Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Governor Christine Gregoire arrives for State of the State Address

The Joint Legislative Session is in progress can watch on TVW. The Governor got a pretty good reception. Plenty of cheers and extended applause - from both caucuses, apparently. Probably just polite applause from the Republicans.

Lt. Governor Brad Owen announced the arrival of several other dignitaties - the nine justices of the State Supreme Court, several statewide elected officials (everyone except for the state treasurer, it seems).

Other special guests: Former Governors Rosellini and Gardner, Congressman Jay Inslee, Congressman Dave Reichert, and King County Executive Ron Sims (interestingly, Reichert and Sims were seated next to each other).

A number of foreign consular-generals were also in attendance.

The State Patrol's color guard brought in the colors and the Pledge of Allegiance was duly recited, followed by the national anthem.

Governor Brad Owen has introduced Her Excellency Governor Christine Gregoire for the State of the State Address.

So far, the Govenor has reviewed the success of the 2005 Legislative Session, talking about the Transportation Package, funding the initiative that mandated higher pay for teachers, passing new environmental laws (including the clean car/emissions law) and so on.

The Governor is then talked about education - supporting students, paying teachers a fair salary, and providing assessment alternatives for the WASL. These remarks received a standing ovation from state legislators and special guests.

The Governor also proposed expanding Running Start. This proposal received another standing ovation.

Gregoire next moved to healthcare: "I believe healthcare is a basic right - it is not a perk!"

And she challenged state legislators to pass legislation to assist low income families pay their heating bills this winter. The Governor declared, "Washington families should not be left out in the cold while oil companies cash in on record returns."

Gregoire also called for legislation on energy independence: "It's time we have an energy policy based on Washington grown and Washington owned."

She then outlined her proposal for cleaning up Puget Sound and emergency preparedness, saying that her proposed budget includes money for a tsunami warning system and earthquake readiness.

Gregoire also explained why she is proposing to save a large amount of the surplus for later years, warning lawmakers that she will not sign a budget that will lead to "draconian cuts" in the future.

Gregoire concluded her speech with an emphatic, "GO SEAHAWKS!"

The full text of the Governor's prepared remarks is as follows:
Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Chief Justice, distinguished justices of the court, honored officials, members of the Washington State Legislature, former Governors Rosellini and Gardner, Congressman Inslee, Congressman Reichert, King County Executive Sims, members of the Consular Association of Washington, my fellow citizens:

Good evening. It is an honor to stand before you for this State of the State Address. To honor our achievements, to appraise the “State of our State,” and to preview greater things to come.

Joining me at the rostrum are my daughters, Courtney and Michelle.

This is a big day for our family. This afternoon we were at the Temple of Justice to attend Courtney’s swearing in ceremony to the Washington State Bar. Mike and I are obviously very proud of her and delighted, as some of you have heard me say, that she is now going to actually be paid to argue.

Michelle is a college junior and will study abroad this year. Now, more than ever, the study abroad experience is vital for young people so they can better understand the truly competitive global world.

My daughters are my best friends, my passion, and a constant reminder of the incredible challenge we face to prepare our children to pursue their dreams.

While the fifth member of our family isn’t with us, in light of recent days I’d like to paraphrase from a speech delivered in 1944 by President Franklin Roosevelt.

Some have not been content with attacks on me, or my spouse, or on my daughters. No, not content with that, they now include my little dog, Franz.

Well, of course, I don't resent attacks, and my family doesn't resent attacks, but Franz does resent them.

You know, as soon as he learned that the fiction writers had concocted a story he couldn’t defend himself and was a cost to taxpayers, his Pomeranian soul was furious.

He has not been the same dog since.

Our family dog Franz has a real kinship with FDR’s dog Fala.

Also joining me is my husband and best friend Mike – also known as First Mike. Mike is a retired Medicaid fraud investigator and a Vietnam combat veteran.

Mike has worked extremely hard in the last year for Veterans. Thanks to his work, the work of Veteran’s organizations, and the support of this Legislature, last session was one of the most productive in history for former servicemen and women. It was a fitting outcome considering the incredible debt we owe them.

Mike served as a member of our bipartisan team that last year successfully worked to persuade the Base Realignment Commission to keep the doors of Washington’s key military installations open. It was a major victory for our communities, for our economy, and for the men and women who serve this country and have come to love our state.

I would also like to thank Dr. Don Argue who gave today’s opening prayer. He shares my belief that the best solutions for many of our problems lie not with government, but with people and organizations in our communities.

Last, and certainly not least, let me introduce some very special guests. The safety of our troops in Iraq and the plight of hurricane victims were heavy on all our minds in 2005. Our National Guard troops have been on the front lines fighting in Iraq and were among the first responders to the devastation left by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

We owe these troops a hearty thank you and are indebted to them for their selfless service to others. God Bless them.

They serve as a symbol of the patriotism of all of our citizens.

Obviously we can’t have all our troops here, but I would like to introduce Staff Sergeant Dale Flory, an Iraq combat veteran.

Staff Sergeant Flory, on behalf of the people of Washington, thank you and your colleagues for your service and we are delighted to have you home safe.

Next I would like to introduce Master Sergeant Michael Readnour. Washington’s National Guard was one of the first to step forward and help the people of the Gulf Coast after Katrina’s devastation.

They represent the outpouring of generosity by our citizens who opened their hearts, wallets, and homes to our fellow citizens of the Gulf Coast.

Master Sergeant Readnour, thank you and your colleagues for your commitment to service and your willingness to leave your families behind in order to help those in need.

Sadly, 45 men and women who called Washington home died in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2005. I would like to ask you to join me in a moment of silence for these brave soldiers and their families.

Thank you.

In the last year I have been all around this great state and met a lot of people. I found their values and dreams are very similar. They value personal responsibility, service to others, and providing new opportunities for our kids and families.

Consider Megan and Martin Clubb, owners and operators of L’Ecole Number 41 Winery in the Walla Walla Valley. They are carrying on the great vision of Megan’s parents, Jean and Baker Ferguson, who had the foresight to recognize the extraordinary wine producing potential of Washington.

Or consider Tatyana Fedorchuk, a 39-year-old mother of five and immigrant from Ukraine. She is building a new life by taking English classes and earning nursing assistant credentials at Everett Community College.

And Barbara and Steve LeVette who live on Hood Canal. Concerned about failing septic systems fouling Hood Canal, they rallied their homeowners association to develop an innovative treatment plan through a public-private partnership.

I tell these stories because they are an important reminder that this is a state of diverse people who are doing exciting things.

Our job isn’t to get in the way, but to offer help where needed and carry on the values that have made this state great.

In this magnificent building it is easy to think that our work is terribly difficult and incredibly important.

But our work isn’t as tough as what people face back home. Running a small business. Becoming a proud new American. Protecting the environment. Raising a family. Keeping their loved ones safe. Keeping a job. Providing a helping hand to a neighbor.

Our job is to represent them in a way that is worthy of their struggles.

A year ago, we fought for the people. In 2005 we began building a brighter future by putting partisan politics aside, by being bold and demanding change, and by relying on traditional Washington values of opportunity, responsibility, and service to others.

This year, we need to build on that success. We need to continue improvements in our education system. We need to make our families safer and more secure. We need to improve access to quality health care. We need to keep our economy growing. And we need to protect our quality of life.

That foundation – the outstanding legislative session of 2005 – has already elevated Washington to a new level of opportunity.

In our state the news is good. Our economy has turned the corner with 85,000 new jobs—that’s a seven-year high.

And around the world, I am pleased to report that Washington State is viewed like a small nation. When you say, “I’m from Washington” in Japan and China, they know that means Washington State.

And our reputation is stellar – we are about quality – quality products, quality agriculture – like our cherries and wine – and a quality environment.

Going beyond our promise, we’re providing health insurance to 73,000 additional children. This is a major step toward our vision to guarantee every child has health insurance by 2010.

We made education our number one investment in 2005.

Voters recognized how critical smaller class sizes are by passing Initiative 728. But it wasn’t until last year that we fully implemented the will of the voters, and we went one step further, we set up the Education Legacy Trust Account to permanently fund smaller class sizes.

To attract and retain quality teachers we fully funded another citizens’ initiative – teacher salaries.

And we took down the “no vacancy” signs at our colleges and universities so nearly 8,000 more students could attend.

The transportation package was truly a bi-partisan effort by legislators who knew that leadership involves risk. Let’s have a big hand for you who fought and won passage of our historic transportation package last year – with a special “bow and hurrah” to the leadership of Rep. Ed Murray, Senator Mary Margaret Haugen, Rep. Beverly Woods, and Senator Dan Swecker, and for our voters who supported the plan even though gas prices at the pumps were stretching their family and business budgets to the limits.

Another important bi-partisan vote produced the Life Sciences Discovery Fund. To be honest with you, I don’t believe we understand yet the vast potential this initiative has for our state.

This bold investment in a 21st century industry will lead to medical breakthroughs that will save the lives of friends and loved ones by finding cures to some of our most dreaded diseases like Parkinsons and Cancer.

And it will help ensure for human wellness that we continue to produce the highest quality and safest agriculture in the world.

Having been a caseworker myself, I understand the challenge of protecting our children. So, I signed an executive order requiring social service workers to get to a child’s doorstep within 24 hours of being notified of a life in danger.

Keeping our promise, we’ve implemented an initiative to make government more accountable and transparent – and we’re well ahead of our goal to eliminate 1,000 state government middle managers.

We also took important steps to improve and protect our quality of life.

At certain times of the year, Hood Canal, one of the jewels of our state, becomes a dead zone where aquatic life is killed off. We are working to bring Hood Canal back to life with real on-the-ground projects that work.

We adopted tough emission standards for new cars and required new “green building” standards for public buildings.

There was much, much more. For example we took steps to ramp up our fight against the ravages of meth.

It is important to note that even though we were handed a $2.2 billion budget shortfall, we did all this without a general tax increase -- no sales tax, no business and occupation and no property tax increases.

So we had a good year – a very good year in 2005. But you know what, we aren’t done yet.

One area where we need work is early learning. Let me be candid with you.

How would you grade a system where less than 50 percent of the kids are prepared to learn when they reach kindergarten?

Or a system where half a dozen early learning programs in state government are spread across numerous agencies and have no clear vision?

We know children with early learning success are more likely to finish school, more likely to go to college, less likely to be unemployed and less likely to commit crimes.

Our children are born to learn, and the first and best teacher in a child's life is the parent. But when parents and their families want help with care outside the home, we must be there for our kids.

We need less bureaucracy. We need to stop falling behind the rest of the country. We need to make sure our children are ready to learn when they hit kindergarten.

Business leaders understand the value of early learning. They know it is an investment in the future.

So we're creating public-private partnerships because this is about communities, and no one wants government to tell them how to parent.

For the last month or so we have seen the battle lines forming over requiring certain performance standards for our students.

I traveled to Europe and Asia and witnessed firsthand our competition and, believe me, we don’t let our children down with high standards. We let them down if we retreat. And we fail them again if we don’t prepare them to succeed.

Before we talk about lowering standards, shouldn’t we first:
  • Show all our students- boys and girls, black and white, Hispanic, Native American, Asian, rich and poor- we believe in them?
  • Demonstrate we support their teachers by paying them a decent wage?
  • Provide individualized help to students so they can achieve the standards?
  • And develop alternative assessments for those who need them?
I have talked to hundreds of high school students in the last year, and I will tell you, I believe in them. I will not give up on them.

And I will not accept 1/3 of our students dropping out of high school.

I have learned that if we entrust students with responsibility for their own future, they will do amazing things.

Many students do not feel their high school classes relate to their future. Programs like Navigation 101 challenge students to choose alternative careers and enroll in courses needed to achieve that dream. As a result, students engage in more rigorous coursework because they are in charge of their future.

We have “Running Start” for college. But what about kids who don’t want to go to college?

We need Running Start for the trades.

Education and health care are interwoven: An unhealthy child can’t learn.

Too many working families and senior citizens in Washington are uninsured or underinsured and only an accident or illness away from financial hardship.

There are too many disparities in health care.

This is inconsistent with our values. I believe health care is a basic right and not a perk.

Late last year I met with Pam Roberts, a single mom in the Spokane Valley. Like a lot of parents, she is struggling to cope with overwhelming home energy bills. We have watched as gas prices increased a dollar a gallon over the past year.

I am challenging you to pass, in the first week of this session, initial assistance for our neighbors and friends who are struggling with high home heating bills. Washington families shouldn’t be left in the cold while the oil companies cash in on record returns.

For the longer term, I am proposing an energy agenda that will help reduce our dependence on foreign oil and create another 21st century industry in Washington.

Farmers like Ted Durfey in Sunnyside are ready to grow the biofuel business in Washington. But they need help getting started. With a strategic investment of low interest loans we can help launch this 21st-Century industry and provide new markets for energy crops likes canola or mustard.

It’s time we have an energy policy based on Washington grown and Washington owned.

As we work to create and attract business, we need to remember that our quality of life is key to our success.

Our natural resources not only provide beauty and recreation, they are the lifeblood of our economy.

That’s why environmentalists, local government, sportsmen, tribal and business leaders have all joined our renewed efforts to preserve and protect Puget Sound.

There’s work we must do now. My budget includes money to speed the cleanup of toxic waste, restore salmon habitat, help homeowners repair failing septic systems, and improve oil spill prevention and response.

We’re approaching the clean up of Puget Sound by embracing what we call the Washington Way: a bottom-up, grassroots strategy that sparks citizen energy and engages our farmers, environmentalists, and landowners who live and work near the Sound.

It is a legacy we must leave.

Sadly, too many of the 2005 headlines told terrible tales of hurricanes, tsunamis, and attacks by sex offenders and terrorists. The lesson is we have to be prepared and invest in our personal safety and security.

I am, therefore, proposing actions to help protect Washington families. My budget includes funds to improve tsunami warnings in our coastal communities, improve our earthquake readiness and strengthen detection and tracking of a pandemic flu.

I also requested additional funding for the state patrol for ferry security and highway safety.

Our families need to know when a sex offender is moving into the community. We need to toughen the penalties for sex offenders who fail to register.

We have been blessed with higher than expected revenue. My supplemental budget pays the bills, makes targeted investments and saves money for the future.

I know some of you want to spend more money.

So did I.

I know some of you want to cut taxes.

So did I.

As we look ahead to the next year, we will need every dime just to cover the increased cost of our existing services, particularly in education and health care.

Our state budgeting has been a roller coaster. We spend when we have a surplus and we struggle to make painful cuts when the economy slumps. It is time to even out the ride. While the roller coaster is fun at the amusement park, it is no model for state budgeting.

By treating our budget like a Washington family budget – we will ensure stability and avoid tax increases or Draconian cuts tomorrow.

So my budget pays the bills and keeps the retirement system sound. It makes targeted investments for the future, and it puts money aside to pay the bills that will come due in a year.

Saving the amount of new revenue I propose is something that has never been done before – but its time has come.

It’s a budget that is practical, prudent, and responsible. I accept the fact that we may have differences over how to spend this supplemental budget.

But let me be clear, I cannot sign a budget that next year would require cuts harmful to the people of this state.

As I look out over this great chamber, I am reminded of nine voices that once echoed here fell silent last year.

These are the voices of those who put service to others over their self-interests and who shared our Washington values of responsibility and opportunity.

In March we lost Rep. Ruth Fisher-our state’s original “Steel Magnolia.” On a sidewalk precisely twenty-five feet outside Heaven’s gate, Ruth stands puffing on a Marlboro Light in grudging respect for the passage of Initiative 901. Her rich life and commitment to the greater good offer proof that “surliness” is next to “Godliness!”

We also lost Senators Dick Hemstad, Martin Durkan, and Bob Bailey, and Representatives Charles Kilbury, Stan Bradley, Russ Austin, Geraldine McCormick and Speaker Tom Swayze.

They were Democrats and Republicans, and each was emblematic of what our collective credo should be: that public service transcend partisanship and that politics is about getting real things done for Washington families.

Let’s continue to honor their spirit of responsibility, opportunity, and service to others.

Each of us, irrespective of our political party, owes it to the families of our great state not to lose our way; each of us must see ourselves through history’s lens, and create a legacy by building on our success.

We cannot be distracted by partisan politics, special interests, or political maneuvering.

We are all here to serve others. That is our call to duty.

So in the spirit of responsibility, opportunity and service, let’s get to work and build on the foundation we created together last year.

Thank you, God Bless you, and God Bless the people of Washington State.
A pretty solid, well delivered speech.

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