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January 11, 2005

Message from the Governor

Itís been an honor and privilege to serve as governor these past eight years. I am very proud of the progress weíve made during my two terms. From raising academic achievement to increasing family wage jobs; from restoring wild salmon runs to increasing sales of Washington agricultural harvests to foreign markets; from streamlining regulations to improving services to Washington citizens.

Iím especially proud because weíve faced some formidable challenges. Challenges that seemed to come from every direction. A major earthquake. An energy crisis. Droughts. September 11th, and the constant challenge of improving our security. We survived, we rebounded, and weíre charging ahead.

Just a couple of years ago, we were in the depths of some very tough economic times. We faced serious state budget shortfalls, like 47 other states in America. Significant decisions had to be made, and we made them, using our Priorities of Government budgeting approach, an approach that should still be used regardless of the amount of resources available.

Quote of the Week
“I encourage everyone in our state to share their gifts with their communities—to help take care of others. Take some time to help those who need assistance. Participate in the preservation and cleanup of our natural environment. Fight for the rights of oppressed groups in our society. Invest your time on behalf of others.”
—Governor Locke, January 11, 2005

Now Washington state is showing clear signs of a strong economic recovery that is broad, deep and all across our state. Our unemployment rate has dropped by almost two percentage points since a year ago, twice as fast as the rest of America. Weíve gone in a short time from one of the highest unemployment rates in the country to close to the national average! The new jobs that are being created are good jobs, too, paying more than elsewhere in the nation. We have Washington on track for a very bright future.

During my inaugural address in 1997 I shared the story of my family. My grandfatherís work as a houseboy here in Olympia, receiving English lessons in exchange for his labor. My fatherís service in World War II and his participation in the Normandy invasion. My motherís wonderful work raising five children and learning English so she could become a US citizen—at the same time I was learning English in kindergarten.

I was struck on that first inaugural day that—after nearly one hundred years and three generations—my family had traveled the mile from the house where my Grandfather worked to the Governorís mansion. As I finish my work here at the end of that century mile, I am humbled to know that it was made possible by the hard work of so many members of the Locke family.

I will always remember my parents impressing upon us kids the values they felt were critical to a successful life: get a good education, work hard, and take care of others. They are the principles that I promised to uphold eight years ago. These principles guided my decisions during all my years as governor. I have worked to ensure that Washington is a state that provides a quality education, creates opportunities for individuals who want to work hard, and takes care of its own. A state where individuals are given not only a chance to achieve success, but also the tools they need to flourish.

The most important tool we can provide is a quality education. As I have said so many times, education is the great equalizer. It offers opportunity and hope to all it touches. It is the key to a vital economy. It is the key to an enriching future for our children. Weíve made great strides in raising academic achievement during the past seven years. In fact, our kids are making some of the biggest academic gains in the entire nation!

We have set high, rigorous standards for academic achievement for all students. Our standards are higher than most other states, because we know these are the skills students really need to be successful in this global, high-tech, 21st century economy. And our students are still meeting these goals at a greater rate than those in the states with lower standards. So we canít turn back and lower our standards or abandon these reforms. We must stay the course. There is too much at stake.

Our success in education is a product of the hard work of our students and the dedication of teachers, parents, and community members. We canít thank or reward our educators enough for nurturing, inspiring and molding our children. They deserve our recognition.

Education sets the foundation for individuals to succeed. And with hard work a good, family-wage job should be the payoff. To ensure that such jobs are available, we must keep the businesses we have and attract new ones to our state. We must continue to cultivate a healthy, dynamic business climate. And we must also make sure that our workforce is protected and fairly compensated. The hard work of our labor force should not be exploited for the gain of a few, but instead for the profit of employers, employees, and society as a whole.

Unfortunately, not all Washingtonians possess the capacity to support themselves. Some are physically sick, or suffer from mental illness. Others have worked hard their entire lives, but have reached their retirement years and need a little extra help. And many children, through no fault of their own, are living in intolerable situations.

It is our responsibility, as individuals and government, to help those who are in need. Even through tough budget times, we have maintained a safety net for those who are unable to take care of themselves, whether in institutions or community settings. I am proud that we have taken great strides in broadening access to health care. And if we are to continue our success in helping families move off of public assistance and become self-sufficient, we must maintain the emphasis on affordable child care and quality job training programs.

It is one thing to be governor and guide the policies of state government. But it is the people who work in our agencies who really make government work. Itís been an honor to work with thousands of incredibly talented, dedicated individuals in our state agencies—our directors, managers, line staff and members of the Governorís Office. Many of our state agencies have been ranked the very best in their respective fields. Many of our agency directors are leaders in their national associations. And they have each held themselves to the highest ethical standards.

The quality of our leadership is reflected in national rankings. And in the two evaluations done since I took office, Governing Magazine and Cornell University have each time named Washington among the four best-managed states in the country.

No one goes into public service to get rich. Instead, the payoff is that every day you have the opportunity to help someone achieve a better life, whether it is helping someone find a job or finding loving, adoptive parents for an abandoned child.

It is important that in the politics of governing we not forget to recognize the dedication of these individuals. I thank our public employees for the outstanding work they do to promote the welfare of our state.

Our state is diverse in so many ways—in its geography, climate, culture, industries and communities. From Forks to Walla Walla; Point Roberts to Vancouver; and Long Beach to Colville Ė the people of this state possess a shared, irrepressible spirit. We all have a common goal: a strong and prosperous Washington, where everyone has a chance to succeed. I call upon the Legislature, the next governor, and all the people of our state to pull together to achieve this goal. My administration leaves you a stronger, healthier state poised for even greater things.

Eight years ago I was blessed with two titles of immense honor and responsibility: Governor, and a few months later, Dad. One title ends tomorrow. The other lasts forever. Emily will soon turn 8. Dylan will soon turn 6. And Madeline is just 2 months old! Mona and I have been so touched all these years by the warmth, graciousness and well wishes of people all across our state. The books and quilts for the children and the letters, cards and emails. We canít thank you enough.

As we begin a new chapter of our life, Mona, myself, Emily, Dylan, and Madeline leave office with cherished memories. Our family has been so blessed. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the incredible privilege and honor of serving you and for the opportunity to make Washington a great place to live, work and raise a family.

Gary Locke
Gary Locke

Governor’s Priorities
News Highlights

Faster Driver License Renewal
A new Internet service that allows many Washington state drivers to save time by renewing their driver license online appears to be catching on. The new online driver license renewal service was launched on Nov. 1, 2004, and was used by 564 citizens during that initial month. Use of the Internet service more than doubled in December, when 1,271 drivers renewed their licenses or identification cards online. Online driver license renewal is the latest of more than 40 online licensing service options available through the Department of Licensingís Web site. Since the DOL began providing service over the Internet in 1999, more than two million online transactions have been processed. Other Internet service options include purchasing vehicle and boat tabs, replacing lost or stolen driver licenses or ID cards, and filing a state master business license. For more information on this online renewal service, visit the Department of Licensingís Web site.

Saving on Prescription Drugs
Thousands of Washington seniors have saved money on prescription drug costs over the past several months, thanks to a state-sponsored Web site that helps them compare costs of various drugs among their local pharmacies and locate less expensive pharmaceutical distributors. Enhancements to the site, including the ability to purchase drugs from Canadian pharmacies, were announced by Governor Locke in late October 2004. Since going active on December 1, 2004, the cost comparison feature on the Rx Washington Web site has received more than 6,000 hits. The Canadian link and the Pharmacy Price Check are just two of the options offered on the Rx Washington Web site. Another popular program is the Pharmacy Connections program, which provides online and toll-free (1-888-435-3377) information about manufacturer-sponsored prescription drug assistance programs, and helps seniors apply for those programs. During its first year of operation, more than 15,000 Washington residents were enrolled into these programs through Pharmacy Connections.

Giving Spirit of State Employees
The annual Combined Fund Drive, the state's workplace charitable giving program, is now complete. In its 20th year, state employees have taken the CFD campaign to its highest level ever, having made pledges in excess of $5.25 million. “I am so proud of the tremendous generosity displayed by our state employees again this year,” Governor Locke said. “Your commitment to helping others continues to grow year after year.” Last year, the Combined Fund Drive campaign was the most successful program in the country, based on the number of state employees.

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