Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
2004 State of the State Address: Vision for a Better Washington
January 13, 2004
Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Honorable Chief Justice, distinguished Justices of the Supreme Court, statewide elected officials, members of the Washington State Legislature, members of the Consular Association, and people of our great state of Washington:
It is fitting that we gather here at Olympia High School. Like all schools in every community across our state, this is a place of learning. It is also a source of hope. And a symbol of our profound responsibility to future generations.
We have worked hard to honor that responsibility. During the past seven years together, and through your leadership and the leadership of your predecessors, we’ve established considerable momentum.
Years of education reform are paying off. Our classes are smaller, our schools are safe, and our kids are learning better than ever.
And our homeland security measures place our state among the nation’s leaders in protecting our citizens and our borders.
Our economic initiatives have created jobs and hope for unemployed workers who still need our help.
Last year we faced tremendous challenges. Together, we made tough decisions—and we made 2003 a session to remember.
We avoided a general tax increase during tough economic times.
After years of stalemate, we moved ahead on new funding for vital transportation projects.
We have improved our business climate. Seven national companies chose our state in the past two years, creating thousands new of jobs.
And by being resourceful, decisive, and bold, we landed the Boeing 7E7.
“Built by Boeing” will continue to mean “Made in Washington by the best aerospace workers in the world.”
Washington state is rebounding. Our tough decisions are paying off. Our state government is on solid footing.
Let’s continue this progress. This session, I am proposing to extend our gains in key areas:
Creating jobs through tax incentives for R&D and jobs in rural areas, and tools for all communities to accelerate economic growth.
Improving education by refining the new 2008 high school graduation requirements, by redesigning assistance programs for struggling students, and by allowing more students to attend our colleges and universities.
Keeping health care affordable and available by lowering insurance premiums for low- and middle-income families and small businesses, by helping doctors stay in rural communities, and by controlling medical malpractice insurance costs.
And ensuring abundant water for our state.
These and the Supplemental Budget proposals were publicly presented last month, have been delivered to the members of the Legislature, and have been available in detail on the state’s Web site. So I won’t go into the specifics here.
And in the days ahead there will be ample time to further discuss and debate these proposals and issues. There will be time for the dialogue, negotiations and compromise that make our legislative process work.
As we begin the session, let’s instead consider the future that we have been shaping for the people of Washington.
The progress and momentum we have achieved in key areas is powerful and promising. Because of it, our state is on a changed course. A better course. A course toward a future filled with the prosperity, opportunity and security our citizens deserve. We must continue this momentum.
We will achieve that promising future if we remain disciplined, creative, and committed.
But an even better Washington is within our grasp. A Washington that is defined by certain fundamental rights. Fundamental rights that have been the basis of our efforts the last seven years and our proposals this year. I believe we must continue to work for a future that ensures these rights for successive generations.
If the decisions and actions we take are guided by these rights and continue to be powered by the momentum we have created, we will achieve an even more respectful, more decent, and more caring society in our state.
What are these fundamental rights?
The first is the right to a quality education and opportunities for lifelong learning.
A quality education is a universal right. Our children deserve no less, and we can provide them nothing more important.
I’m sure you’re all familiar with my mantra. Education is the great equalizer. Education offers opportunity and hope to all it touches. It makes real the American Dream: that anything is possible if we set our minds to it.
When I was growing up, my parents taught me this important lesson, and instilled in me a passion for learning. School always came first. So I would like to take this opportunity to introduce my mother and father, Julie and Jimmy Locke.
Also with my parents are my sister Marian and her husband Peter Monwai.
Education is the great equalizer, and also a great economic engine. It prepares our workforce of the future, and roots our economic destiny in knowledge and resourcefulness.
Every person in our state must have opportunities at any point in life to seek further education. For basic skills, for occupational advancement, or for personal development and fulfillment.
Quality education and lifelong learning demand a world-class education system.
We’ve made great strides in raising academic achievement the past several years. Our students now exceed the national average in many subjects, and lead the nation in numerous categories.
More importantly, we’ve made great progress as measured against even our own higher state standards.
We are proud of this improvement. But we must intensify our efforts.
Learning begins at birth. But thousands of our kids start kindergarten without the basic skills to succeed in school. That means they start out behind. And many will never catch up to their peers. More early education programs—and improvements to those programs—give children the chance they need and deserve.
The person who has convinced me on the profound benefits of early learning and has spent all of her years as First Lady promoting early learning—not just in our state, but around the nation—my wife, Mona Locke.
We must help our children by giving them the early foundation they need.
We must also help our teachers. In our K-12 system, too many of our teachers still struggle with large class sizes, antiquated facilities, impersonal learning environments, and inadequate learning materials.
Class sizes must be smaller . . . . Teachers must be paid what they deserve . . . and professional development opportunities must be plentiful. More assistance is needed for at-risk students struggling with reading, writing, math and science.
Too many teachers and schools lack the resources to do their best. We must do our best to help them succeed. That’s the only way every student will have a fair chance to meet today’s higher academic standards.
Standing here in this high school, I wonder: How many of the students here have dreams of a college education? Will we help those dreams come true?
Our community colleges and universities are struggling to keep up with “the Baby Boom Echo.” People already in the workforce are looking for opportunities to improve their skills and employability. More people than ever before are seeking a college education. But there aren’t enough professors and classrooms at our universities to meet that demand.
Meanwhile, employers are looking for more graduates in high-demand fields like nursing, computer sciences and engineering. Our high-tech companies will be hiring thousands of people each year. But our colleges and universities can’t even meet half the need. If our state can’t provide the necessary training and education opportunities for these jobs, businesses will hire people from outside our state.
What do we tell those who are waiting for college opportunities? We can’t just say “be patient and wait a few years until the state invests more in education.” We can’t expect them to wait until the economic recovery is 100% complete. We can’t ask them to stand by helplessly while those good family-wage jobs go to people from out of state.
How can anyone consider giving tax breaks to businesses to create more jobs without also giving our students a chance to land those jobs?
That’s why we must make higher education more accessible. The dreams of hardworking students here at Olympia High School and others across our state are worth honoring. The doors of opportunity must be kept open.
And those who are qualified to attend our colleges and universities should not be barred by impossibly high costs. Promise Scholarships and other financial aid programs can make the difference between a dream fulfilled and an impossible dream.
Building a world-class education system requires funding. The investment required to take our education system to the world-class level is significant—but absolutely necessary.
The funding source must be dedicated, permanent and stable. That’s why I’ve challenged the education community to develop the Washington Education Trust Fund. And that’s why I will champion this effort.
It’s time for our state to properly fund education.
The right to a quality education is an integral part of our vision for our state.
A second fundamental right that is also central to our vision for Washington is the right to opportunities for family-wage jobs in a vibrant and expanding economy.
Everyone deserves the opportunity to make a decent living doing meaningful work. Family-wage work that puts food on the table, provides decent housing, and offers a sense of dignity.
Such a goal requires a comprehensive approach to economic development. We must use the tools that create jobs.
Tools like targeted tax incentives for job expansion. We know tax incentives work. The Boeing 7E7 decision safeguarded some 200,000 direct and indirect jobs all across our state. That’s a lot of opportunity for the people of Washington.
Opportunities for good jobs must be available throughout the state. We must provide local governments with the tools to finance infrastructure to attract businesses and bring more good jobs to those communities.
America has always prospered through innovation, and we are an innovation state. We are home to some of the top technology companies in the world. Our universities enjoy stellar reputations as leading research institutions. They have pioneered such globally known and life-changing innovations as bone marrow transplants, ultrasound, and kidney dialysis.
Our colleges and universities are powerful engines of economic development. They have spawned industries of the future in advanced computing, biotechnology, advanced materials, and environmental technology. Industries that have created thousands of jobs already. And will provide thousands more in the future.
The investments we make in these technology areas through targeted tax incentives will fuel this growth.
We must play to our strengths in these areas with initiatives like Bio 21. Bio 21 is a public-private, non-profit partnership that will further fund our state’s outstanding research capacity in biotechnology and information technology. This initiative merges and builds on these two great strengths to cure diseases and promote medical breakthroughs. It establishes Washington as a global leader in computer and biological sciences. Bio 21 has enormous potential to create new industries and thousands of good-paying jobs for our state.
I believe every person in our state has the right to opportunities for family-wage jobs in a vibrant and expanding economy. As we support existing industries, encourage new development, and invest in the industries of the future, we are delivering on the promise of that right.
A third fundamental right that defines our vision for the state is the right to comprehensive health care that is affordable and available.
We all know there is a national crisis that requires a national solution. But for people in desperate need of health care now, this sad knowledge doesn’t help. Nobody should have to suffer just because they are poor, powerless, unheard or unknown.
We in the state of Washington have never waited for federal action. Nor should we wait now. In spite of tough economic times, our state is still a national leader in providing medical care to vulnerable children and adults. We must continue to do all we can for our citizens, and make sure those most in need will always be helped.
Low-and middle-income families struggling to keep their health insurance deserve our efforts to reduce their premiums.
Citizens in rural areas deserve enough doctors and nurses to help the sick and injured. We must never allow clinics and hospitals to close because of rising costs, leaving medical professionals little choice but to move away, never to return. A seriously ill or injured person should not have to drive a hundred miles to reach medical care.
The quality of care should be the same whether you live in a rural or urban area. Technology can bridge distances, enabling doctors and patients in remote areas to consult with leading medical experts around the country.
Doctors struggling with high costs while serving mostly low-income patients deserve increased Medicaid reimbursements for critical services like childbirth. We must help family doctors continue to serve these patients, especially in rural areas.
And the people of Washington deserve our tireless efforts to pressure Congress and the Administration in the other Washington to step up to this national crisis and give all Americans the right to accessible, affordable health care.
The fourth component of our vision for Washington is the right to a clean, healthy environment.
Everyone should care about the condition of this planet that we leave to our children. Future generations deserve to enjoy the same natural beauty and precious natural resources that we enjoy.
We need abundant, clean and cold water in our rivers and streams for people, fish and farms. Our wild salmon—a sacred symbol of Native people and an icon for our state—are indicators of environmental quality. As we restore wild salmon runs, we will be enhancing the pristine environment we so much cherish.
And when we protect ourselves from greenhouse gases, toxins like mercury, unsafe pipelines and oil spills, we are preserving a legacy of environmental health for our children’s children.
When we seek and encourage renewable energy sources, we are preserving a legacy of sustainability, and passing along the right to live in and enjoy a clean and healthy environment.
Fifth and finally, I believe we have a fundamental right to live in a respectful, fair and safe society.
When we invest in education, jobs, health care and the environment, our choices reflect our values: respect . . . opportunity . . . equality . . . diversity . . . and community. As leaders, we should consider these values in all of our decisions.
Though we have differences, a respectful society values these differences. When we embrace our rich diversity, we reach for the highest, best potential of enlightened civilization.
And a respectful society means safe and secure communities. We all deserve to feel safe from danger and protected from harm in our neighborhoods.
We all deserve to enjoy daily life knowing that our civil and human rights are safeguarded. The quality of our society can be measured by how we treat one another.
Whether we choose cooperation over adversity, civility over cruelty, and inclusiveness over intolerance.
We owe it to ourselves, and to future generations, to work toward a society that keeps us safe, dignifies the individual, and works tirelessly for the common good.
These five fundamental rights I have identified today light the path to and serve as the foundation for an even better Washington. All of our citizens deserve these rights. And all of our citizens expect us to create and provide a Washington that guarantees them.
Can we achieve that guarantee? Yes, we can. And we must.
I have dedicated my entire life in public service to it. During my last year as governor I will spend every moment working toward that guarantee.
And those who come after me should do no less.
I ask you to join me in this effort.
Working together, I believe we can build on the momentum of today to secure these rights for our citizens tomorrow.
To serve the people of our state is a great and humbling responsibility.
Let us honor it together.
Thank you very much, and God bless you all.