Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
1999-01 Budget Announcement
December 15, 1998
Good morning. In our form of government, a budget is a statement of our values. And it’s also a statement of our vision.
This budget is about setting higher standards for education, and holding people accountable for achieving results. It is about rewarding hard work. It is about investing savings from welfare into education. It is about achieving Washington’s promise in the 21st century.
Washington state is filled with promise. We are home to the high-tech, knowledge-based companies that hold the promise of a healthy economy in the 21st century. We are blessed with a natural environment that promises abundance and inspiration for future generations. And every morning, all across the state, our classrooms are filled with over a million promising and eager-to-learn children.
This is everything we need to create a better future. But it’s up to all of us to focus our resources, time, and energy on achieving the promise that lies before us. That’s what this budget aims to help us do. Working on this budget since last summer, we were guided by five principles: education is our highest priority; protect working families and our environment, including salmon; propose no new taxes; abide by the 601 spending limit; and maintain a responsible reserve.
To be true to these principles, we had to overcome major challenges. The initial demands on this budget – from agency requests, to salmon recovery, to health care – far exceeded the 601 spending limit. But we were determined to devote more resources to helping our students and teachers meet higher standards. We wanted to find money to hire 1,000 more teachers, so that we could begin to tackle the issue of class size and give more individual attention to our school children. We need to reward schools and teachers for success.
And we recognized that in the 21st century, Washington citizens will need a higher level of education than ever before. So it was important to find the resources to create Washington’s Promise Scholarships – scholarships that will help more of today’s high school graduates go to college. A college education has long been part of the American dream. But now some form of college education is no longer a mark of honor; it’s an absolute necessity. And it’s about time we addressed the education needs of middle-income citizens.
We also had to find a way to train more Washington residents for high-wage, high-tech jobs. I want Washington jobs for Washington residents. It is simply not acceptable for our most promising industries to have to recruit college graduates from out of state. And we felt a real sense of urgency about helping our colleges and universities retain their best professors. And while there is no substitute for top-quality personal instruction in college classrooms, we wanted to create greater access to college and university courses on the Internet that will make higher education available to citizens who cannot commute to our campuses.
And then there are our declining wild salmon runs. We must retain control of the destiny of our state and its salmon. We do not want to turn this problem over to the other Washington. That’s why we must build partnerships with state, local, and tribal governments, farmers, fishermen, business groups and environmentalists to restore our wild salmon runs.
The safety of our citizens must also be protected. We have to recognize that there are tens of thousands more convicted felons outside our prisons than inside them. That is why we wanted to fund, in this budget, programs that will increase the supervision of felons who have served their prison terms. Our message is: "When you have done your time, we’re not done with you. We’re still watching you."
We were also determined to honor our responsibility to our senior citizens, who deserve the very best from us, and our obligation to care for those who are too ill or disabled to care themselves.
And we were determined to compensate our state employees fairly.
Finally, we also wanted to target rural economic development, so that the prosperity of the Puget Sound region is spread all around our state.
So you can see that the demands on this state budget for the next two years are enormous and urgent. To address these needs, we have left no number un-crunched. This is a thoroughly scrubbed budget.
To achieve Washington’s promise, we are also taking the next step towards changing the culture of state government. We are holding every agency accountable for meeting high standards of performance. We are focusing on achieving results – not creating rules and regulations. And we are investing more in education. I believe that is what the citizens of Washington sent us here to do.
Now I want to show you how this budget was built.
Use this link to view Governor Locke's Budget and Policy Proposals.
Before I take questions, I want to say just one more thing. This budget is both a symbol and the substance of how we will close the book on the 20th century, and how we will write the first chapter of the 21st century.
To me, this is not just a coincidence, or just a question of arbitrary dates on a calendar. Our state is truly entering a new era – an era in which education is going to become more important than ever before; population growth is going to make it much more challenging to preserve our environment; and global economics and technological and scientific progress are going to transform our world.
We cannot predict our future, but we must do all we can to prepare ourselves for it. If we want to control our own destiny, we simply must become more educated. And we must become better stewards of our natural resources, our children and our elders, our economy, and our institutions of self-government. That is what I hope this budget will help us do.