Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
State of the State Address
January 11, 2000
Mr. President, Mr. Speakers, Honorable Chief Justice, distinguished Justices of the Supreme Court, members of the Consular Association, statewide elected officials, members of the Washington State Legislature, and all of the people of Washington, welcome. Tonight we stand together at the bright dawn of a new millennium.
A wealth of possibilities stretches before us. Behind us lies a proud history to guide the choices we make for the next century. A century our grandchildren will close just as we have closed our grandparents' century.
I have to admit, I feel time slipping away. Just the other day, I received my AARP card in the mail, and I thought, What's this? I'm not anywhere near retirement ... I hope.
In fact, I feel pretty young. I've still got lots of energy. I can still carry my golf clubs, walk the length of a golf course, and not be out of breath. I can even stay up past my kids' bedtime. In fact, Mona and I have decided that since we, as a family, share everything ... why not age? So on average, she and I are really only in our early 40s. Throw Dylan and Emily's ages into the mix, I'm still in my mid-20s. But in all seriousness, time isn't moving backwards. It is moving forward, and fast.
The Washington Dream
When I look into the future of the state of Washington, I like what I see. I see a Washington where our kids go to outstanding schools and get individual attention. Where they pass their achievement tests with flying colors. Where 4th graders read beyond the 4th grade level, and our 10th graders are passing their tests of mastery in the subjects that we deem important. Their teachers are the best in the nation, their school buildings state of the art; where a college education is available and affordable to anyone who works hard and earns it. And where our schools are free from violence, crime and drugs.
The Washington I see is a place where our families - our children - can find family wage jobs in their own hometowns. Where our economy is vibrant, and unemployment is low and hardly anyone needs welfare.
It's a Washington where a young family can buy a home that doesn't force them to live paycheck to paycheck, and our senior citizens can continue to live in the family home.
Where there is affordable and accessible health care for everyone, and where medical decisions are made by doctors and their patients, not by accountants.
It is a Washington where it is safe to walk the streets alone at night; where neighbor looks out for neighbor. I see a Washington with pure air, clean water, healthy forests, and flourishing farmlands. Where there are no endangered species, where our rivers are teeming with wild salmon.
Is this an impossible dream? I don't think so, and neither should you. President Kennedy once dreamed of putting a man on the moon, and we did it. Realizing our dreams of opportunity and success for our children should be our man on the moon. It is a dream that together, we can help make a reality.
The Legacy Our Ancestors Left
We begin this 21st century with a strong foundation of high ideals, hard work, courage, and sacrifice. The 20th century answered Franklin Roosevelt's call for a rendezvous with destiny. Martin Luther King, Jr. challenged each of us to judge each other not by the color of our skin, but by the strength and content of our character. We witnessed Neil Armstrong take "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."
We saw our parents survive the Great Depression and fight wars to ensure our freedom. We saw the Berlin wall crash to the ground; we saw communism crumble and democracy flourish.
We saw Washington fly to worldwide prominence in the aircraft industry. And we saw Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos revolutionize technology and the way we do business.
And we saw thousands and thousands of Washingtonians, everyday Washingtonians, sacrifice everything that they had to ensure that their children would have a better life. We have with us today some of those everyday Washingtonians who shaped our nation and our state - who made choices and sacrifices that ensured the freedom and the democracy we enjoy every single day.
First, let's pause to honor one of our heroes who isn't with us today. On October 7th, State Trooper Jim Saunders lost his life protecting our citizens. His wife Billie is with us today. Billie, you are in our thoughts and prayers, and you can always count on our support. It is with deep sadness that we acknowledge Jim's sacrifice today. Let's have a moment of silence to honor Trooper Jim Saunders. Thank you.
There are other heroes we honor today.
Jacque Long is with us today. After witnessing the Ku Klux Klan in action, Jackie went to work for Martin Luther King, Jr., marching, registering voters, putting her own safety at risk to ensure equal rights for all. Jacque Long, thank you very much.
Francis Agnes and his wife, Marlene, are also with us tonight. Francis was a Prisoner of War in World War II. He survived the Bataan Death March - a deadly 60-mile march in jungle heat. And when he returned to Washington after 21 years in the Air Force, Francis and his wife dedicated their lives to helping veterans in our great state. Francis guards the lives of our veterans like a hawk. If a veteran is sick and needs a ride to the hospital, Francis will drive him. If a widow needs help arranging funeral plans, Francis is there. Francis Agnes, thank you very much.
LeRoy Roberts is one of the great Tuskegee Airmen. He flew 42 missions against Nazi Germany and 106 missions during the Korean War. After spending his entire career in the Air Force, LeRoy continues to volunteer at airforce bases, and he travels around to our schools, Elk Clubs, Rotaries, and gives slide show presentations, educating our children and our citizens about the Tuskegee Airmen. LeRoy Roberts, thank you very much.
Tosh Okamoto. Tosh and his family were placed in concentration camps at the outbreak of World War II, simply because of their Japanese ancestry, and yet Tosh stood up and asked to fight for our country. He served in the heroic 442nd regimental combat team - the most-decorated unit in the history of American warfare. When Tosh returned to Washington, he went to a nursing home to visit the father of his friend, a fellow soldier, who had died in battle.
The man's other son was also visiting his father that day, and asked Tosh for some change. Tosh searched his pockets, and handed the son what he had. The son told Tosh that when his father rang his call button, it was more likely that someone would come and see what he wanted if he held up some money. Tosh was outraged. This man's son had died for democracy, and that's how he was being treated.
So Tosh formed a non-profit organization and opened the Keiro Nursing Home. Keiro, in Japanese, means "respect for the elderly." And that was the beginning of Tosh's involvement in improving the lives of our elders. Tosh Okamoto, thank you very much.
LeRoy Roberts and Tosh Okamoto and countless thousands of others served our country even as their families faced discrimination at home because they believed in the essential goodness of America and her promise of freedom and equal opportunity for all.
We must do for our children and our children's children as these heroes have done for us. When these soldiers went off to fight in wars, they weren't thinking about their own well-being - they were thinking about us - and our future. When Jacque risked her safety to march for civil rights and register voters, she was thinking about a society for all of us - where everyone has equal opportunities.
And when Jim Saunders drove that patrol car night after night, he did it because he wanted our children to live in a safe community. They did it for us - to create a better future.
The choices these heroes made carved out our destiny. What kind of a destiny do we want to carve out for our children? That will depend on the choices we make - in the next 60 days.
What We Need to Accomplish
Things have never been better in our great state of Washington - the state of our state is good. Our schools' test scores are rising. We've helped more than 80,000 people move from welfare to work; we've retrained thousands of displaced workers into good paying jobs; and we've returned almost a billion tax dollars to businesses so they can reinvest, grow, and create the jobs that provide for our families and provide us with a good future. Our unemployment rate is the lowest it's been in 33 years.
Our economy is strong. It's our responsibility to preserve our prosperity. And we'll do it by building trust in government, by joining as "One Washington" and sharing our economic bounty, by finding long-term solutions to our immense transportation problems, and by making a long-term all-out commitment to education.
Tonight, as we celebrate our progress, we must also adopt an agenda for the future if our prosperity is to continue. So, as we begin the new century and its first legislative session, we must do more than simply meet the challenges of Initiative 695. As we begin, let us resolve to set aside partisanship, to do what is best for our people and for our children, the children of our state. Because you know what?
Twenty years from now, fifty years from now, a hundred years from now ... nobody's going to care whether we were Democrats or Republicans. They won't even remember our names. But what they will remember and care about is what we've done ... together ... to make the future a better place.
You've all read and digested my budget and legislative proposals. So tonight, let me just reinforce some of the most critical issues we must resolve.
First, health care should be available and affordable to everyone in the state. People can’t purchase individual health coverage in this state. So let’s resolve to find a solution. And let’s also establish a Patient’s Bill of Rights so that no citizen is denied proper care.
And with our economy booming, there's no reason for the unemployment insurance taxes to be going up. Let's make sure they stay down. But at the same time, we need to make sure that we provide extended benefits to the workers who are engaged in job training and retraining, who want to better their lives, who want to take care of their families - we owe them that.
None of us should feel unsafe in our homes, our jobs, our schools, our own backyards. So let's resolve once and for all to protect our families and our children from the scourge of domestic violence. And let's do everything we can to eliminate violence in the schools! No child should be afraid to go to school, and no parents should be afraid to send their children to school. Schools are for learning. Let our teachers teach and let our children learn. Let's eliminate violence from our schools. And let's protect our air and our water from pollution. And let's make sure that every inch of every pipeline in Washington is safe and secure.
None of us should have to fear neglect in our aging years. Let's pay greater respect to our elders - let's make sure they have secure long-term health-care options, and are never taxed out of the family home.
In fact, we have with us today two of our citizens whose lives have spanned three centuries.
Kikuno Kimura and Madame Kodama are both over 100 years old - and both have truly enriched our lives. These citizens have witnessed the evolution of travel from horse and buggy to space exploration. They've seen communication go from telegraphs to global cellular communications.
We owe so much to our seniors - our elders - for the legacy they've left us. So, thank you Kikuno and Hosoe.
The most important item on our agenda is sitting right up there. There! Wave to us. There is our future. Do you see them? Those children with us today, and every child in every city and town. They are Washington's future.
Those children will soon fill the seats you're sitting in today. They will be the doctors and dentists who take care of us. They will be the farmers, the scientists, the grocery store managers, the artists, the teachers, and the engineers. And one of them will stand here, some day, delivering the State of the State Address.
The key to their future, and the key to our future, is education. Education is the sword of democracy, the Excalibur of opportunity, and yes, the great equalizer. Our children deserve our best. So we need the best teachers in our classrooms. Our new teachers need to be properly prepared and tested. And we need to provide training and professional development so that all of our teachers can continue to excel.
Our children need small classes and individual attention to reach the high standards we've set for them.
We don't need to go to the moon. We need to bring the universe to our children.
Our goal is 100% literacy; 100% high school graduation. We've initiated Promise Scholarships, so hard-working high school graduates can get the college education they need to get good-paying jobs. But now we must make the Promise Scholarship Program more than just a promise. We need to guarentee that it will continue as a permanent program in our state. And we need an education system that provides a lifetime of learning opportunities, because the need for new knowledge and new skills is moving at light-speed.
We've got to provide the training and retraining our workers need for the jobs of the future. Every working person knows the truth about the workplace of the 21st century: If you don't keep up to date, you'll be left behind.
I say to you tonight, it does not make sense that our state, with one of the highest per capita income levels in America, has the third most crowded classrooms in our nation. And I say toyou tonight, it does not make sense that Washington is one of only five states that don't require new teachers to take tests to prove their mastery. This is simply unacceptable, and it must end now.
Every day, our hard-working, dedicated teachers have to make an impossible choice: focus on the struggling students, or focus on the majority of students, or focus on the gifted students. Whatever choice they make, every day they are forced to choose to leave some children behind ... and that's not right.
In my three years as governor, I've traveled to schools throughout our state. I've seen classrooms with 30 kids to a teacher. I've met 18-year-old high school graduates who can barely read. That's not right; it has to stop. If we commit to eliminating crowded classrooms, our teachers will have the chance to teach and our children will have a better chance to learn.
So, I propose that we make a down payment on eliminating crowded classrooms by using savings in the state education budget to hire 1,000 effective teachers in the next school year.
We've laid the foundation for the best education system in the nation by setting tough standards for students and holding schools accountable for results.
Add teacher testing, on-going training, and professional standards to this equation, and we've got a rock-solid foundation for what comes next - smaller class sizes and unparalleled academic achievement. We cannot leave this session without fulfilling our duty to the future.
Let us resolve here tonight to do the right thing for our children.
Washingtonians have proven over and over again that if we give communities more power, they will use that power for the greater good - for our children. So let's allow local school boards to keep more of the taxes generated in their own communities - to invest in their schools. Local schools will benefit without any tax increase, and this way we can invest more than a billion dollars in schools over the next six years.
They can eliminate crowded classrooms, and they can provide after-school and weekend programs for children who need extra time or extra attention. And we can be sure that we won't leave a single child behind. If we can let local governments keep money for economic development - for convention centers, for baseball and football stadiums - we can surely let local school districts keep money for our kids! Because if even one child goes through our school system without gaining an education, we fail. And we will all be held accountable for that failure.
I propose we take yet another big step for schools - and taxpayers - by settling once and for all how we invest our surplus revenue. Initiative 601 spending limits are here to stay, but when we have a surplus, why not share that money - fifty-fifty between schools and taxpayers. Schools will improve, and taxpayers will see surplus tax dollars going back into their pockets where they belong.
Initiative 695 & Transportation
I know that many of you out there are wondering how we can afford to take this leap forward in education after the passage of Initiative 695. But I ask you, how can we not?
I heard the voters on Initiative 695. I heard them loud and clear. I respect the initiative process our state holds so dear. And I regard the voters as both the customers and the shareholders of the state of Washington.
And our shareholders said their tax burden was too much, and that they want effective, efficient government.
Make no mistake - responding to I-695 will require sacrifices and tough decisions. But I stand here tonight to say that together we can meet this challenge without sacrificing a single child's future.
Working together, we can provide immediate property tax cuts, including a tax cut of more than six percent for all property owners, and we can exempt all low-income seniors from the state portion of the property tax. After working so hard and sacrificing so much for their families and our communities, our elders must not be taxed out of their homes.
We are redoubling our efforts to make government more efficient and effective. We can do more and we will. We're eliminating at least 1,500 state positions, but let's go farther. Let's take state government into the 21st century by contracting out more state services, reforming our civil service system, and allowing state employees to have the same bargaining rights as city and county workers have. Let's continue our state's Savings Incentive Program, which has provided $143 million in cold, hard cash for school construction since I took office.
One hundred and forty-three million dollars towards school construction all because state employees have been creative and diligent in streamlining their operations. From the Department of Labor & Industries that streamlined its contractor registration renewal process from 27 days down to one, to the Department of Information Services that designed and implemented "Access Washington," the best state Web site in America, to the Department of Health that developed a DNA fingerprinting technique which can identify an E-coli outbreak within 24 hours, instead of the seven days it used to take - every agency in our state is working hard to streamline government. So let's thank and applaud our state employees, for the great work they're doing.
By working together we can ensure that local governments hardest hit by Initiative 695 can continue to provide vital police, fire protection, public health, and transit services. I will not turn my back when someone needs the police, a medic, a firefighter, a vaccine for their child, or a bus ride home from work. We cannot walk away from our responsibility to make our communities safe and secure.
We all know we need transportation improvements to relieve congestion, to make our highways safer, to get our products to market more swiftly, and to make our ferry system more efficient. Our Blue Ribbon Commission on Transportation, created by this legislature, will find a way to fund over 20 billion dollars worth of transportation projects necessary in the decades ahead. And within a year, we will have their answer - a proposal that will go to the voters.
Yes, we could divert state revenue for short-term transportation solutions, but the result would destine our education system to mediocrity and hardly put a dent in the massive transportation problems we face. On my watch I will not see education sacrificed.
The children are our future. If we don't educate our children - if we don't commit to excellence in education - our children will carry the shackles of their inability to prosper, to engage, to be full active members of our society, to their graves. And we will all lose. We will all, as a society, be diminished. And that would be a tragedy that we simply can't allow to happen.
You know, I've taken on a lot of titles in my life. Deputy Prosecutor, State Representative, County Executive, and now Governor. But I'll tell you, the most important title I've ever had is Daddy. To Emily and Dylan I am Daddy, and I always will be. And that means more to me than anything else.
So let's remember our true titles. The ones that last; the ones that really matter. Uncle, Aunt, Brother, Sister, Mom and Dad.
Those children up there? Our future? I asked them a couple of questions. I asked: What do you like about your lives now, and what do you want the world to be like when you grow up?
Tana said she wants to be a teacher and a trapeze artist. And some people might say the two are synonomous - one and the same.
Kathy said, "I like learning stuff, but sometimes I learn sad things like the sea turtles who eat plastic bags and get sick and die. I learned about salmon at school and am real worried that they may all be gone if we don't clean up our rivers and creeks."
Maggie said, "I think more towns should be like my town because it is safe. I like walking to my grandma's house."
Madeleine said, "It is great to be a kid today. I hope for good choices by presidents and other people in the government."
Citizens of Washington: Is all that too much to ask? Jim, Jacque, LeRoy, Tosh, Francis, all of our heroes, they gave us freedom, democracy, the right to sit in whichever seat on the bus we want. And now our children are asking for opportunities. Chances. Let's give them the opportunities to make the right choices when their turn comes. And that is not too much to ask.
Last Saturday I went to the opening of a new school on Bainbridge Island. The children were singing some incredible songs, and one of the songs went like this, "The future begins with us. And every moment we live lights the way! This is our day. This is our day." Let's help them light the way. Let's give them their day.
A wise person once said, "A hundred years from now, it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove ... but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child."
And today I say: A hundred years from now, it won't matter whether we were Democrats or Republicans. But the world will be different in a hundred years, if all of us - each and every one of us - commit today to being important in the lives of our children.
Thank you, and God bless us all.