Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Lakewood Rotary Remarks
October 28, 2002
Dave Lambert, Dewey - thank you and good afternoon.
It’s an honor to be here at the Rotary Club of Bellingham. I use the word “honor” advisedly.
In your distinguished 85-year history, you’ve built an impressive record of helping people. Especially students.
Education is my top priority. I really appreciate the many scholarships this group has funded and awarded over the years.
Your community efforts have been impressive as well—from . . .
· Boulevard Park
· To Fairhaven Village Green Park
· To the Arne Hanna Aquatic Center
· To the YWCA remodel
. . . .you’ve done a great job of improving the quality of life in this area. Thank you for your dedication and hard work.
Albert Einstein once said, “I don’t worry about the future. The future comes soon enough.” What may have worked in Einstein’s day doesn’t work very well for us today.
Looking at the challenges we face, I think most would agree that the future is too close to ignore. Not only do we need to worry about it, we need to do something about it!
Just last month, Mona and I took our daughter Emily to kindergarten for the first time. Our son Dylan is only two years behind her. They are growing up fast.
We wonder—we ask—we agonize over—what our state will offer to them as adults. Will Washington be the kind of place where they want to live, work and raise their families? I hope so.
We face considerable challenges. We face a potential shortfall of $1 billion a year for the next two years. And that’s just to maintain existing programs with no enhancements and no new initiatives.
The situation is not hopeless, however. It isn’t even unprecedented. We’ve been here before.
Our unemployment rate has been fluctuating a little above 7 percent. But during the 1971 recession, it rose to 10.4 percent. During the recession of the early ‘80s, it was 12 percent.
We talked about how our state has weathered tough times before and emerged stronger. We will this time too. Although we’re in for a longer struggle than before. But we will emerge stronger.
While we work through our budget challenges, we must not lose our focus on long-term economic growth.
A stronger economy will ultimately provide the funds for police, fire and medical care for seniors and low-income children. And education is an essential foundation for economic vitality. We simply cannot retreat on high academic standards. And we must not short-change our colleges and universities. Supporting our colleges and universities is a core function of state government.
That’s why I created the Washington Competitiveness Council.
We have implemented most of the key recommendations of the Washington Competitiveness Council.
We have made progress on tax policy. Clarifying investment income – reducing unemployment insurance. We have streamlined environmental regulatory and permitting procedures.
We have dramatically shortened those processes while maintaining high environmental standards and greater management tools for our state colleges and universities.
I am proud of our successes in response to the Competitiveness Council. But we failed to act on the most important recommendation. We failed to make desperately needed improvements to our transportation system.
Our state has grown 43 percent in 20 years, 20 percent in the last 10 but vehicles driven are up 88 percent. Our economy loses $2 billion every year due to congestion—$2 billion in wasted time, wasted fuel, and shippers’ delays.
These losses increase costs for growers, for manufacturers, for merchants, and, ultimately, for us—the consumers.
Washington businesses struggle to remain competitive under such a burden. Some businesses relocate or expand elsewhere—and some new businesses are reluctant to locate here.
We all know what it feels like to be stuck in the great I-5 parking lot or trying to approach the Canadian border. We lose precious time staring vacantly into the brake-lights of the car ahead. Time we’d much rather spend with our families. Time we need to do our jobs well—and time we could be using to enjoy life. This human loss is not a reasonable price to pay for growth.
There are also too many unsafe roads, too many accidents and fatalities. This is not a reasonable price to pay for growth either. This problem will not go away—it will only get worse. The economic impacts will only get worse. The solutions will only get more expensive.
And if we don’t solve the problem now, we will be leaving our children a shameful legacy—a legacy of immobility, lost economic opportunities, and a compromise in safety and the quality of life.
We have the opportunity to revitalize and improve our transportation system next week. If we meet the challenge of improving our transportation system, our economy will benefit in many ways.
If central Puget Sound also authorizes regional improvements there will be more than 20,000 new jobs. That’s 20,000 family wage jobs across our state, sustained for several years.
Meeting the transportation challenge will mean a brighter future for our state—it will mean jobs, safer roads, and more quality time with our families.
These are tough times. But we are a strong, resilient state.
I love our state, and I believe our future is bright. But that frighter future will not occur or happen by itself. We must take affirmative steps - affirmative steps to make sure Washington remains a great place to live.