Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Budget Bill Signing
April 1, 2004
Thank you all for coming. Today is a great day for our children.
The supplemental operating budget Iím about to sign means many, many more college-bound students in high school classrooms across Washington will find a seat in a state college or university.
And it means a significant number of these students will be able to get into high-demand programs like computer science, health care, and engineering.
The budget Iím about to sign means the 7,000 high school students who win our Promise Scholarships to help them realize their dreams of college will receive substantially more help Ė a $300 increase in grant size to about $1,200. And another 4,000 needy students will receive financial aid because of this budget.
This budget means our public school children will get a fair and equitable chance to master our tough academic performance tests, and it means our struggling students and schools will receive more help to get them back on track.
Even as our state struggles to recover from a long, hard recession, we focused the resources we had on my top priority Ė education.
But the work is far from over.
The funding in this budget to finance up to 3,000 new enrollment slots at state colleges and universities Ė a third in high-demand fields -- is a step in the right direction.
The future incoming wave of high school students Ė more than ever before in our stateís history Ė will look to our state leaders to open the doors of our colleges and universities to them. In fact, we will soon need to add 10,000 enrollment slots per year to keep up with demand.
Our state leaders must accept the challenge. Our kids are depending on them, and so is the economy.
Speaking of the economy, this budget continues $68 million in targeted tax incentives for high technology research and development and for rural economic development. These incentives have been proven to create jobs in every part of our state. And thatís important.
But the most important economic-development tool we have is giving our children the education they need to live and work in a competitive, challenging world.
And we want Washington children to get those good family-wage jobs.
Iím very pleased about other parts of the supplemental operating budget too.
To mention just a few:
∑ The budget contains enough funding to reduce or eliminate premiums for families of children receiving state-subsidized health insurance.
o The budget eliminates premiums for children in families up to 150 percent of the federal poverty level - or income of $23,500 for a family of three. Requires $10 premium, instead of $20 for families under 200 percent of poverty Ė income of $23,500 to $31,300 for a family of three. Requires $15 premium, instead of $25 for families between 200 and 250 percent of poverty ($39,200 per year for a family of three.
∑ We have also have provided the funding to better compensate the home-health care workers who care for our elderly and disabled.
∑ In addition, this budget helps finance new efforts to rid our environment of toxics such as mercury and persistent and harmful chemicals that have been found even in mothersí breast milk.
Iím also pleased today also to sign a $200 million supplemental capital construction budget.
This spending not only will create high-paying construction jobs in the near term, but it will also pump $111 million into new and expanded college and university facilities.
There is also substantial funding in the budget to help us better manage our precious water resources.
I have exercised my prerogative to use my veto pen when necessary.
By far the largest single veto is of a provision in the operating budget to reduce allotments to travel, equipment and contracts by 10 percent.
This across-the-board reduction, for example, cuts higher education by $2.7 million, which amounts to more than 10 percent of the increase for higher education in other parts of the supplemental budget.
This across-the-board reduction would hit the Department of Corrections to the tune of $1.6 million. Our prison travel budget is largely used to transport prisoners. You canít move prisoners without the money to pay for travel. The money is for specialists for treatment of sex predators.
The reduction for the Superintendent of Public Instruction would require the agency to absorb $515,000 in cuts at the same time it must hire contractors to grade the WASL tests, and it must send staff all over the state to investigate unfit teachers and other problems in school districts.
Now I will sign these budgets, and the remainder of the legislation from the 2004.