Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Jefferson/Jackson Day Dinner
January 23, 2003
Good evening, and thank you for that kind introduction Tom.
I am honored to be here tonight.
I am honored to join you in this celebration of our distinguished tradition and rich heritage.
And I am proud to be a member of the party of Jefferson and Jackson.
I am proud to be a member of the party that knows our diversity is our strength.
The party that cares about everyone and excludes no one.
The party that gives people a chance and does not believe in giving up on people.
I am proud to be a member of the party that looks beyond self-interest and beyond the privileged.
The party that serves all of the people.
The party that is determined to build a brighter future for all of our children through world-class education, opportunity, a vibrant economy, and a healthy environment.
I am proud to be a member of the party that is committed to equal rights and equal opportunities.
The party that helps the helpless, gives hope to the hopeless, works hard for those without work, respects and protects our elders and knows that strong and caring communities are the core of a healthy and compassionate society.
We are Democrats—and we have a right to be proud.
There are those who have lost faith in the power of politics and government to improve human lives.
But we’ve shown again and again that as long as we are committed to the people—and we are—then we can always make a difference.
As long as we are dedicated to the values and priorities that make this party great—and we are—then we can always make a difference.
We Democrats are coming off a good year in our state.
Democrats in the executive branch and in the Legislature led a very productive, successful year in 2002.
We tackled many challenges with discipline, determination and creativity.
Let’s take a few minutes to appreciate this fact—and let’s take a little credit too!
We’ve made strong progress in education reform these last several years.
The test scores of our students have consistently improved.
Exciting things are happening in schools across the state, thanks to the teachers and parents. We’ve seen great progress at schools like Garfield Elementary here in Spokane, where the percentage of 4th graders meeting the math standards has gone from only 14% to 81% in just a few years.
Schools like Union Gap Elementary, where the percentage of 4th graders meeting the reading standards has gone from only 21% to 74%.
To these students who are on their way to a great education, we’ve made a difference.
We’ve seen reading scores climb for all grades in our state, thanks to programs like the Washington Reading Corps, which has helped 22,000 struggling readers advance in their reading skills by more than one full grade level.
To the kids who can now keep up with their classmates and feel good about school, we’ve made a difference.
We’ve focused on higher education, and on creating more enrollment slots in high-demand industries of the future.
Our workforce training programs have retrained thousands of unemployed workers.
We worked to reduce the skills gap in such major industry clusters as health care, construction and software/information technology.
We worked to create economic tools for rural parts of our state, and promoted our vital agricultural sector.
We focused on creating more family-wage jobs in all sectors, because jobs are the key to economic recovery.
We also made exceptional progress in improving our state’s business climate.
Over the years, we’ve reduced the B & O tax that businesses pay.
We cut red tape.
We streamlined regulatory processes to save time, money, energy and aggravation.
Our efforts to become more competitive took us beyond our borders.
Trade missions to Japan, Korea and China last year were successful in helping Washington businesses sell more of their products and services to some of the world’s most promising markets.
To the many who benefit from this trade in our state and in those other countries, we’ve made a difference.
And we continued to protect and preserve our environment.
Just last month, businesses, environmentalists and local government announced an historic agreement to protect our shorelines.
We continued to work on other environmental issues critical to our state, such as salmon restoration and modernizing our water laws for fish, growing communities and agriculture.
To our children and grandchildren, the ones who will inherit the environment we leave, we’ve made a difference.
Democratic Party ideals are alive and well in Washington state—and we have the track record to prove that we can, we do, and we will make a difference in this state.
Today, we face tough economic times.
A national recession, the nation’s third highest unemployment rate, and the largest deficit in the history of our state—$2.4 billion.
Such hardships discourage us.
They affect real people in harsh terms, people we know and care about.
I know the impact of the recession has been especially severe here in Spokane.
I commend Mayor Powers on his tireless efforts to help this city and community through this struggle.
In hard times like these, we must continue to strive to make a difference.
As Franklin D. Roosevelt noted in even tougher times, candor and decisiveness will get us further than fear.
We must restore public trust in government by making the hard choices—and the right choices.
Choices that protect our state’s most vital interests.
Choices that strongly position our state for a sustainable future.
A future of stronger communities, a more vibrant economy, a healthier environment, and a continued high quality of life.
I think of our state as a family, struggling through difficult economic times right now.
And like every family, we will continue to take care of one another even as we have to sacrifice and do without.
We will continue to plan for the future and better times for our children.
We will build such a future by focusing on what matters most now.
By sticking together and sacrificing together, we will get through these tough times.
Difficult times remind us that we cannot do everything.
But we can do the things that matter most by being disciplined, creative and determined.
Even as we make necessary reductions, we must still aggressively pursue our highest priorities—and we will.
That of course is education.
Democrats are committed to building a world-class education system.
Education is the key to a vital economy and a prosperous future for our children.
We must continue to invest in the future—in their future.
A strong education system prepares our workforce for good, family-wage jobs.
And jobs are the key to economic recovery.
We will continue to work hard to create and support jobs in our state.
We’ll build a better Washington through needed public works, renovating and expanding colleges, universities and public schools that create thousands of private sector family-wage jobs.
We’ll expand our trade efforts—more jobs.
We’ll continue to make our state as competitive as possible to attract businesses—more jobs.
We’ll continue to support programs like the Community Economic Revitalization Board, which has created thousands of jobs for rural areas.
We’ll continue to invest in industries of the future like biotechnology and software—more jobs.
We will also continue to work for an improved transportation system.
We will find a way to fix our deadliest roads and highways.
And when we make these needed improvements to Washington roads, transit systems and ferries, more family-wage jobs will be created that will help our economy.
We will continue to push Congress and the Administration to provide a national solution to the nation’s health care woes. We are doing our best to protect our most vulnerable.
Even in these tough economic times, we plan to fund all existing health care programs for children.
We will still be among the top five states in the nation in providing health care for our kids.
But a national solution must come, and it must come soon. In the meantime, I’m working with Democrats in Olympia to provide lower cost prescription drugs to seniors.
Education, jobs, transportation and health care—these are the areas in which we Democrats will continue to be the party that leads and the party that makes a difference.
The Democratic Party has never forgotten how futures are built.
We have never short-changed the future.
And we won’t now, as tough as times are.
We will serve the clear, compelling priorities that our state needs— education, a trained and skilled workforce, healthy citizens, protection of our most vulnerable children and adults, economic vitality, transportation, public safety and environmental protection.
We will continue to be the party that makes a difference.
And together, we will continue to build a state where our children and grandchildren will want to live, work, and raise their families.