Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Everett Chamber & Rotary Joint Luncheon
July 22, 2003
Good afternoon. I am honored to appear before two such distinguished organizations. Everett Rotary is in its 87th year. The Chamber was founded 111 years ago. That’s a lot of history! Best of all, both of these organizations continue to make history in serving this community.
This year’s Legislative session made a little history too. With the regular and special sessions, we ran a marathon. And we sprinted to the finish line.
Much of our very lively debate focused on the budget, transportation and how to creat more jobs and improve the business climate. That covers a lot of territory.
But these significant areas of concern are very closely related. They are all part of a larger question our state is striving to answer. The question is: How can we be more competitive? Finding the answers to this question will determine whether we will prosper in the years ahead.
This past session we made great progress in improving our state’s competitiveness.
Starting with the 7E7. Our efforts to make sure the 7E7 Dreamliner stays in Washington showed that we’re committed to keeping our great companies. We passed a multi-billion tax incentive package, passed reforms to Unemployment Insurance, and passed Injured Workers’ Compensation reform.
We had a choice between tough decisions and inaction. We made the tough decisions.
We had a choice between opportunity and apathy. We seized opportunity.
We set aside politics and party labels. We focused on the future of our state—and our children’s future.
The best airplane assembly workforce in the world lives and works here. The best aerospace engineers on the planet live and work here. Our people are well-trained, highly skilled and experienced. We have the manufacturing facilities, the equipment and the tooling in place. The infrastructure is in place. Many suppliers already work with final assembly here. We’re ready to build the 7E7.
We are confident in the proposal we submitted to Boeing. Boeing did not ask for the incentives, but we analyzed what other states would offer and we are confident that Boeing will choose Washington as the best place to build this airplane.
The work continues. It may not be as visible as before, but behind the scenes we are relentlessly doing all that we can to make sure Boeing chooses Washington.
And when the first 7E7 rolls out, it will be from a Washington factory. When the first 7E7 takes to the skies in test flight, it will be from a Washington airfield. Years from now when we see the Dreamliner in airports and skies around the world, we will be able to proudly say “Made in Washington!”
Beyond our efforts to land 7E7 final assembly, we made significant progress in other key areas this session.
The budget is one of these areas. As we prepared our budget for the next biennium, we faced a shortfall of $2.6 billion, and a struggling economy. The results-oriented budget I originally proposed was an unprecedented response to the shortfall.
Nearly every state in America has struggled to respond to huge deficits. But we were the first state in the nation to tackle our problems head-on by re-examining how we govern and what services we provide. We were the first to fundamentally change how we make choices in allocating our resources. Our Priorities of Government approach is now a model other states are trying to follow.
We exhaustively studied all that we do—examining some 1,400 state government activities. We identified the highest priorities of state government: Education, jobs, healthy families, safe communities, and protection of vulnerable children and adults and determined which activities were the most essential and productive in each of those areas.
It wasn’t easy to propose the Priorities of Government spending plan. There are many good programs we cannot afford to fund now because of the shortfall. It wasn’t easy to propose such solutions. And I know it was hard for the Legislature to enact them. But it had to be done.
Our legislators rose to a difficult occasion. They passed a responsible budget and adopted our priorities of government approach with a few modifications.
The budget lets us do what matters most without a general tax increase. No across the board sales, property or business tax increases. A general tax increase in these tough economic times would have hurt our economic recovery. The way to get back on our feet economically is to live within our means.
Holding the line on our state budget is a key part of the competitiveness equation. Another key is improving our business climate. Both during this year’s session and for the past few years, we’ve continued to work on being a better friend and partner to business.
We’ve taken decisive steps to improve the business climate. This will help us keep the businesses we have, and attract new ones. Strengthening our business base and focusing on job creation means a more vibrant economy. And a vibrant economy will ultimately provide needed revenues for education and for medical care for seniors and low-income children. A vibrant, healthy economy will help us better serve the priorities we all care about most.
Our willingness to take such decisive steps is plainly evident in how we’ve handled the recommendations of the Washington Competitiveness Council I convened two years ago. We recently received our 2003 Competitiveness Scorecard from the Council. The introduction to the detailed results in the scorecard states: “Extraordinary effort led to remarkable results.”
We have enacted virtually all of the Council’s key recommendations by executive order or legislation.
The transportation improvement package we passed is the most significant of these advances. Transportation improvement was the number one imperative recommendation of the Council. After many detours, dead-ends and roadblocks, we are now in the express lanes to a brighter future for our state.
We’ve been losing $2 billion a year in wasted time, wasted fuel, and shippers’ delays and too many accidents and fatalities. But no more. Now we can start lifting some of that burden from businesses and stop losing so much money. We still have a ways to go, but the transportation package is a huge step forward. It means jobs: mot just long term but immediately.
We’ve also been cutting red tape and streamlining regulatory processes. The Department of Ecology set a goal to act on 90% of water quality permits within 90 days. We’re on target to meet this goal.
Last year, for example, we approved a Safeway distribution center—the largest construction project in Safeway’s history involving contaminated land—in less than 60 days without lowering environmental standards – a key recommendation of the Competitiveness Council.
Indeed, seven national chains have located major regional distribution centers in Washington state since January of 2002 chose Washington over Oregon and Idaho. These operations generate approximately 1900 jobs in our state. That’s 1900 meaningful opportunities with good companies. 1900 families in our state with new, promising beginnings.
These companies chose Washington for many reasons. Washington has always been a great place to do business – with a great environment, a trained workforce and a prime location. We are going through tough economic times but constant focus on negatives could be self-defeating.
And we’ve been working very hard the past few years to make our state even more competitive. It’s paying off.
As we improve our state’s business climate, we also need to focus on jobs. Jobs are the key to economic recovery and healthy families. We must do all we can to create and support jobs in our state.
The $2.5 billion state construction budget we passed this year means more than 13,000 new private sector construction and other family-wage jobs during the next two years. These are jobs building and renovating our colleges and universities, our public schools and our prisons. Repairs, renovations and expansions that must be done sooner or later. The plan also sustains 11,000 jobs in the two fiscal years that follow.
We must also 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.
And Singapore is now interested in funding biotech companies in our state.
We will continue to pursue these golden opportunities to create jobs in our state. In fact, we’re planning a trade mission to China in October.
We’re also promoting Washington’s emerging technology strengths.
For example, state government is a partner in the Northwest Energy Technology Collaborative. The Collaborative will promote Washington’s clean energy industry, a potential multibillion industry.
We are also promoting bio-information (bio-tech with computer sciences) by providing seed funding to coordinate private sector and university partnerships in biotechnology and information technology.
We must continue to create jobs with investments in education, especially higher education. We need stable, dedicated permanent funding for higher education and increased enrollments. Our state’s businesses continue to need these critical skills. Demand is increasing and turning away too many students.
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.
Washington state is becoming more competitive all the time. We are determined to keep Boeing jobs, and we’re confident we will land 7E7 final assembly. We are living within our means. We are improving our business climate and our transportation system. And we’re working hard to create jobs. As a state, we are relentlessly pursuing jobs, economic vitality and the people’s priorities.
We must also continue to push Congress and the President for an economic stimulus package that helps our state’s workforce and gets us out of the recession.
We will always work hard at the state level toward a future of economic vitality. But economic problems do not begin and end at state borders. Problems with Boeing caused by ailing airlines, national responsibility must be assumed as well. Let’s have a meaningful, comprehensive plan for our country’s economic recovery that reaches everyone.
We’ve made great progress in our state. If we continue to work together and focus on our true priorities, there will be better, brighter days ahead.
Together, we can make sure that Washington continues to be a great place to live, to work, to raise a family—and to do business.