Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
State of the State Address
January 13, 1998
Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Madam Chief Justice, distinguished Justices of the Supreme Court, statewide elected officials, members of the Washington state legislature, other elected officials, members of the Consular Corps, and fellow citizens:
Few Governors have been lucky enough to walk up to this podium to deliver a state-of-the-state address in such good times as these. A sustained period of economic growth is creating more jobs than ever before, and bringing greater hope and opportunity to a growing population. Our unemployment rate is the lowest since 1966. We are delighted by new orders at Boeing, and by the growth of our high-tech and bio-tech industries. We're proud that the two key ideas of education reform — higher academic standards, and holding our schools accountable for results rather than following regulations — are finally taking root. We continue to be blessed by the abundance of our wheat fields and orchards. And our state is as beautiful as ever. The majesty and mystery of our coastline, our forests, our mountain ranges and our rivers remind us that our blessings are truly beyond counting.
Even more encouraging, there is a growing sense that we are entering a time of moral renewal — a time when more and more Americans are coming home to the values of service to others, respect for our elders, and sacrifice for our children.
But this is no time to rest on our laurels, or to assume that our economic good luck will last forever.
This 55th legislature is the last of a fading century. The next legislature, which will serve from 1999 through 2001, will have one foot in the old millennium, and one foot in the new.
So this is truly a year to be thankful for the legacy we have received, and to ask ourselves "What legacy will we leave?" How will my Emily Nicole -- or Peggy Johnson's Emily Rose -- or Sid Snyder's Cole Paxton -- regard our work? And what about Connor Finkbeiner or Brady Hatfield or Katelyn Mastin? These are the children who will decide whether our work stands up to the test of time.
In my office, this idea of legacy was brought home in a powerful and tragic way last week. Terry Husseman, a Deputy Director of the Department of Ecology, was outlining strategies to save salmon when — in the middle of a sentence — he suddenly died of a heart attack. Terry was a brilliant attorney who, with patience, wisdom and courage, was a key leader in helping launch the clean-up at Hanford, protecting the public from toxic and nuclear waste, healing the relationship between state and tribal governments, and preserving our clean water. Like so many other state employees, his legacy was built day by day, over years of quiet devotion to the public good.
We must honor his memory — and the memory of the countless thousands of other citizens and public servants who have given their lives in service to others — by living up to the standard of excellence they set for all of us. And we must start right now, without delay.
As the 21st century draws closer, our vision of what we want it to be becomes clearer. We want —
- A century in which all our children get the very best education;
- A century in which economic prosperity benefits everyone, in every corner of our state;
- A century in which our rivers and streams are alive with fish;
- A century in which families are strong, neighbors look out for each other, and senior citizens are honored and cared for; and
- A century in which a growing population protects and cherishes the cleanliness of our air and the open spaces that nourish our spirits.
But we will not realize this vision if we allow today's economic abundance to make us complacent, selfish, or shortsighted. In spite of the rosy glow of today's economy, we have urgent problems that just can't wait — the problems of our working families, our schools, our roads, and our rivers.
We cannot afford to coast into the 21st century.
That's why, even though this is a short legislative session, I want to work with the legislature, state employees, and the citizens of this state to tackle these problems.
The test that all our work must pass is the test of time. And solutions that stand the test of time can only be developed when everyone participates.
The days when the response to every problem was a new government program are behind us. That strategy didn't work. When government promised more than it could ever deliver, the result was a disillusioned public, and problems that continued to get worse instead of better. Worse yet, relying on government alone to solve our problems diminished the importance of citizenship, and the value of personal responsibility. That's the trend we must reverse before this century ends.
And that's why the proposals I'm submitting to this legislature are not government programs, but partnerships between citizens, schools, business, labor, and government at every level.
Creating these partnerships — and restoring the central role of responsible citizenship — is both our most urgent challenge, and our most promising route to real solutions.
Our first and foremost partnership must be to accelerate the improvement of our public schools.
Last fall, we received the first test results that tell us how well our fourth-graders are measuring up to our rigorous new academic standards. Less than half of last year's fourth-graders met our standard in reading. Now those kids are in fifth grade. And it's not enough to tell their parents that schools will do a better job in the future. Last year's fourth-graders need help now — and so do this year's second, third and fourth-graders.
That's why I'm proposing that we create the Washington Reading Corps. Instead of just giving the schools more money and telling them to fix the problem, this investment is designed to give teachers and principals the resources they need to mobilize their communities. The goal of this program is to recruit twenty-five thousand volunteer tutors across the state, and to have teachers train them to tutor 82,000 second through fifth graders in reading. We know that tutoring works, and that children need individualized attention. And we know that if children fail at reading in the early grades, it's unlikely they will ever catch up.
We also have a promise to keep: the promise that we would move heaven and earth to help every student master our new, higher academic standards. That's why it's so important — and so urgent — that we bring together children who are learning to sound out words with volunteer tutors who will listen to them, and praise them when they do it right. That's how a lifetime of success gets started, and how a lifetime of frustration and failure is averted.
But even though schools need more parent and community involvement to succeed, we must never forget that the foundation of our schools is the profession of teaching. And that's why I am also proposing new and significant incentives for excellence in teaching.
Even students will tell you all teachers are not the same.
So isn't it time to encourage our teachers to strive for excellence, and to reward them when they achieve it? Our best teachers will be able to earn more if this legislature will agree to my proposal to reward them for meeting the rigorous test of national certification, which requires high levels of competence and classroom skill.
I am also proposing a scholarship program to attract our best and brightest young people to the teaching profession. Let's provide 4-year scholarships to 100 outstanding college students in return for their commitment to teach in our public schools.
And it's time we made it easy for mid-career and retired professionals to become teachers. To do that, I'm proposing a fast-track route into the classroom by giving people credit for what they already know, and making the courses necessary for teaching more convenient and accessible. Mid-career professionals and retirees shouldn’t have to attend four years of college to become teachers.
And isn't it also time to give parents, teachers, and citizens the power to create charter schools? Two years ago, many of us urged voters to reject a charter school ballot measure because it was flawed. Last year, bipartisan cooperation and citizen involvement fixed those flaws, and a charter school bill passed the House, but not the Senate. This year, I want to sign charter school legislation that promotes innovation and community involvement in public education.
This last legislature of the 20th century must throw open the doors and windows of our public schools to the fresh air and new ideas that charter schools will provide.
At the dawn of the 21st century, our new communication technologies can bring learning opportunities to both children and adults in even the remotest corners of our state. Later this month, a new electronic learning network will come to life, linking many schools and universities. Now we must connect all our schools to that network — and even more important, we must train our educators to make the best use of it.
Our second partnership — a partnership between workers, their employers, and the state — is devoted to creating a better life for Washington's working families.
In the last several years, we have given hundreds of millions of dollars in tax cuts to businesses to encourage them to expand, to modernize and to invest in new equipment. Those targeted tax cuts were effective — in creating jobs and strengthening our economy. I'm proposing more of them, to help small businesses grow and prosper.
But now let's encourage businesses to invest in their most precious asset: their employees.
Working families — especially those at the lower end of the pay scale — have an equal right to benefit from our good economic times.
Many businesses report that they invest thousands of dollars training people for highly technical jobs, only to lose them when they start a family and can't afford child care. And many businesses are having such a hard time finding trained workers that they're recruiting people from out of state.
I want Washington jobs to be for Washingtonians.
So I'm proposing tax credits to family-friendly businesses that invest in child care or job training for their employees. And I'm calling for expanding enrollments in our community and technical colleges, so that people can learn new skills and climb the career ladder.
And isn't it time to help working families realize the American dream of owning a home? Despite low interest rates, many families just can't save enough money for a down payment, or have a hard time making monthly mortgage payments. That's why I've proposed a partnership with banks to help first-time home buyers.
To benefit working families, I'm also asking for a $35 cut in the tax we pay when we renew the license tabs for our cars.
The working people of Washington's distressed rural communities especially need our help. While the unemployment rate in King County is 2.9 percent, the unemployment rate in Columbia County in southeast Washington is over 15 percent.
That is absolutely unacceptable.
None of us was elected to preside over two Washingtons — one urban and prosperous, and the other rural and poor. We were elected to lead one Washington, indivisible, with hope and economic opportunity for all. So I am asking this legislature to expand tax incentives that encourage businesses to locate and grow outside the central I-5 corridor.
This legislature must also honor another partnership: the partnership between ourselves and our parents and grandparents. In the budget passed last year, we underestimated the demand for home care for our seniors. That's something we simply must fix. I’m asking the legislature to approve additional funding for the services that seniors need to live in their own homes rather than in nursing homes.
This is the very least we can do to express our respect for our elders, our appreciation for their lifetime of hard work and sacrifice, and our gratitude for the values they taught us.
There's something else we must do if our work this year is to stand the test of time — and that's to protect our economic growth by improving our transportation system.
Gridlock on our freeways will cause gridlock in our economy if we don't act now. Already our ports are losing their competitive advantage, because once goods leave our docks, they get stuck in traffic.
Too many working people spend far too many hours on the freeway rather than at home with their families.
And that's not the worst of it. The worst of it is that all across our state, the number of unsafe highways, bridges and intersections is growing.
That's why I'm proposing a balanced, comprehensive funding package to repair, maintain, and unclog our transportation system.
We need two and a half billion dollars worth of critical improvements in the next five years. And we need to come up with that amount without hurting education or other vital services. I don't see any way to do that without an increase in the gas tax. I know it's politically unpopular, but it's the right thing to do.
On this issue, once again, I am asking for partnership — a partnership of Democrats and Republicans, as there has always been in the past on this issue - to create a lasting, long-term solution.
The final partnership I want to talk about today is to save our salmon.
For longer than human beings can remember, wild salmon have spawned in our rivers and streams, found their way to the sea, and then made that heroic, upstream journey home to start the cycle over again. Throughout the 20th century, wild salmon runs have dwindled, in large part because of dams, culverts and other obstacles that prevent them from swimming upstream; because of polluted water; or because so much water has been diverted from streams that there's not enough left for the fish.
These are problems that people have created, and problems that people can solve.
But we cannot wait. In fact, we've already waited too long. And the result of our procrastination is that our salmon and steelhead are dying out.
If we don't act now, the federal government and federal judges will take this issue out of our hands. And we will lose local control over our use of land and water. The water that salmon depend on is also the water that we need for irrigation, industry, electricity, transportation, and domestic use. That's why, to jump-start the process of restoring and protecting our streams and rivers, we must forge new partnerships between landowners, irrigators, tribal governments, local and state governments and citizen volunteers.
Saving our salmon is not optional. It is our sacred duty — to our ancestors, and to our children and their children. And we must act now, before our salmon are gone forever.
All of the proposals I've described promote partnerships — between citizens and government, between workers and employers, and between Democrats and Republicans.
And all of these proposals challenge us to remember that every day of our lives is a precious gift — an unrepeatable opportunity to create the legacy for which we will be remembered.
And all of these proposals call us to realize our vision for the 21st century — a vision of great schools, growing opportunity, healthy rivers teeming with fish, clean air, strong families, and honored elders, all bound together by a renewed sense of community and a powerful ethic of personal responsibility.
These proposals don't add up to a Democratic agenda, or a Republican agenda, or a government agenda.
This is a Washington state agenda.
This is an agenda for all of us — for every citizen, of every walk of life, of every color of the rainbow, and of every age. And this is an agenda we can only achieve by working together to revitalize the spirit of unity, and the practice of good citizenship.
As I have traveled around this state in the past year, I have seen hundreds of promising signs that a renaissance of active citizenship is beginning to take root. It is a part of that wave of moral renewal and rededication to the values that made this country great.
Let me introduce you to a few of the people who exemplify this renaissance.
Meet Joyce Derlacki and Betty and Burt Block, three of the senior citizen volunteers I met at Phantom Lake Elementary School in Bellevue. These citizens volunteer in the school to help students Moises Ortiz and Prese Peseta and their classmates learn to read — and then the seniors stay after school, and learn how to use computers.
From Spokane, I want you to meet Dale Beeman, a Dad who works nights, and volunteers with kindergartners and first graders when he gets off work in the morning.
From Vancouver, we have with us Jason Adams, a football star at Fort Vancouver High School who reads to second graders twice a week . . . and Alvaro Angel, a retired radio and TV broadcaster who tutors and mentors bilingual students.
I'd also like you to meet some people who are heroes to our salmon.
In Yakima, science teacher Kent Wilkinson and students Sami Dinsmore, Ryan Erlwine, Kayla Eirich and Laura Bodine are restoring Wide Hollow Creek. They've brought fish back to a creek that had been barren for this entire century.
And from Skagit County, I'd like you to meet John Hocking, a developer who donated a 12-acre wetland to the city of Mt. Vernon . . . Arn Thoreen, a commercial fisherman who helped form the Skagit Watershed Council . . . Sammy Elix and Keith Hewitt, two of the Job Corps participants who worked to restore the wetlands and the creek they feed . . . and Kurt Buchanan, their partner from the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
When I visited this group at Bakerview Creek last summer, they showed me salmon fingerlings flourishing where none had for many years.
Those tiny, fragile fish prove the life-giving power of cooperative partnerships and active citizenship. Those fingerlings show that when citizens act together — and when government helps bring them together — our best values can solve our most difficult problems.
Those fingerlings will mature and return to our rivers in the new millennium.
And in that new millennium, our children, too, will come of age, and inherit the legacy that we are creating today.
So I want to end by asking everyone in this room to stand with these citizens who are showing us the way to a worthy legacy.
I ask all of you — every citizen, and every public servant — to stand and together make a pledge:
I ask that each of us pledge to put aside self-interest, join as partners, and transform our vision for the coming century into a legacy that will stand the test of time.
I ask that each of us renew our commitment to active citizenship and the practice of personal responsibility.
And I ask that each of us embrace those simple, timeless values of service to others, respect for our elders, and sacrifice for our children.
Thank you very much.