Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Washington State Labor Council Legislative Conference
February 28, 2003
Good morning. I am honored to be here.
I’d like to begin with some words that summarize much of the reason why I am in this job:
“My inspiration comes in opening opportunities that all alike may be free to live life to the fullest. “
These are the words of the great labor leader Samuel Gompers.
I believe in unions, and I am proud of our state’s record. I appreciate the work you do everyday. You fight to maintain strong labor standards, increase workplace safety, and you are the voice for the working poor. This country owes a debt of gratitude to Organized Labor. I personally want to say thank you.
We still have work to do, but we have made significant progress, progress that opens opportunities.
We’ve enjoyed several successes at the state level. I’ve signed into law collective bargaining rights for teaching assistants at the University of Washington. I’ve signed into law collective bargaining rights for faculty at our four-year institutions of higher education. And I sponsored and signed into law the Civil Service Reform bill that gives state employees full scope collective bargaining rights.
I also advocated and signed into law the Family Care bill that allows workers to use sick leave or other accumulated leave to care for ill family members.
Speaking of successes, I’ve said this before but it bears repeating—there is no better adult training and education program than apprenticeships. A study by the State Workforce Board has shown that apprentices have the highest wage and placement rate of any education or training program. That’s why I issued an Executive Order that requires apprenticeships on major state construction projects. And I will continue to support expanding apprenticeship utilization requirements to get even more mileage out of this exceptional program.
We have made progress in opening opportunities, and this session we will make more progress.
I know there is concern about the proposed budget. We face tough economic times and an unprecedented deficit. Nearly every state in America faces serious economic challenges. But we are the first state in the nation to tackle our problems head-on by re-examining how we govern—and fundamentally changing how we govern.
The proposed budget affects state employees along with everyone else. This is unavoidable, but in no way detracts from the hard work and value our state employees bring to the job every day. Our employees are the face of our government. They provide the direct interaction with our citizens. I deeply appreciate all of the hard work state employees do. Those of you who know my track record know I have been a strong advocate for state employees. That hasn’t changed. We can and will get through the hardships we face, and there will be better days ahead.
We’ve scrutinized our expenditures. During this session, we need to put a process in place that scrubs the revenue side of the equation as well. We need to look into closing outdated tax exemptions and loopholes to increase revenues. That’s why I support House Bill 1869.
Our state spends $46 billion per biennium through 431 different tax exemptions and deferrals. Many of these exemptions and deferrals are necessary and help our state’s economy. But we must take a look at these and determine which ones are still needed. This bill would require performance audits for tax preference. It would create a citizen commission to schedule a review of exemptions, exclusions, deductions, credits, deferrals and preferential rates. It allows for review against specific criteria. House Bill 1869 is good public policy that balances the need for revenue to pay for effective programs with the need for a competitive business climate.
I have also been supporting a bill to help reduce the cost of prescription drugs. The bill would create a purchasing consortium to reduce costs. It also seeks a federal waiver that would allow our state to provide the single benefit of prescription drug coverage to qualifying low-income seniors through the Medicaid program. Finally, this bill creates a prescription drug clearinghouse to assist seniors in obtaining free or low-cost prescription drugs through public and private programs.
I also support House Bill 1065, which would put my executive order on apprenticeship utilization into statute. As I said earlier—we should seek every opportunity to expand this great program.
As we work to get our state’s economy on track, one thing is clear—jobs are the key, and we must create jobs now.
That’s why I have been advocating a seven-point plan aimed at creating more family-wage jobs for the people of Washington.
First, we can create jobs now by building a better Washington. The Legislature’s approval of my state construction budget will mean more than 13,000 new private sector construction and other family-wage jobs during the next two years. These are jobs building and renovating facilities on the campuses of our colleges and universities, our public schools and our prisons. The proposal sustains 11,000 jobs in the two fiscal years that follow. My proposal allows for $2.5 billion in new public works funding. Let’s take advantage of the low interest rates!
Today I again strongly urge the Legislature to approve my 2003 capital budget so we can create thousands of jobs for the people who need and deserve them. And so we can start building and renovating facilities that our state’s students and schools, colleges and universities need.
Second, we must intensify trade. We must capitalize on our competitive advantage in international trade. Trade creates jobs. Last year, our trade missions to Japan, Korea, China and Singapore were successful in helping Washington businesses sell products and services to some of the world’s most promising markets. We returned from Japan and Korea with immediate new sales for Washington businesses. In December we promoted Boeing airplane sales in China and promoted biotechnology in Singapore.
China is already our 3rd largest export trade partner. It is a huge market with great potential for the sale of Washington products and services. Washington companies will play a major role in the 2008 Beijing Olympic games.
Singapore is now interested in funding biotech companies in our state.
And last night we hosted a Korean delegation at the Mansion—a delegation interested in buying more Washington potatoes and potato products.
Third, we must continue to improve our business climate. We’ve made substantial progress, and we must continue to improve our business climate to stay competitive in attracting and keeping businesses.
In the last 12 months, five national companies chose Washington over other Northwest states for major distribution facilities and hundreds of jobs. Together, these five companies will create about 1,400 jobs here and many more from related industries like trucking and work at our ports. The more good companies we attract to Washington, the more family wage jobs we will create.
Fourth, we must provide local tools. We need to give Washington communities more effective economic development tools to help attract and keep businesses. I am proposing a new funding tool allowing local governments to finance the critical infrastructure that businesses are looking for in making location and expansion decisions. Our proposal will help attract at least $400 million in private sector investment.
We also need to continue supporting tools that work well. The Community Economic Revitalization Board program has created thousands of jobs for rural areas. But it still does not have a permanent, stable funding source. So I’m submitting legislation to provide permanent funding to keep this program going. It’s a strong source of good jobs for rural families.
Fifth, we must continue to promote technology. We must promote Washington’s emerging technology strengths. We are pursuing the development of more emerging industries. These industries will help us diversify our economy and create more new jobs for our state.
Sixth, let’s strengthen the education/job skills connection. We must continue to create jobs with investments in education, especially by supporting industries of the future like biotechnology and software. I’m proposing $20 million in higher education funding to expand enrollments at our colleges and universities by more than 1,500 students. These new enrollment slots are dedicated exclusively to such high-demand fields as engineering, computer science and health care. Our state’s businesses continue to need these critical skills.
I don’t want Washington companies to have to hire people from out-of-state to meet their needs. I want Washington citizens to have the first chance at filling these good paying jobs.
We’re also providing funding to retrain more than 7,200 unemployed workers. This is important. We can’t let people languish when there are needed skills and available training for family wage jobs.
I also want to make it clear that I will veto any legislation that would repeal or weaken the state’s ergonomics law!
Seventh and finally, “the other Washington” must step up. We must continue to push Congress and the President for an economic stimulus package that helps our state’s workforce.
Just a fraction of what President Bush wants by way of a tax cut could be put to use on programs that create jobs now.
As we pursue this plan and work to create more jobs, we still need an efficient, modern transportation system. I know I don’t have to convince this group that we must act on transportation now. The longer we wait, the more it will cost. Let’s do it now!
I am confident that if we remain focused on our true priorities, better days are ahead. Together, we can make sure that Washington continues to be a great place to live, work, and raise a family.