Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Press Conference on the 2001-2003 Budget
December 19, 2000
Good morning and welcome. Thank you for coming, and thanks to the members of the Blue Ribbon Transportation Commission here with us today - Connie Niva of the Washington Transportation Commission; Skip Rowley of Rowley Enterprises; Doug Hurley of CH2M HILL. Special thanks also to the legislators joining us today - Representative Ruth Fisher, House Transportation Committee Chair and Blue Ribbon Transportation Commission member; Representatives Lynn Kessler, Gary Alexander; Dave Mastin and Tom Huff, and Senator Syd Snyder, Democratic Majority Leader.
As I get ready for my second term as governor, I feel renewed energy and excitement at the possibilities that lie ahead.
And as I look ahead, I can see very clearly what I want for the people of Washington and what I believe they want for themselves as well.
First and foremost, I want the people of Washington to have schools and colleges where their children can learn and prosper in a knowledge-based economy of "One Washington."
I want to move people, freight and goods efficiently. To do so successfully, we've got to end the stop-and-go gridlock of partisanship over transportation improvements and funding.
We face a crisis in transportation and I want to bring this state together to solve the problems.
To keep traffic moving, which will keep our economy strong.
I also want our most vulnerable children and adults to be safe, and to get the best care we can give them.
I want to enhance our precious environment so that we can have clean water for people and fish.
And I want to reform our state's water code, so we can reduce the backlog of requests for new water rights, and changes in existing water uses.
I want a lean and flexible state government that is shaped by common sense and true fiscal discipline.
So I'm pleased today to propose a two-year budget that addresses all of these objectives, and still leaves a substantial budget reserve of nearly $600 million.
My budget puts this state firmly on the path to better public schools and teachers.
This is what voters overwhelmingly demanded with the passage of Initiatives 728 and 732 in November.
Together, the initiatives increase spending for better schools and better teacher pay by nearly $800 million over the next two years.
This budget also starts us on the long road to clearing up our serious traffic gridlock, and other urgent transportation problems.
It provides substantial funding as a down payment on a six-year, $9.6 billion quick-action strategy to bring our transportation system into the 21st Century.
My budget proposal reflects many, many hours of struggle over hard choices. And when you read it, you will find some pain.
But the people of Washington expect fiscal discipline, and this budget provides it.
I am proposing nearly $270 million in budget reductions that we think are necessary, and that can be done without harming our core services, or the citizens who depend on them.
We are proposing these cuts to keep faith with the voters' demand for a limit on state spending.
At the same time, we are proposing targeted tax relief where it's needed most:
To keep our senior citizens and people with disabilities in the family home.
And to encourage more power generation and energy conservation.
My budget maintains a strong spending limit - despite skyrocketing health care costs - but adjusts the ceiling to make room for voter-approved initiatives.
In one sense, this budget was written in voting booths from Spokane to Seattle, where voters made the clear choice to spend hundreds of millions of new dollars for education.
My Office of Financial Management has prepared documents explaining the many elements of my budget proposal. As you visit our website you can instantly get access to the budget details.
But I'll take a little time here to dwell on two important areas - education and transportation.
This budget delivers on my commitment to make our schools the best in the nation, and it shows what we need to do to end the gridlock on our highways.
I spent my first four years working hard to reform Washington's education system - so we could be ready to take on the new century.
And with the help of voters, this budget greatly advances the cause of education in Washington.
The proposal carries out Initiative 728. It provides some $470 million in new funding to public schools.
To reduce class sizes and to increase individual attention to students.
This budget implements Initiative 732, with some $325 million in new funding for annual cost-of-living increases for state-funded teachers and staff in public schools, community colleges and our technical institutes.
This budget continues class-size reductions of last year and commits another $46 million to accomplish other education goals.
Improving school safety, investing in technology, assisting failing schools.
And we also have money for demonstration projects aimed at eliminating burdensome state school regulations, and creating a new pay system for teachers that rewards knowledge, skill and performance.
In higher education, we will continue to make a college education affordable to more students and available to more students.
This budget calls for $101 million in new funding to increase enrollments at our colleges, universities, and community colleges by more than 6,000 full-time students.
This increase includes 1,500 students seeking degrees in high-demand fields like computer science and engineering.
We also will expand financial aid for college students with Promise Scholarships and the State Need Grant program.
And I am also proposing new funding so colleges and universities can retain and attract top-notch faculty.
And I propose to expand our training programs - so we can close the skills gap - and put Washington workers in the many unfilled jobs where highly skilled employees are needed.
Steps to close the skills gap include creation of a new technology institute at the University of Washington campus in Tacoma.
This budget puts us on the road to fixing our transportation mess.
For too long, we have suffered from short-term transportation solutions that wound up in the wrecking yard.
We must have a long-term plan that makes a sustained effort to solve the serious congestion problems that plague our urban areas.
We're also committed to Eastern Washington and rural areas, and recognize they have different transportation problems that have to be addressed.
My plan makes other investments that will help rural communities recruit new industries.
My transportation plan picks up where the Blue Ribbon Commission left off.
It calls for reorganization of the Department of Transportation to make it more efficient and more accountable.
My transportation plan provides some $9.6 billion in new state and local funding to implement a quick-action strategy to relieve traffic congestion on state highways and local roads.
To improve the state ferry system, passenger-rail service and make sure public transportation is available to those who need it most, our disabled and our seniors.
And to get started, I propose transferring $100 million from our reserve funds to projects that address our most serious traffic chokepoints. ($400 million over six years)
If we are serious about upgrading our transportation system, we will need new revenue.
It's no secret what the alternatives are - the Blue Ribbon Commission laid them out in its report earlier this month.
The transportation improvements I offer today make sense to commuters and truckers - to people who drive, ride ferries, buses or the rails.
And I call on the Legislature to join me in finding a funding plan that will make sense to the voters.
This next year is the year to close the divide over transportation - to come together to do what needs to be done for the sake of our state.
I share the Blue Ribbon Commission's urgent appeal: The time to act is now!
I'd be happy to take your questions.