Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Higher Education Day Reception
March 26, 2003
Thank you, Bill, for that kind introduction. Good evening, and welcome to the Mansion.
I hope you’ve all had a chance to look around. Some beautiful improvements have been made here in the past last year. The ongoing improvements to the Mansion are thanks to the Governor’s Mansion Foundation. All with private contributions, at no cost to taxpayers. The Foundation was formed by First Lady Nancy Evans.
I’d like to recognize some of our honored guests this evening.
Welcome to Governor Dan Evans and Governor Booth Gardner. We greatly appreciate your ongoing leadership in education, especially recently in pushing for increased capital construction dollars. We all thank you for your statesmanship.
I’d like to also welcome the presidents who join us this evening:
· Dr. Lee Huntsman, University of Washington, Interim President
· Dr. Jeri McIntyre, Central Washington University, President
· Dr. Steve Jordan, Eastern Washington University, President
· Dr. Karen Morse, Western Washington University, President
· Dr. Les Purce, The Evergreen State College, President
· Doug Baker, Washington State University, Provost (standing in for Lane Rawlins)
Finally, I’d like to welcome the distinguished alumni leaders who are here tonight. I appreciate your tireless efforts on behalf of higher education in our state.
We are brought together tonight by a common conviction. We all believe—no, we all know—that higher education is vitally important. It is important to the individual in realizing his or her full potential. And it is important in making our state a better place to live, work and raise a family.
These are tough economic times. Washington and 45 other states are struggling to recover from the worst budget shortfall since World War II. As you know from your meetings with legislators today, we are working to live within our means while still funding our highest priorities. Here in Olympia, we are intensely focused on doing everything we can to help our state’s economy recover.
We must remember that higher education is probably our strongest economic development tool.
Our colleges and universities are the key to an educated, highly skilled workforce of the future. Human capital and innovation are the fundamental source of competitive advantage in the modern economy. World-class institutions of higher learning provide the people that Washington industries of the future require to be competitive. Having such a high-caliber workforce is essential to sustaining and improving our business climate. We need to be able to offer one of the best-educated workforces in the country. I believe we can.
Washington colleges and universities also conduct the research that leads to new product development and expanded business opportunities. These activities fuel economic development.
Investing in higher education infrastructure will support economic development for the future—and it will also help our economy now by creating jobs.
My state construction budget proposal includes funding of $223 million in new construction at universities and $312 million at community and technical colleges. These projects will provide thousands of family wage jobs at a time when our state desperately needs them. At the same time, we will be investing in our future.
I’ve also proposed $20 million in higher education funding to expand enrollments at our colleges and universities by more than 1,500 students. These enrollment slots would be 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.
Higher education opens many doors of opportunity. It gives us a chance to discover who we are and who we can be. It helps us become better employees, better citizens, better parents, better thinkers—better people. And continued strong investments in higher education will help our state achieve lasting economic vitality.
The work that you do as higher education advocates is essential to the welfare of our state. I want to thank you for the valuable contribution you are making for a better tomorrow.
Together, let’s make sure our state remains a leader in higher education.