Wisconsin State of the State Address 2001

 

MADISON, Wisconsin - Feb. 1 - Following is the full text of Gov. Scott McCallum's 2001 State of the State Address:

Chief Justice Abrahamson, Governor Thompson, Governor Schreiber, Governor Dreyfus, Governor Earl, members of the Wisconsin Legislature, members of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, my wife Laurie, my children, mom, dad, my fellow citizens of the great state of Wisconsin: I stand before you today, before my family, and before God a very humble man.

Humbled by the responsibility and the privilege which has been conferred upon me today. Humbled by the presence of my family and so many of my friends here today. Humbled by the majesty of this moment. There is no higher honor this state can confer on one of its sons or daughters than to call upon one of them to serve as your governor. I embrace that honor with an enthusiastic and grateful heart.

The factory worker's son is following the grocer's son to the state's highest office. Two native sons of this state have risen from the most modest of beginnings to become governor of this great state and -- in so doing -- have reaffirmed the belief that America is indeed a land of boundless opportunity. A place where achievement can still be measured by one's ability to dream big dreams, work hard and set high goals.

To my family I want to say "Thank you." Thank you for always being there when I needed you. Thank you for supporting me throughout all my years in public life. Thank you for the many sacrifices you have made - in ways big and small - which helped bring this day about. To my good friend and colleague Governor Thompson, I want to say "Thank you" for your 14 years of service as governor of this state which you so clearly - and so dearly - love. Wisconsin has benefited in so many ways from your leadership and courage. I'm sure I speak for everyone here today when I say we wish you the very best as you leave your native state to answer the nation's call in Washington.

To the current crop of fourth grade "Kickapoo Kids" who are here today, and their teachers, Lacy Vingers and Shari Von Ruden, I say thank you for adopting Wisconsin's Lieutenant Governor as your class project. All the kids who have passed through fourth grade in Kickapoo have been a special part of my life and I am so happy this year's class could be with us today. Thanks also to Superintendent Tom Simmonson and Principal Brenda Pedretti for accompanying the class here today.

I'm also pleased that so many of the kids I have coached over the years in various sports are also here today. As proud as I am to wear the title of Governor, I say -- with no hesitation -- that I am prouder of the titles "Dad" and "Coach."

And so it begins. A new administration, part old, part new, but ALL Wisconsin. One of Wisconsin's most famous sons, Robert M. La Follette, said in 1924: "America is not made. It is in the making." La Follette . . . in referring to what he called "The unending struggle to make and keep government representative," said: "Each should pocket a patriotic duty to build at least a part of his life into the life of his country, to do his share in the making of America."

My friends: I say to you today that Wisconsin is not made, it too is in the making. All who call Wisconsin home have a responsibility to build a part of our lives into the fabric of this state and each of us must do our share in the making of Wisconsin. This is the duty citizenship places on all of us, from the governor to the farmer in Shullsburg to the storeowner in Eau Claire to the shipbuilder in Sturgeon Bay to the factory worker in Milwaukee. Or to the mothers and fathers all across this state who devote their days to the care and nurturing of their children. Our titles may be different. Our roles may be different. Our daily routines may not be the same. But, when it comes to citizenship and active participation in our democracy, our job description is identical.

We are equals before God, before the law, before one another, and before that expression of democratic faith given voice through the words imbedded in our Declaration of Independence: "All men are created equal." We are all part of the making of Wisconsin.

Aristotle said, "A state is not a mere society, having a common place, established for the prevention of mutual crime and for the sake of exchange. Political society exists for the sake of noble actions, and not of mere companionship." The nobility of our actions is a judgment best left to history, but we should leave no doubt as to the nobility of our intentions. We are here to do the people's business and it is the people's business I shall do.

Government has a great purpose in serving the people through the provision of services only government can or should provide, but government cannot provide for every need or every desire or every whim, nor should it. Government can work to guarantee equal opportunity but government cannot guarantee equal results. The compact between government and the governed is a delicate balance of state responsibility and individual responsibility. In carrying out its unique set of responsibilities, government holds in its hands the awesome power to levy taxes on the citizenry, and the people of this state have generously shared in the making of this great state.

But great leaders and great states must be careful never to abuse the power to tax. Many generations of Wisconsin taxpayers have given us the finest system of state parks in the nation, the best schools, the finest roads, the cleanest water and a high quality of life. All of this must be preserved for future generations. However, sometimes it's necessary to conserve in order to preserve. For too long, Wisconsin has ranked near the top of every national survey when it comes to measuring overall tax burden. Wisconsin taxpayers have supported this level of taxation for too long. It's now time for government to demand less so our citizens can do more for themselves and their families.

Consequently, my first priority as governor will be do as much as I can to change the perception - and the reality - of Wisconsin being a high tax state. For anyone who doubts my intent on this score, I say watch me. Thomas Jefferson, in his first inaugural address, referred to "a wise and frugal government ...which ... shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned." Easing the tax burden on state taxpayers will require a new spending discipline on the part of Wisconsin's government, but it is time. We must do this to protect Wisconsin families and Wisconsin jobs. A stifling tax rate is not only a burden on taxpayers and their families it is a burden, which threatens to undo the many economic gains we have made in Wisconsin over the past 14 years.

A stifling tax rate also makes it more difficult for citizens and government to do those things which most need to be done for working adults, their aging parents and the next generation. I want to make a Wisconsin where all parents are able to provide for their children and their aging parents. I want to make a Wisconsin where people can grow old with dignity and pride and have the assurance of good health care and a comfortable life. I want to make a Wisconsin where no one has to worry about high taxes driving them out of their home or out of the state they love. I want to make a Wisconsin where college and technical school graduates will find the high-skill, high-wage jobs which will make this state the best place to establish their career or raise a family. We need you right here at home. We need you to be part of the making of Wisconsin.

But to succeed in these endeavors, we will need to lower Wisconsin's taxes and that is what I will do. Four hundred years before the birth of Christ, the Greek philosopher Plato wrote: "The direction in which education starts a man will determine his future." As we enter the third millennium after the birth of Christ, these words echo down through the ages as truth. Wisconsin can proudly claim to have the best schools in the nation, but some of our children are not rising to their full potential in a system meant to be their instrument of success, and losing just one child is one too many for me. In addition, the emerging global economy demands that the performance of Wisconsin students be benchmarked against the best schools in the world. We should not be satisfied with anything less. Our children deserve nothing less. Wisconsin will leave no child behind. Wisconsin will not fall behind. No exceptions. No excuses.

As we near the end of the ten-year restoration of the most beautiful state capitol in America, let us now begin the process of restoring a higher level of civil discourse to the debates, which will unfold under this magnificently refurbished dome. In so doing, let us remember the words of John F. Kennedy: "Civility is not a sign of weakness." We come here from different parts of the state. We come here from different political parties. We come from different backgrounds, different philosophies. Our families may come from different parts of the world. But we come here to do the people's business, to serve one state. We are not here to serve one party, one ideology or one person. I say politics may be a great argument but it need not be a great divide. There is more to unite us than there is to divide us. So let us act accordingly.

William Shakespeare said, "These trees shall be my books." And I say, "Our actions shall be our legacy." Let's work hard to be proud of what we leave behind. Let's be mindful of the fact that the legacy we make for ourselves through word and deed will shape what our children, our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren will think of what we did with our time -- and with our lives.

But before we set our hands and our hearts to work, let's savor this special moment in time. Let's relax and enjoy the priceless fellowship of friends and family. Let's be humbled by the historic majesty of this event and this setting. And then tomorrow, after this glorious day has taken flight, let's get back to the making of Wisconsin. Thank you.

 
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