Ohio State of the State Address 2002

Following is the full text of Gov. Bob Taft's State of the State Address, delivered on Feb. 5.

Speaker Householder, President Finan, minority leaders Herington and DePiero, distinguished guests, and my fellow Ohioans, thank you for joining us today.

As I address you for the fourth time, I remain humbled by the awesome duties of my office and ever grateful for the honor of serving Ohio.

When I took office, the economy was strong, employment was plentiful, the state budget was stable and we were a nation at peace.

How times have changed.

Let me begin by thanking the members of the Ohio General Assembly for your hard work last year.

You faced as tough a year as any in recent memory. And you did it with strong new leadership in the House, new energy and new enthusiasm.

Yes, we've had an occasional difference of opinion but, in the end, we acted responsibly. And I applaud you for it.

I especially want to recognize the accomplishments of a remarkable Ohio leader.

During a 29-year legislative career that concludes this year, Sen. Dick Finan has risen to the occasion time and again.

Senator, through the Home State crisis, the restoration of our historic Statehouse, and more budget battles than you care to remember, you've always stood firm for your principles. And you've won the respect of Ohioans everywhere. Thank you, Senator, for your extraordinary work on behalf of Ohioans!

It's been said that it's easier to govern in good times than in bad. How true it is.

Many states have yet to face up to their budget shortfalls. But not Ohio. Through the leadership of Speaker Householder, Sen. Finan, members of my cabinet, and so many in this chamber, we rose to the challenge. Thank you for getting the job done.

Now, I'd be remiss -- and in a lot of trouble, too -- if I didn't introduce my partner in marriage and in public life, first lady Hope Taft. This past year, Hope donned her hard hat and blistered her hands helping to build 25 Habitat for Humanity homes for needy families.

Her commitment to children and families is surpassed only by the number of events on her calendar.

In fact, we've had a little race going on since Inauguration Day: Who would be the first to visit all 88 counties? Now, I hate to lose, but I have to admit, Hope, you beat me by a day. Hope, thank you for your love, support and dedication to Ohio.

In my inaugural address, I recalled the pioneers who fashioned Ohio from the tapestry of the Northwest Territory; and the pioneers of invention, industry and labor who made Ohio a powerhouse in the 20th century.

We're now entering our third frontier -- the frontier of knowledge and innovation.

At the same time, we face a more dangerous world. And the overriding issue on the minds of our citizens is security -- economic security on the new frontier and physical security at home.

We have not inherited tranquil times. So history will judge us on how well we guide Ohio through the challenges ahead.

Our state is in transition. Transition from aging industry to more dynamic manufacturing and high-tech economy. From an education system that was mired in mediocrity to one where students and teachers are challenged to succeed.

And all the while, we must guard against the faceless evil of a more treacherous world.

Five months ago, we lost our sense of security. We woke to a brilliant September morning. But night fell on a nation under attack.

Like millions of Americans, I watched with horror as the events unfolded. One plane and then another hit the World Trade Center. One plowed into the Pentagon. A fourth dove into the Pennsylvania countryside. One of these planes flew directly over Ohio.

It still doesn't seem possible.

And though I saw the pictures on TV, nothing prepared me for my visit to Ground Zero.

I'll never forget the sadness in the eyes of the victims' families who were at the site that day, or the determination of the rescue workers.

Since Sept. 11, many Ohioans have left their families to defend our freedom. A grateful state salutes their bravery. We pray for their safe return.

Our sympathy goes out to the family of Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Chapman, a graduate of Centerville High School, who died in the line of duty in Afghanistan.

And, tragically, we must send our condolences as well to the families of two other Ohioans, First Lt. William Satterly and Capt. Brian Rizzoli, who were killed this past weekend while serving our nation.

Their sacrifice reminds us that real heroes come from everyday life -- firefighters, police officers, military troops and rescue workers. Several are here today.

Jim Gruenberg is the leader of Ohio's urban search and rescue team. Jim and the members of his unit here today worked round the clock for days on end at Ground Zero.

Mary Jane Latta is a member of the Ohio Crisis Response Team. She was summoned to the shores of the Hudson River to work grueling, 16-hour days counseling survivors.

Lt. Col. Ruben Padro with the 121st Air Wing was called to duty immediately to fly homeland defense missions over our nation's cities.

And Sgt. Temple Jefferson has been protecting travelers at Port Columbus since October.

You are the true heroes of our time. We're proud of you, and we thank you for your service to our nation. We're proud of you, and we thank you. Thank you for your service.

Let me credit the foresight of the Legislature for preparing the Ohio National Guard to respond to our nation's threats.

Because you expanded the Guard Scholarship Program, our units are now at full strength.

Today, the Guard is one of the premier units in America. Gen. Smith, we're proud of you and the men and women of the National Guard!

And I believe all of us are grateful for the decisive leadership of our nation's commander in chief, George W. Bush. So on behalf of all Ohioans, please join me in saluting our president.

Here in Ohio, we're more vigilant than ever. Our citizens are more watchful. Our safety forces are on alert.

Through the Security Task Force, we're making sure Ohio is ready to respond to a terrorist attack.

I placed the State Highway Patrol on heightened alert and deployed our National Guard to protect our airports.

We've held security briefings for business and industry, and we're in constant contact with our nuclear-energy plants to keep them safe.

I want to recognize Lt. Gov. Maureen O'Connor -- our point person for domestic security. Maureen, thank you for your strong leadership for a safer Ohio.

Since Sept. 11, our nation has come together in a spirit of unity. And we've turned unity into action.

To the Legislature, I say thank you for passing the Emergency Management Assistance Compact.

I urge swift action on Senate Bill 184 and House Bill 411. It's time to toughen penalties on terrorists who target Ohio, to say loud and clear, and to borrow a phrase, "Don't mess with Ohio."

We'll provide $5 million in low-interest loans to safeguard Ohio's water system. And we'll require counties to include terrorism response in their emergency plans.

Good intelligence is our best weapon in the fight against terror. Lt. Gov. O'Connor will soon unveil a new law-enforcement tool to provide real-time information on possible terrorist threats.

Together, we've done much to keep Ohio safe. And we'll do more. Let there be no doubt, I will summon every power of the state to protect our families from the threat of terror. With your support, no terrorist will find a safe harbor in Ohio!

But a safe harbor is exactly what Ohio families need. That means protecting the health of our children and our seniors.

Together, we've served our children well. Today, we're providing health benefits to 175,000 more children than when I took office.

We've also helped our seniors. Raised the homestead exemption. Reduced the estate tax. Increased Alzheimer's respite care. And protected seniors from phony investment schemes. But we must do more.

No senior should be forced to choose between food and medicine. No senior should be asked to tolerate pain because a prescription is too expensive. We can help them. Let's make prescriptions more affordable!

So I call upon Congress to add drug coverage for every senior on Medicare as soon as possible.

In the meantime, we need to act.

I'm disappointed the drug-discount program I announced last year has not been enacted. It's not a cure-all, but it will offer discounts of 10 to 30 percent on prescriptions.

John and Vicki Previty wrote to tell me their drug bills are over $2,500 a year. They note Ohio, unlike other states, "offers no help in this area."

Their request? "Please help us."

John and Vicki, help is on the way.

The House heard your pleas and passed House Bill 4 by an overwhelming margin.

Senators, help Ohio seniors and put our discount-drug bill on my desk by the end of the month!

Perhaps our greatest challenge is to provide economic security for all Ohioans. And that begins with a good education.

When my time as governor is done, and I'm asked what we accomplished, I hope to answer "excellent schools and high-paying jobs for Ohioans." These are my priorities.

Together, we funded education first, committing record levels of support for Ohio schools, lifting state funding by nearly 40 percent since I took office.

Our school-building initiative is having tremendous impact. In fact, Ohio leads the nation. We spend more than $2 million a day building and improving schools. Over 300 schools in 130 districts are being designed or constructed even as I speak.

As each brick is laid, we're building not just better schools, but bigger dreams and brighter futures for our children. We've made a difference, and Ohio is stronger for it! Indeed, we've made great progress in school funding and new buildings, and we're working with the mediator to resolve the last remaining issues in the school-funding case.

But even more important than money or new buildings is results.

So I'm pleased we enacted the recommendations of the Governor's Commission on Student Success.

When fully implemented, Ohio will have high academic standards, common-sense assessments and accountability for results! Again, we've made a difference, and Ohio is stronger for it!

And through OhioReads, I'm determined to make sure every child can read before they leave elementary school.

Hope and I join more than 40,000 Ohioans who serve as volunteer reading tutors. Some thought we'd never make our goal of 20,000 volunteers, but they didn't understand the giving spirit of Ohio. I see many OhioReads tutors here today. You've made a difference, and Ohio is stronger for it!

With more money, better buildings, higher standards, informed parents and a growing army of volunteers, we're well on our way to enabling every child in Ohio to succeed.

Here's one example:

Fairland Local schools in Lawrence County met 26 of 27 state standards, yet it's not a wealthy district.

What's their secret? Well, I found out on a visit two years ago.

It's high expectations. Taking standards seriously. Aligning the curriculum. Training teachers. Measuring student progress. And a commitment to help all students succeed, no matter what it takes.

We're joined today by Fairland Superintendent Jerry McConnell, principal Teresa Johnson, teacher Mike Allen and students Kira Dillon, Elijah Wise and Rachel Marten.

Thank you all for being here and showing that it can be done!

School improvement is happening everywhere in rural, suburban and big-city school districts.

More than 75 percent, three out of every four school districts, improved on their report card last year. They've made a difference, and Ohio is stronger for it!

But we can be stronger still. We know good students are helped by good teachers. So we're giving special attention to recruiting, training and retaining our best classroom leaders.

Through the Governor's Commission on Teaching Success, we'll ensure caring, competent teachers for every student in Ohio.

And since I took office, we've increased the number of national board-certified teachers from 340 to over 1,300 today. Because teachers make a difference, Ohio's children are stronger for it!

Through better schools, more kids will graduate and be prepared to enter the work force or college.

But the knowledge economy requires more than just a high school education, and I'm pleased to report enrollment at our colleges and universities has increased in each of the last three years.

I want to thank the Legislature for working with me to increase financial aid for college students by 28 percent since I took office.

We've also enacted the college tuition tax credit, which takes effect this year. These steps have improved access to higher education for many Ohioans.

But we need to build on our success. We need more kids to go on to college. You and I can set a goal: In 5 years, 5,000 more high school graduates will go on to college than did this past fall.

We'll achieve this goal by supporting what works. The Ohio College Access Network encourages high-school students to go to college. It's having great success. In one program, the number of college-going students rose by nearly 34 percent after two years.

So we'll invest $2 million to help double the number of access programs within 18 months.

And though Ohio is a net importer of college students, we've got to do a better job of convincing them to stay after graduation.

The Graduates Council in Cleveland is doing just that. They seek out high-achieving students, provide internships, offer contact with business leaders, and highlight the city's job opportunities and exceptional quality of life.

We all must take up the cause of retaining graduates. So today, I challenge the business community to keep our best and brightest in Ohio.

We'll do our part. We'll provide work-force investment money to help create 10 new graduate-retention programs throughout Ohio by the end of the year.

And to those of you who are about to graduate, let me tell you, there's no better place to live, work, raise a family and build a career than right here in Ohio.

Education will guarantee our economic security tomorrow, but far too many Ohioans are hurting today. I've talked to many laid-off workers. I know they're worried about paying their bills and supporting their families.

Because of the national economic slump, thousands of our friends and neighbors have lost their jobs. Many are about to exhaust their regular unemployment benefits.

I join President Bush in calling on Congress to extend unemployment benefits for another 13 weeks. All Ohioans -- all Americans -- looking for work need help. What's the problem, Washington? Let's get it done!

I have great confidence in the economic future of Ohio because our fundamentals remain strong. We've made our state even more competitive. Reduced worker's compensation rates. Cut the inventory tax. Supported our steel industry. Extended enterprise zones. Increased on-the-job training. And created the job-retention tax credit.

We're world-class when it comes to making things. Our goods compete everywhere and, today, we stand second in the nation in the number of manufacturing jobs tied to exporting. And we're helping more companies market their products through our trade missions and trade offices.

Here's an example:

Prospect Mold in Cuyahoga Falls was in danger of downsizing. But Ohio's trade office in Mexico City helped them turn things around.

Jeff Glick, company vice president, wrote that with our help they've "already received three orders totaling over $2 million." That's good news for the company and good news for Ohio.

Yet as companies become more efficient to compete in the global market, they make more products with fewer, but higher-skilled workers.

That's why we need to do more to grow and attract the new-knowledge jobs of the 21st century.

Two hundred years ago, the settlers transformed Ohio wilderness into civilization. Generations later, the pioneers of flight and light conquered another frontier to make Ohio a powerhouse of the industrial revolution.

Now, it's our turn. We are the pioneers of Ohio's third frontier, a frontier of exploration and discovery, where knowledge is king.

In the past three years, we've done much to secure our future success.

We increased investment for technology, biomedical research and venture capital.

We created a new Edison Center for information technology, motivated researchers to market their ideas, and formed a new council to promote the work of NASA/Glenn and Wright-Patterson. And we reduced the tax burden for new high-tech firms.

Thousands of Ohioans are now exploring the next frontier in science, medicine, technology, information and communications.

But we're not moving fast enough to keep pace with our competitors or replace jobs lost to productivity.

It's time for bold, decisive action.

So I propose the Third Frontier Project. We'll invest $1.6 billion over the next 10 years to build on our progress, provide better research facilities and create new centers of innovation.

When combined with federal and private support, the Third Frontier Project can generate over $6 billion to make Ohio a leader in new research and new high-paying jobs. This project will transform our economy, and Ohio will be stronger for it!

Here's how we'll do it:

First, we'll commit $500 million over the next 10 years for the technology action and the biomedical research funds. These dollars will support early-stage capital and the development of leading-edge products.

Second, as part of this year's capital budget, I'll propose the first installment of a $500 million effort to finance facilities and equipment for globally competitive centers of research.

Named after the Wright brothers, this capital program will provide break-through research capabilities for today's inventors.

Third, with a stable budget and an economy ready to rebound, we'll seek voter approval next year for a $500 million bond program to recruit world-class researchers for our universities, endow chairs and bring state-of-the-art products to market.

These funds could be used for any number of purposes in every part of Ohio.

For example: Polymers in Akron. Information technology in Dayton. Fuel cells in Cleveland. Biomedical research in Cincinnati. Nanotechnology in Columbus. High-tech manufacturing in Canton, Toledo and Youngstown, and advanced farming in our rural heartland.

Finally, we'll create a $100 million Innovation Ohio Fund to help finance targeted industries with high-growth potential based on regional priorities.

This fund will support advanced manufacturing techniques to help existing companies become more productive and profitable.

Let me tell you about the type of company we want to grow in Ohio with the Third Frontier Project.

Athersys is a national leader in improving medical care through the discovery of new biopharmaceuticals. Founded in 1995, Athersys has raised over $85 million in venture capital. They've also benefited from Ohio's job creation tax credit.

The company holds two patents and 23 pending applications. The 130 employees of Athersys have an average annual salary of $51,000.

With us is Gil Van Bokkelen, president of Athersys. Gil, thank you for your ingenuity and for creating high-paying jobs in Ohio.

Make no mistake: The Third Frontier Project is a significant commitment for our future.

But we won't spend money just to spend money. We'll demand and achieve results.

Within three years, we'll see a 25 percent increase in private and federal R (research) and D (development) in Ohio.

We'll see manufacturing capital investment grow in excess of the national rate.

We'll have record levels of venture capital and record numbers of patents, licenses and new business start-ups.

Our goals are simple: We'll invest in our strengths, we'll build dynamic new businesses, and we'll create an explosion of high-paying jobs in Ohio.

Today, we're a people more united. And through unity, we draw strength. Strength to rise above partisanship. Strength to set aside personal ambition. Strength to accomplish any goal.

We weren't sent here to mark time. We were sent here to get things done.

Together we can transform our economy. The third frontier lies ahead. Together, and only together, we can build a brighter future for our children! Together, we can do it. Together, we can!

Though we've been challenged by terrorism and recession, we're pioneers on a new frontier, ready to triumph over adversity.

Even under attack, our spirit has not faltered. Our economy has slowed, but we're poised for new prosperity.

From Ashtabula to Zanesville, from the rolling hills of Appalachia to the bustling corridors of our great cities, the spirit of the early pioneers breathes within us.

We stand on the doorstep of Ohio's third frontier. The great challenge of our time is to summon the courage and ingenuity of those who have come before us, to protect our citizens, and reclaim our place as a global home of discovery and innovation.

With the help of you, my friends, and with the commitment of all Ohioans, we will prevail. For with God, all things -- and I mean all things -- are possible!

Thank you, and may God bless Ohio.
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