our goals and aspirations. The State School Board needs to set annual targets for improvement, and we must move relentlessly forward until we are among the education leaders, particularly in math, reading and language arts.

These are not modest goals. They will stretch our students, teachers, parents and schools, but it is the type of performance that will be necessary to prosper in the global market.

NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND

In the 21st century, I see schools reaching for greater success, no matter what the starting point. I see us strengthening our commitment without lowered standards or expectations to children disadvantaged by language barriers, economic circumstance or parental indifference. We must sharpen our focus on reading, because no child can be left behind.

Last summer, my high school class held a reunion. For the first time in years I saw my friend Danny Yergenson, who grew up with me on Seventh West in Cedar City. Dan asked if I knew where Jim Miller, our fifth grade teacher, was now. "In the fifth grade," he said, "I had a difficult secret, and Jim Miller figured it out. I couldn't read. Every day, he found an excuse to keep me in for recess and worked with me. He taught me to read and convinced me I was smart. And it changed my life."

Jim Miller refused to leave Danny behind. We need more Mr. Millers, more volunteers, more parents who read to their children every day. And we must expand last year's reading initiative, which enhances teacher training and would stamp out illiteracy by the third grade. Actually, that night at the reunion, I told Danny I had seen Mr. Miller. Jim Miller is Utah's adjutant general, and he's here tonight with Danny, who is now Dr. Dan Yergenson, psychologist.


Reading, reading, reading. No child can be left behind.

HIGHER EDUCATION

In today's world, it's not how big you are but how fast. In the 20th century, the dominant sector was heavy manufacturing the automobile. Let me show you what it is today. This device is called the Utah Electrode Array. It was designed and built by the University of Utah's department of bio-engineering. This little chip has 100 tiny micro-needles that "talk" to neurons in the human brain. When it's clamped into the optical regions, it re_creates the visual sense for the blind. Study is under way to see if it may also have applications for the paralyzed.

One hundred years ago, the revolution was the paper clip. Today we are talking about an invention that can restore sight and movement. These are 21st century breakthroughs and 21st century jobs for graduates with the skills to fill them all part of an interdependent relationship of public education, higher education and a vibrant economy. Post-secondary education and training are the ticket to success; the turnstile to an economy's power and primacy. That has always been the case. It is even more certain today. In today's global economy, the skills of the workforce will determine the ability to compete.

Today, we have 120,000 students in our higher education system. In 10 years, we'll add 60,000 more. This pool of skilled young people is our state's greatest economic asset, and our master planning must reflect that. I have challenged the Board of Regents to enable more students in more areas of the state to obtain degrees more quickly. I also have challenged them to double the number of engineering and computer science graduates. The motto could be: More People. More Education. Faster.

GLOBAL ECONOMY

Our economic development strategy is equally straightforward. For seven years, our aim has been to create an environment where business can operate profitably. And it is working. Over the last 10 years, 300,000 new jobs have been created in Utah. Our household incomes have jumped from 21st in the nation to eighth. Unemployment has all but vanished. While expressing my continued optimism about our economic future, I would also like to voice a word of caution. Economies operate in cycles. At times over the past seven years, our economy has been so hot it produced unsustainable growth. Now, we are like a jet descending gently toward a lower altitude. The glide path has been almost perfect, but we cannot allow complacency to slow our momentum. We need 25,000 new family-wage jobs every year or our children will move out of state to find them. We need to be sharp and we need to be aggressive.

A quick update on the digital state initiative: The central goal is high-speed, high-capacity Internet service in every community of Utah within two years. We're on schedule. More than 80 percent of all households along the Wasatch Front now have access to high_speed Internet services. Statewide, the number is 55 percent. That is unmistakable progress, but we have work to do in rural Utah.

Two years ago, I introduced a plan to help our rural communities become 21st century communities. More than 100 of them have accepted that challenge. Utah businesses likewise are learning to respond to global forces and operate in an international arena. In the past, very little of our business was in imports or exports. That is changing. Utah's international trade has risen 400 percent in the past decade. We have a formal trade presence in 18 countries. In 2002, we'll also have the Olympics and a platform for worldwide networking. We must capitalize on that without apology or limit. The world is welcome here.

TAXATION

I'll turn now to taxes. Ronald Reagan governed by a belief I share: The taxing power of government must not be used for regulation or social change, only to provide revenues for legitimate government purposes. In seven years, we have reduced taxes 29 times in Utah for a total of $1 billion. This year, I propose tax cut No. 30 a $20 million cut in the unemployment tax. I would also like to open a discussion on two new long-term changes: First, a radical simplification of our sales tax system. The dramatic expansion of e-commerce has made our existing system obsolete. It requires a new approach and a level playing field. Utah's Main Street businesses cannot survive if they collect sales tax and their e-tail competitors do not. Second, I propose a complete elimination of the sales tax on food. That revenue can be replaced by fixing the e-tail/retail inequity. New money collected on remote sales should be used for tax reduction, not bigger government. This way, everyone wins. Every citizen saves money on bread and butter. Retail businesses get their level playing field. This adjustment cannot be immediate. It will take several years. But tomorrow I will sign the first executive order of the year 2000, directing the Utah Tax Review Commission to begin preparing this tax reduction and simplification plan for presentation in a future legislative session.

Let me turn now to quality of life which encompasses healthy citizens, safe places to live and safe places to learn the ultimate gauge of whether leadership has been visionary or transitory.

TRANSPORTATION

The Interstate 15 reconstruction project is 18 months away from completion. Light rail is packed. Legacy Parkway and other projects are moving forward. Our transportation vision has been sweeping, but we are not done yet. Three years ago, we established the Centennial Highway Fund to pay for a list of road projects that covers nearly every city and county. Let me say unequivocally tonight, we will build every one of them. A lot can happen in a decade. Environmental issues, regulations and federal funding all are factors. Circumstances of these road projects may change, but let me repeat, every Centennial project will be built.

CRIME AND SAFETY

Roads are not much help if people are afraid to leave their homes. Tonight I can report that the good guys are winning. In 1998, Utah's crime rate dropped 11.3 percent. Violent crime decreased 7.8 percent and property crime rates fell 11.5 percent. The decline continues. When 1999 statistics are tabulated, Utah will see some of the lowest crime rates in 20 years. The reasons are many: expanded prisons, more law enforcement, community policing and prevention. And this year, I propose an attack on substance abuse specifically, that we cut substance abuse in half among three populations: offenders, public assistance recipients and youth. One proven way to do this is drug courts. Where used now, they have produced a 95% success rate. Drug courts help repair torn families and wrecked lives. Let's go with what works and take drug courts statewide.

ENVIRONMENT

Since new years bring resolutions, it is my aspiration that the second millennium start with historic progress on public land disputes. We can begin that process by solving the wilderness question. We have an unprecedented opportunity the first time a governor, interior secretary and congressional delegation have been this close to agreement. This is the moment. Let us define what will be wilderness, protect it and move forward so we have a sustainable economy and a sustainable environment. Rural Utah needs certainty in order to move on with 21st century planning, and tonight I'm pleased to announce another step in that direction. The School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration and the Bureau of Land Management have reached an agreement on an exchange of school trust lands for lands owned by the BLM. Under the agreement, the school children of our state will acquire approximately 128,000 acres in Box Elder, Tooele, Juab, Millard, Beaver, Iron and Washington counties. These are lands that can benefit local economies. BLM receives 118,000 acres of lands for protection. This is the second largest land swap in the state's history.

This transaction would be part of the West Desert Wilderness Bill being sponsored by Congressman Jim Hansen. When I became governor, the school trust fund was $18 million. Today the fund is $350 million. This transaction is another major boost toward our goal of having $1 billion in the school trust by 2007. In the meantime, Utah will continue to defend historic access to public lands and R.S.2477 rights_of_way. That fight will be the highest priority of our Constitutional Defense Fund.

QUALITY OF LIFE

There are other ways to extend our vision and extract guarantees from this era of possibility. Wise growth planning is one way. That encompasses a new ethic of water conservation, open space preservation and the efforts of Envision Utah to foretell our future needs for housing, recreation and livable communities. How about caring for the truly needy while fostering self-reliance? Programs like the Children's Health Insurance Program and the new foster care foundation currently training more than 800 Utah families to provide a safe harbor for abused and neglected children. How about the state welfare initiatives that have reduced state welfare roles by nearly two-thirds? How about limiting possession of guns in our churches and in our schools? What about those 17 days two winters from now, when the world focuses on Utah for the 2002 Olympics?

Let anyone who looks see the complete Olympic montage: The dejection of failed bids finally giving way to jubilation ... The shock and frustration of scandal ... The efforts we took to redeem our name ... And the positive images that will outlast this event for generations.

I see a photo album like no other: A volunteer directing traffic at Snowbasin; a street in Heber City bustling with tourists; welcome signs printed in a hundred different languages; a hockey arena; Olympic pin trading; a child embracing diversity and a torch proclaiming solidarity among our people and the world. When our great_great grandchildren look back to compile the list of defining events of the 21st century, the 2002 Olympics will be there as an undisputed triumph. We can leave these legacy: superior schools and universities, 21st century economy, a simplified tax system, better roads, safer communities, protected lands and protected rights, and a reputation of quality in the world and one other.

CAPITOL RENOVATION

Tonight, as I left my office to come here, I had the same feeling of awe I've felt time and again in the corridors of this Capitol. There is no grander symbol of a state and its people. It took great care and expense to craft this masterpiece 90 years ago, and it has withstood decades of weather and wear. But time has caught up with it, and structural flaws are appearing. I propose that we restore this great symbol of our heritage as a commemoration of the millennium as a tribute to the past, an obligation of the present and a gift of eternal optimism to generations of the future. It will be expensive and complicated. It will take planning and public input. But we can do it. To get us started, I propose that we commit ourselves to proceed with planning and establishment of a Capitol Restoration Fund. We can create a down payment using the state share of funds that will be returned from the Olympics, along with $15 million this year from inheritance tax collections. That has a certain symmetry. Original construction of the capitol was funded largely through the estate of the early Union Pacific president Edward H. Harriman. This is more than restoring a building or replacing concrete and steel. It is renewal of ourselves our finest achievements, our best hopes and our sense of endless possibility.

CONCLUSION

I'll close tonight with an introduction. I'd like you to meet Mr. Kenneth Burnett. Mr. Burnett is 105 years old. He was born in 1895 when Utah was still a territory. And these two babies are Brinlee Shepard and Cameron Dunn, the first babies of the new millennium in Utah who were both born a second after midnight this New Year's. Mr. Burnett's life spans three centuries; Brinlee's and Cameron's three weeks. But together we are Utah, past, present and future. And we stand witness to this incredible moment when we looked back on the 20th century and at the same time looked forward into the 21st, as far as time's light extends. The 20th was known as the American Century, and the vision, the ability and indomitable spirit that defined that century will personify the 21st. We must expect greater things from this nation and its 45th state. And then we must achieve them.

Let it be said of Utah long after we are gone that we made the transition to the Information Age; that we faced every challenge without wavering. Let them say we believed and we cared, and that our commitment to every generation was foremost. May God bless this state as generously this century as He has in the one now passed. Thank you, good night.

 
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