Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Redmond Chamber of Commerce
July 11, 2000
Jim Reed, thank you for those kind words and for inviting me to be here today. And thanks to Puget Sound Energy for sponsoring this luncheon.
What a time to be in the state of Washington -- a time of change and prosperity not seen since the Gold Rush. There is such a sense of possibility and future, especially right where we are today, the Greater Redmond-Woodinville area. With visionary long-term planning, areas like this will remain strong.
We're in the midst of tumultuous change right now. Change in our work, our ideas, our lives. We owe much of that change to the spirit of entrepreneurs. The economic growth you've experienced in Redmond is an exciting and wonderful example of entrepreneurialism in action. Although Redmond houses some of the most famous large businesses in the world, you also have a vibrant small business community. These small, innovative businesses contribute a great deal to the character, vitality and energy of your community and our state.
You are working to build a vibrant downtown that will attract even more businesses.
But development presents its own set of challenges. I am impressed with your efforts to meet the challenges of growth by focusing development in areas already served by infrastructure and by ensuring that public services support and respond to the economic growth.
But you also have a problem. You're having a hard time recruiting employees, especially those in low- and mid-wage jobs. Low- and mid-wage earners can't live near their workplaces because housing is so expensive, but they also have a tough commute because traffic is so bad. Affordable housing is the key. Affordable housing close to work, combined with reliable transit service, will also help to alleviate some traffic congestion and increase transportation mobility in the area.
When you consider the "fits and starts" of transportation priorities and funding over the past decade, one thing is clear: we need a long-term and lasting consensus on how to meet our state's transportation needs.
As you know, we've brought together some of the brightest minds in the state on the Blue Ribbon Commission on Transportation. Over the past two years, they have been assessing our transportation system and developing options that will lead to recommendations in the areas of governance, system efficiencies, performance measures and benchmarks, investment priorities, and new revenues.
The Commission's recommendations are due in December of this year, and I intend to act quickly on them. As the Blue Ribbon Commission has asserted, I believe, "for the good of Washington, we must take action."
As we just discussed with Fred Burnstead and a group of your fellow members, there are key principles that should guide our transportation decision-making, and I'd like to touch on them briefly. And, incidentally, these principles are central also to the Blue Ribbon Commission's focus.
We must identify and implement long term solutions. I believe the Blue Ribbon Commission on Transportation is our best hope in years -- maybe decades -- to secure the long-term solutions we seek. No more quick fixes, or silver bullet solutions. We need a long-term consensus on meeting our state's transportation challenges. As we move to the final stage, from options to recommendations, public input is crucial. I urge every one of you to read the Blue Ribbon Commission's list of options and give them your feed back.
The solution package must include streamlining and reforming the transportation system, finding efficiencies and increasing revenues into the system. We've supported establishing performance measures for transportation; squeezing additional capacity out of the existing system through efficiencies, reform, and smart technologies (like Intelligent Transportation Systems); addressing transportation funding inequity and regional empowerment; and tying new revenues to new projects.
Solutions for Puget Sound's major corridors must be comprehensive including both transit and road elements. We have been very strong proponents of the state's multi-modal transportation system: highways, transit, ferries, freight mobility and passenger rail. In transportation, there are no quick fixes, or one-mode-fits-all solutions. We meet our transportation needs best by providing an integrated, multi-modal system that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Here's a case in point. We often overlook the fact that transit is an effective means of mitigating highway traffic congestion. But, according to the Washington Transportation Alliance, if all Puget Sound area transit riders got back in their own cars, the resulting bumper-to-bumper traffic jam would stretch from Seattle to Montana (that's over 325 miles) and that's for every morning and evening commute!
Success in transportation will only occur in Olympia in 2001 if there is a bi-partisan approach to the issue. That is why, with the Legislature, we established the Blue Ribbon Commission. I reject the argument that pits highways against transit. Clearly we must have both, along with a strong and safe ferry system, freight mobility and passenger rail.
With this bi-partisan spirit, we will quickly and aggressively act on the Blue Ribbon Commission's recommendations. For the good of Washington, we must take action.
All of our cities have felt the impacts of I-695 and continue to feel them. When the dust settled following the 2000 legislative session, we had given Washington cities help to make up for 50 percent of their lost revenue. The Legislature was able to appropriate 80 million dollars in one-time funds to keep buses moving, and 33 million dollars in ongoing funding for local health departments.
But in terms of Initiative 695, what came out of that legislative session was more than just money. What came out of it was a deepening of a real spirit, an understanding of how interdependent we are and a need for stronger partnerships among state and local governments, business leaders, educators -- all of us -- to meet the challenges of the future.
And we're up to the task. Look what we did when we set our minds to reforming education. Don't get me wrong. We're a long way from perfection, but look at how far we've come.
We've stayed the course on education reform. Our children are now taking standardized tests, and their test scores are rising. We're lowering class sizes across the state. If a child is excelling, we can reward him and if he needs extra help, we can get it to him. We're sending even more of our brightest high school students to college on Promise Scholarships. We've got 12,000 volunteers flocking into our schools to help struggling readers learn how to read. And where you find those volunteers, you also find reading scores going up.
We've wired every single school district with telecommunications infrastructure so our kids can learn the technology they'll need to participate in this vibrant new economy of the 21st century and use it to receive better and more customized education. And we're on our way to wiring the whole state. Every single community will someday have access to distance learning.
This past session, the Legislature finally said yes to my proposal for teacher testing. College students will need to pass a competency test before they even begin teacher training programs. Teachers must pass a test demonstrating their mastery before entering the classroom as certified teachers.
Later today I will announce board members to our brand new Professional Educator Standards Board, which will develop and administer the new teacher test. This board will also advise the state board of education, the superintendent of public instruction, the Legislature and myself on the full range of issues affecting teacher quality and certification.
In fact, the chair of Washington Professional Educator Standards Board is a teacher in Redmond, and with us today. Tom Charouhas is a science and technology teacher over at Rose Junior High School and the board's new chair.
Tom, can you stand? Let's give him a round of applause.
We will continue to make move toward the best education system in the nation. We won't stop until every child has every opportunity to become the best they can be.
Things have never been better in our great state. Our unemployment rate is the lowest it's been in 33 years. There are 250,000 net new jobs in Washington State. We've returned almost a billion tax dollars to businesses so they can reinvest, grow and create the jobs that provide our families with a good future.
And Business Week magazine is calling Washington one of the most imaginative states, because of the way we reformed welfare. I'm proud of that. We got 80,000 families off of welfare and into career-track jobs.
We have improved school safety, care for the elderly and housing for farm workers. The state revived a dying health insurance market, passed a Patients' Bill of Rights so medical decisions can be made by doctors and patients, not number crunchers. The children's health program has been expanded, so nearly 15,000 more kids of middle income families who didn't have health insurance from their parents' employers now do. I've worked hard to streamline government. Washington is winning national awards for our on-line governing. We've eliminated more than 1,300 pages from the bureaucratic process and moved $143 million out of government process and into school construction.
Even though education has been my number one priority, we've still made wonderful progress these last four years, across the board. I'm very proud of how much we've done by working together.
I've worked hard to build partnerships with the business community, to make sure state government is helping businesses thrive. Because our businesses are the backbone of our society. When our businesses thrive, our communities thrive and when our communities thrive, our families thrive.
A strong economy builds strong families. Quality of life begins with a good job that pays well. A job that our citizens can feel good about having and a paycheck they can feel good about taking home at the end of the week. A paycheck that will help them buy a home, a car, braces, flowers, a vacation, the things that make our lives more livable. A strong economy means more money for schools, parks and police. A strong economy means a brighter future for all of us.
And I want to thank you -- every business leader here today -- for the jobs you provide for our citizens, for the quality of life you allow our citizens and for the support you've offered me and my administration over the years.
Thank you. Thank you very much.