Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Weekly News Conference: Legislative Priorities
January 12, 2004
Good morning. Thank you for joining us.
Today, the 58th Washington State Legislature convenes. As lawmakers begin what I expect to be a very productive session, I would like to outline my priorities for what will be my final legislative session in office.
We have made great strides in our state during the past seven years. We have furthered education reform. Our students are tops in the nation in many areas and responding to our tough, new academic standards.
We have made our state more competitive. We competed nationally and won final assembly of the Boeing 7E7 in Everett – creating thousands of new, direct and indirect jobs and securing the future of Boeing commercial airplane production in Washington state for decades to come.
We passed a $4.2 billion transportation-improvement package to help ease traffic congestion and improve traffic safety across the state.
We have successfully implemented welfare reform. More families are getting off welfare – and staying off – under our WorkFirst program.
We have accomplished great things, but we are not done yet. We can and MUST do more.
We intend to continue with our Priorities of Government approach. Top priorities are: job creation, education and health care.
In the area of K-12 education, I am calling on the Legislature to:
· Refine and clarify the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL), particularly regarding the Certificate of Mastery, which students will be required to complete for graduation starting in 2008;
· Revamp the state’s Learning Assistance Program (LAP) and stabilize allocations to school districts that need the most help; and
· Approve legislation supporting the development of charter or “opportunity” schools, to especially help struggling students meet state standards; and
· Allow school districts to collect the full amount of voter-approved levies.
In the area of higher education, I am calling on the Legislature to:
· Increase enrollments for higher education, particularly in the high-cost, high-demand fields of computer science, nursing and engineering;
· Launch a pilot “performance contract” program that allows a limited number of state universities greater tuition-setting authority in exchange for guarantees in services to students; and
· Approve legislation to bring the university admissions process in line with the Supreme Court’s decision on Affirmative Action (which says schools can consider race when reviewing individual student applications but no quotas or “set asides”).
In the area of job creation and economic development, I am calling on the Legislature to:
· Build on the success of our state’s 7E7 bid by passing legislation necessary to develop the project; and
· Renew tax incentives for high-tech research and development and businesses that locate in rural parts of our state.
In the area of health care, I am calling on the Legislature to approve my 2004 supplemental budget, which would:
· Reduce the impact of pending health care premiums to be charged low- and middle-income parents of children receiving state-sponsored Medicaid coverage;
· Increase the state’s reimbursement rate for family physicians providing childbirth services to Medicaid patients;
· Share more federal funding with public hospital districts; and
· Strengthen the rural health system with additional providers, school nurses, and technology support.
We intend to build on the momentum from last session, in which we passed a crucial transportation-improvement plan, landmark prescription drug legislation, and a tax incentives package for the aerospace industry – a major factor in our state winning the Boeing 7E7 final assembly.
I look forward to working with the Legislature – and especially the new leadership – on a very productive session.