Washington State of the State Address 2001
By Stateline Staff
OLYMPIA, Washington - Jan. 10 - Following is the full text of Gov. Gary Locke's 2001 State of the State Address:
A FIRM FOUNDATION FOR THE FUTURE
Mr. President, Mr. Speakers, Honorable Chief Justice, distinguished Justices of the Supreme Court, members of the Consular Association, statewide elected officials, members of the Washington State Legislature, citizens of Washington. It's been an honor to have served the people of Washington for four years and it is a privilege to serve four more.
I'm excited about the prospects before us. I am humbled by our large margin of victory: maybe because of the influx of people fleeing the energy crisis in California; or my new haircut; or because I'm the bold, dynamic leader the press makes me out to be.
Whatever the reason, I want to thank the people of our state for their confidence in me to lead our state for another four years. Let me also take this opportunity to introduce and thank my family who have been so supportive all of these years and so instrumental to my success.
This 57th Legislature is the first of the new century and we must ask ourselves: What are the ingredients for prosperity in this new century?
- a transportation system that works,
- an education system that enriches every child,
- enough water and energy to meet the needs of our people and our industries.
Let's focus on those basics and get to work
Over the past four years I've traveled our state from corner to corner. I've met people thrilled to be off of welfare, now holding down jobs that pay well. I've seen children in our schools beaming because they've participated in the Reading Corps and are now great readers. Young adults, the first in their families to go to college thanks to the Promise Scholarship. Young parents who now have low-cost health insurance for their children for the first time. Each individual I meet reinforces in me the belief that the job of state government is to provide the foundations upon which our citizens can build quality lives.
Legislators and those of us sworn in today...we're ordinary people entrusted to do extraordinary things. Nothing is more extraordinary, more rewarding, than helping to fulfill the hopes, dreams, and desires of the very people who make this the vibrant state that it is.
This 57th Legislature marks a time of passage. Yesterday we said farewell to three statewide elected officials. And we begin this session in remembrance because of the passing of State Representative Pat Scott, Senator George Sellar, and Tour Coordinator Don Shaw. All three accomplished extraordinary things. We will miss them. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families. Let's carry their spirit with us through this session. Families like yours and mine want to spend more time with each other instead of being stuck in traffic.
We want to know our children will get the very best education...with the best teachers in the best learning environments.We want clean, cool water for our families and fish, and enough affordable energy to light our homes, cook our meals and power our industries. These are the basics.
We cannot predict the future.
100 years ago our nation couldn't have known we would soar the heavens... or communicate across the globe with the click of a button... and that much of that progress would originate right here... because of the insight and innovation of people in the State of Washington.
But we do know future generations will need transportation, education, water and energy so they can build their lives on solid ground.
TRANSPORTATION: TIME TO PUT THE PEDAL TO THE METAL
Given our population growth, two million new vehicles will hit our roads over the next twenty years. After Referendum 49 and Initiative 695, however, we have less money for transportation today than we did ten years ago. Our state's record on transportation has been nothing but a series of fits and starts for too many years. Projects begun but never finished; solutions presented then dismissed... Years wasted. If we don't fix our transportation problems now, our businesses won't grow...they'll leave our state. If we don't have businesses, we won't have jobs. It's that simple. Our traffic congestion is among the worst in the nation and we're losing two billion dollars a year in productivity because of it. A state that gave a "turbo charge" to the Information Superhighway should not have a transportation system that's out of gas. The Legislature created the Blue Ribbon Commission on Transportation. I embrace its solutions. Bipartisan remedies are right in front of us. Remedies that were two and a half years in the making. We all campaigned promising transportation improvements. Any mention of needing more time to think about this is out of the question. It's time to Get Washington...Moving...Now. Are you with me?
We will make our Department of Transportation as lean and efficient as it can possibly be. There is no reason we can't enact these reforms within the first few weeks of this session. We must reach agreement on critical projects to be completed within the next six years. This summer we're breaking ground on a new traffic lane to eliminate the snarl at I-405 and Highway 167 in Renton. But we'll add to that.
The new transportation plan I've presented will also:
- widen lanes on I-90 in Spokane,
- extend HOV lanes on I-5 all the way from Everett to Tacoma,
- widen SR 17 to four lanes in Moses Lake,
- separate downtown train and auto traffic in Yakima and Seattle.
- Guarantee transit services for seniors and vulnerable adults.
- and replace our pre-Depression era ferries.
These are just some of the projects I've proposed to improve congestion across our state. All are solutions we can implement right now for the greatest good.
You may wonder: how will we pay for this? Well, we're not just going to drop a pile of money on the table and then figure out how to spend it. My proposal is a deliberate strategy to get results. Only after we agree on these improvements will I outline and recommend a funding plan. We will stay in session until we've agreed on all three: efficiencies, projects, and funding. People of Washington: especially those of you listening on your car radios because you're stuck in traffic: hold...us...accountable. We will move on transportation-just like we did for Education.
EDUCATION: AT THE THRESHOLD OF EXCELLENCE
My vision of education is straightforward: great learning, great teaching and great leadership. With the hard work of this Legislature and the firm and active support of our citizens we have reached the threshold of educational excellence with higher expectations of both students and teachers. We've made great strides. More and more of our students are exceeding our tough new academic standards. You, the people, have responded with tremendous enthusiasm. Last year I proposed class-size reduction without a tax increase. When the Legislature didn't respond I helped put it on the ballot as Initiative 728 which swept through our state, county after county, passing by more votes than any initiative in our history. Because people care passionately about improving our education system. It's their number one priority. But this isn't only about money. Lawmakers, I call on you to join me. We will give educators the power and the tools to spend that money effectively. We will not leave Olympia this session until we've removed the barriers hindering academic performance and great teaching. Specifically, we'll agree to abolish the current education code and have a new one in place by 2004. To get the ball rolling, I propose to waive regulations for schools that want to set even higher achievement standards... and to reward schools for meeting those goals.
Exceptional teachers deserve exceptional compensation. If we're to attract and retain the best teachers-in the face of a national teacher shortage, we must change the way we pay them.
My proposal calls for select school districts to lead the way and design a new teacher compensation system based on knowledge, skill and performance. To further encourage great teaching, we will adopt alternative certification programs for teachers. If a Microsoft retiree wants to teach math she should be able to do so without going back to college for a teaching degree. The Professional Standards Board we created just six months ago has devised a quicker way for qualified people to get into the classroom. So a person can retire from one profession in May and be teaching by September.
You know, just recently a Dean of a teaching college applied to be a school principal. She has a Ph.D. She's taught hundreds of the teachers in our schools. The school wanted to hire her; she wanted the job. But it went to someone else. Why? Because the education code says to be a principal in a Washington school, you have to be a certificated teacher. So we have an expert who can't enter the school. It's time we stop letting the education code hinder our schools...and we start doing things the right way. It's time to enact the Board's alternative certification recommendations.
Finally, a good learning environment has to be a safe one. Until now, only schools that applied received money for school safety. Safety is as essential as the three R's. So this year, each and every school will get safety money. Great Learning, Great Teaching, Great Leadership. That's where we're headed. This session we'll empower our teachers and our schools to move to the next level of performance so our children can do the same.
WATER: A CENTURY BEHIND
You know, we humans can't last a week without water. (Some of us can only go a few minutes). No one has to tell us the importance of water. We need it for people, wildlife and agriculture. Our water laws are not in concert with present reality. That sentiment was expressed 25 years ago by Governor Dan Evans. Virtually no progress has been made since then. Indeed, our water laws have hardly changed in 100 years even though we have five times as many people. We have towns battling farmers for water. We have businesses battling fish. Towns battling towns.
Some of our cities have been forced to enact building moratoriums... No new homes, no new businesses, some rivers and streams are drying up Why? There isn't enough water to accommodate growth. We will not have the paved troughs that pass for rivers in Los Angeles. So, I say it again in 2001, "Our water laws are not in concert with reality."
This session we will make progress. We're not going to leave until we've reformed our water permitting process so people aren't waiting years for a simple, non-controversial permit. We had an agreed-upon remedy last year. There's no reason why we can't pass that remedy in the first few weeks of this session. We must put common sense into our water laws. Incentives for water conservation, re-use, and storage are critical. We will let those who conserve keep a portion of the water they save, and compensate citizens for water they put back in our streams for fish. My "Yakima Water Action Plan" is a great example of how to provide water for people, fish and farms. Let's get the work done.
ENERGY: A CLEAN AND SUSTAINABLE FUTURE
Our fourth challenge this session is energy. We have greater demands for electricity than ever before. Energy is as essential to our economy as water is to life. Thank goodness we said,"no" to energy deregulation three years ago...look what's happened to California. But we still face a crisis we must address immediately. Georgia Pacific laid off 850 people just before Christmas. 850 families were hit. Why the layoffs? Georgia Pacific could not afford its power bill.
I'm proposing tax breaks so utilities can convert part time polluting generators into full-time, clean generators.and tax breaks for companies who want to produce their own permanent power, thereby freeing up electricity for the rest of us. I'm also calling for tax breaks for citizens and businesses buying clean and renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and fuel cells.
I'm calling for utilities to diversify their energy sources so our citizens aren't hurt when price- or supply-problems hit a particular industry such as natural gas or hydroelectric. And I propose financial assistance so low-income citizens don't go without power during the cold winter months. These solutions are necessary for the future of our state and we have no excuse not to act.
Folks at home? We must conserve. We only have so much energy, and we need to treat it as a precious resource. It's going to take each and every one of us. Tonight, at my Inaugural Ball, for the first time in history the traditional "three miles of lights" along Capital Way will not be lit. The Capital Dome will remain dark. We must all do our part.
CONCLUSION: ORDINARY PEOPLE EMPOWERED TO DO EXTRAORDINARY THINGS
This budget was one of the toughest I've ever written...and I've written plenty. We've made reductions. Especially in human services and in the number of state workers. Services benefiting real people; state workers with families to support. Reductions I didn't want to make but had to:
- to pay for unavoidable costs,
- to better protect our children,
- and to move our state forward.
Our state faces real problems demanding real solutions. The people who can provide those solutions are right here in this room. They're the people watching on television, listening on the radio, the people who will read this in tomorrow's paper, all of you.
I'm enormously proud of the people of Washington. We have never been afraid to tackle the big issues. We're a state that built the airplanes that connect the world. We pioneered a whole new economy based on technology and information. We cleaned up rivers and streams after 100 years of pollution. In that innovative and can-do spirit, let us embrace the opportunities and challenges before us.
Legislators and statewide elected officials: we can do the work ahead of us. We are ordinary people entrusted to do extraordinary things...but it's within our ability. We can find solutions. We can reach agreement. As I've said before...25, 50, 100 years from now citizens won't remember what parties we belonged to, but rather what we accomplished. We must put politics aside and get to work. I want us to leave this session proud that we've solved the tough issues. Let's make our citizens proud.
Thank you and God bless.