Washington State of the State Address 2010

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Jan. 12 - Following is the prepared text of Gov. Christine Gregoire's (D) 2010 state of the state address:

Thank you, Brian Cladoosby. Your words are appreciated.

Thank you, Ashley Romero, Marlynn Marok and Mercy Samuel for that wonderful performance of the national anthem. I first heard these three young women a few weeks ago at graduation ceremonies for the Washington Youth Academy and I knew that their voices — and spirit — needed to be here today. 

Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Madam Chief Justice, distinguished justices of the court, honored officials, members of the Washington State Legislature, former governors, tribal leaders, local government officials, law enforcement officers, members of the Consular Association of Washington, my fellow citizens:

It gives me a great deal of pleasure to introduce my husband and best friend, Mike Gregoire — or as he has become known — First Mike.

Mike continues his work in our schools teaching kids to love reading as much as he does. And on a lot of mornings he leaves the house with one thought in mind: What he will do to assist fellow military veterans in any number of ways, from helping when they return from war to finding a job.

Thank you, Mike!

Mike and I are blessed with two wonderful daughters and a great son-in-law. Courtney and Scott couldn’t join us today, but I’m pleased to have Michelle here. 

Michelle is about to decide if she will pursue a law degree — which makes Mike a little nervous. Along with Courtney and Scott, that would make four lawyers at the dinner table — and then there’d be Mike. 

Mike, we can promise that we won’t make you file a motion when you want us to pass the salt and pepper.

This afternoon, I welcome the 61st Washington Legislature back to Olympia. I very much appreciate the simple fact that 147 men and women are willing to interrupt their lives to spend their days, and often their nights, struggling with how best to serve the people who sent you here. It’s not easy, but it is important.

We have been called on to steer our state through one of the most difficult chapters in its history.

It’s an understatement to say this year will be incredibly challenging. It will test us — and the values we hold — like no other year. But this year will also be long remembered. We have been called on to steer our state through one of the most difficult chapters in its history.

And, tragically, Washington has lost 21 of our heroes to terrible violence at home and abroad. 

In 2009, we witnessed unspeakable tragedy. Seven law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty from Lewis County and Pierce County, Seattle and Lakewood; and overseas, 13 of our military service members from Washington were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. And just last week, a Grant County deputy died while on patrol when his car rolled over.

It is often said that law enforcement officers and servicemen and -women make the ultimate sacrifice to protect us and our nation.

Sadly, in the past year, the real human tragedy behind these words was driven home to us with numbing regularity. They are sons and daughters. Brothers and sisters. Husbands and wives, moms and dads, colleagues and friends. And while they are lost to us forever, they will never be forgotten.

These are my heroes. They gave their lives to protect us — and they come no better than that.

And let us always remember the families who were left behind and their sacrifices. They too are my heroes, and my heart still breaks for them.

You have a list of these law enforcement officers and servicemen and -women. Please join me for a moment of silence for them and their families.

These Washingtonians gave their lives so we could have safer communities and a secure nation. For them and their families, we have a duty this session to help build a better future for Washington.

The worst national economic collapse in 80 years has been hard on too many families across the state. 

In all corners of our state, families are struggling to survive the great recession.

These people are good people. People who have always worked and now for the first time are filing for unemployment ... 

Parents who have sacrificed to make better lives for their kids and are now struggling just to put food on the table.

For all these struggling families, we have a duty this session to rebuild the economic future of Washington.

People who believe in the American dream of homeownership and now feel the fear of foreclosure.

People who are used to giving a helping hand to others, and are now forced to ask for help themselves.

People like the man I met at a food bank in Seattle where I was handing out food to families.

He looked me in the eye and said, “I’ve been coming here for years, but until today, I was always on your side of the table. I never thought I would be in the receiving line.”

Sadly, he is not alone. In 2009, about 475,000 people in our state signed up for unemployment benefits. These aren’t regulars. Most are first-time recipients.

The loss of jobs has created a ripple effect through social service agencies and the economy.

Today, one in 13 of our people receives basic food assistance. More than 40 percent of them are children.

During the fall of 2009, more than 26,000 homeowners watched their dream of homeownership fade as they experienced the heartbreaking process of foreclosure.

And more than 86,000 people are on the Basic Health Plan waiting list, and remain just one serious illness away from financial ruin.

For all these struggling families, we have a duty this session to rebuild the economic future of Washington.

For all of us who are called to public service, I would suggest that NOW is the time for leadership — it is the most important time to serve. For as difficult and challenging as the decisions that lie ahead of us will be, now is the time to be decisive, and now is the time for compassion.

It’s the time to make a real difference for people. 

It’s the time to truly shape the future of Washington.

In the best of times, people forget legislative sessions. In the worst of times, history shows decisiveness is what is remembered.

We must have the courage to make hard choices — and to plan for tomorrow while making decisions for today.

They expect us to manage the economic crisis and focus on rebuilding our economic future.

There is no question the challenges facing Washington families and businesses are great. But I also know the resiliency, the creativity and the work ethic of the people of Washington.

We will get through this historic recession, and I know as sure as I know my beloved state that Washingtonians are moving toward a better, brighter future.

I know Washingtonians don’t expect us to solve all their problems. I have said it before and I will say it again: The best solutions to our problems come from within — within our families, our communities, our service organizations and our faith-based communities.

So how do we help build a bright economic future for our state?

One of the things that I love about my job is that I get to talk to Washingtonians across the state. I visit schools and diners, factories and coffee shops.

And here, ladies and gentlemen, is what I hear people say.

They tell me they are scared but they know things will get better. That we are on the cusp of a new economy. And that jobs will come from the growth industries of tomorrow in fields like clean energy, health care and technology. 

They definitely don’t want business-as-usual from government. They want real government reform, real innovation, real service improvement and more value for their tax dollar. 

They expect us to manage the economic crisis and focus on rebuilding our economic future.

They worry about their kids’ future and they want a first-class education system that will prepare children to pursue the career of their dreams.

They want the security of having health care for themselves and their families. 

And they want to have safe communities for all of us.

In short, they want us to make tough choices, both to help get families back to work today and to make wise investments that will ensure our competitiveness so they will still be working tomorrow.

Jobs are the way out of this recession. 

Some of our actions have been paying dividends. Our tough decisions on gas taxes, affirmed by the voters, produced the largest transportation construction program in history and supports more than 21,000 jobs annually.

The goal is to attract $2 billion in capital investments to fuel job growth.

Our creation of the Life Sciences Discovery Fund in 2005 helped spark our global health initiatives and the biotechnology and medical devices industries. 

To our benefit we have embraced a clean energy future. We now have 400 clean technology companies in Washington state. And we’re still growing.

These and other actions resulted in Forbes Magazine ranking Washington higher and higher until we are now the second-best state for business.

But we can and must do more to generate jobs. 

We need to get Washington back to work. 

We owe it to our families to provide job opportunities. I have a plan to create as many as 40,000 new jobs this year.

Here’s how we can make it happen.

Washington has always been a state that attracts capital — both financial and intellectual. We need to keep that tradition going, and one way to do that is to stimulate capital investment in biotechnology, software development, health care, clean technology, renewable energy, aerospace and other industries that will drive our future.

The goal is to attract $2 billion in capital investments to fuel job growth.

We all know small businesses — the backbone of our economy — are suffering the damage of this recession as much as everyone else. Many owners want to hire employees, but they need help. That’s why I am proposing a new employee tax credit for each small business that hires for a new full-time position.

I will direct agencies to enact a green building program that will retrofit state buildings so we put people to work immediately, reduce our carbon footprint and save $60 million in energy costs.

And I will create the Clean Energy Business Development Program to position Washington to be a leader in the clean energy economy and keep us competitive globally. With the world moving toward a smart electrical grid, we will actively work to attract those businesses to invest in and create jobs in our state. 

We must make Washington attractive to business by removing barriers to investments. That’s why I will propose further streamlining and simplifying permitting.

Government must be smarter and more efficient as well.

Many hard-earned, time-limited development permits have sat unused while developers wait for financing in this credit-tight economy. I will direct my agencies to extend these permits for two years so hundreds of millions of dollars worth of projects can break ground as soon as possible.

Our new “One Front Door” program will improve customer service and permitting. I will expand our multi-agency permitting teams to help businesses break through the red tape and to quickly move from planning to job-producing construction.

Job opportunities must exist all across our state. In some areas, the unemployment rate has soared to more than 14 percent. I will encourage development in these hard-hit areas by amending the Rural County Tax Credit Program so it is easier for employers to qualify and hire more workers.

Washington families and businesses are cutting back and trying to do things smarter as they make do with less. Government must be smarter and more efficient as well. 

Washingtonians are our customers and they want one-stop shopping. 

They don’t want to drive across town to brick-and-mortar government offices. They want computer kiosks that offer more convenient service at lower cost. They don’t want to wonder where their tax dollars go. They want agencies to be accountable and to show value given for every dollar received.

I had a guy tell me recently that he was dreading his upcoming trip to a driver’s license office to renew his license. Then a letter came in the mail telling him he could renew online. What could have been a two-hour-long trip turned into a two-minute exercise. That’s the kind of service government should and can provide. 

We are streamlining state government.

Government Management Accountability and Performance, my program to hold state agencies accountable for providing high-quality service and value for every tax dollar, has been cited for its innovation by the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and by the Council for State Governments.

By executive order I have eliminated 73 boards and commissions. 

Like businesses today, we are cutting costs, reducing staffing and increasing efficiency by consolidating back-office support services like the motor pool, property management and technology.

Now is the time to create a lean and effective government. 

We are using technology to better serve the public at less cost. The Department of Licensing — in its most recent improvement — is closing or modifying 26 offices and deploying self-service terminals around the state that will make service easier and more accessible to the public and result in more than $3.5 million in savings per biennium. 

Since we met a year ago, three scientists from different agencies can no longer be found standing in the same river doing research. Now state agencies can rely on one scientist to gather data and share results.

These and other steps resulted in the Pew Center rating Washington one of the three best-managed states in the nation.

But we must do better.

I want government reform this year. 

It is time to peel away the outdated and costly layers of government that we once needed but no longer do. 

This session, I am asking you to approve legislation that would eliminate 78 more boards and commissions. But don’t stop there. I am proposing mergers or realignments that will reduce or eliminate one-third of the 64 small state agencies.

Now is the time to create a lean and effective government. Today we have three growth management hearings boards and five environmental appeals boards, each doing business its own way. 

Let’s reduce to one growth management board and two environmental hearings boards, with just one appeal timeline and set of procedures for environmental and land use appeals.

Now is the time to be more practical in the way we do business. Over the years, the Department of Commerce has become a hodgepodge of programs. 

This session I am asking you to move 25 programs out of the Department of Commerce so it can focus on its critical core mission, and programs can be better aligned to meet the needs of their customers. 

Now is the time to have the courage to close institutions that may be an important fixture in a community, but are no longer cost effective, or whose services are no longer needed or can more effectively be provided elsewhere. 

I am asking you to close all or part of 10 state institutions. 

But we have more work to do, and this session will test our mettle.

First, I propose to close, or partially close, five correctional facilities. By more efficiently using the beds we have, we can save $65 million over four years, and not release a single offender prior to his or her earned release date.

Further, I am requesting that we close two of our residential centers and provide the residents better care in our communities. In the 1970s, we had six state institutions serving 4,000 people. Today, with only one fewer, we serve 900.

And finally I’m asking us to reduce the size of three juvenile institutions.

The last time the state closed an institution was in the 1970s. Now is the time — this session — for us to demonstrate, as difficult as it is, that Washington state government makes good business decisions, not political ones. 

The road to recovery and a bright economic future also starts with us effectively managing our budget crisis.

We already have good management tools in place. Our creation of a Rainy Day Fund worked exactly as it was intended and helped prepare us for this current, dreadfully rainy day.

That step and others helped improve our bond rating. As a result, we are getting the best bond rates in 30 years, and that translates into getting more for every dollar we spend — and more construction projects and jobs.

But we have more work to do, and this session will test our mettle.

The state, this biennium, has a budget shortfall of $12 billion and a $30 billion budget. 

In December, I presented a balanced state budget as required by state law.

It is said that budgets are state policy. But they are much more than that. The budget reflects who we are as a state and the values we hold.

The December budget was balanced, but it would force us to abandon the values that define this state: fairness and compassion.
It would be unjust, unwise and unfair to abandon our friends and neighbors when they need us the most.

The balanced budget eliminates hospice care, which allows more than 2,500 dying patients to remain in their homes, and it cuts maternity care for 50,000 at-risk moms. That’s not compassionate. These are our families, friends and neighbors. We must not deny our most vulnerable citizens the dignity of living out their final days at home and we must give our newborns a healthy start at life.

Education is the single best investment for our future and the key to the success of our kids. 

The balanced budget takes away health care for 70,000 individuals and 16,000 children. That’s not fair. We must not deny health care to families and kids and then pass the costs on to the insured.

The balanced budget eliminates early learning for 1,500 kids and would eliminate state funds for all-day kindergarten. That’s not wise. 

Education is the single best investment for our future and the key to the success of our kids. 

The balanced budget closes the door to college on 12,300 low-income students. That’s neither just nor smart. A child born into poverty must not be told college is out of reach.

Let me tell you a story about a young woman named Janel Brown. 

Janel grew up in poverty and is a survivor of domestic violence. She has seen how poverty hurts kids: teen pregnancy — drug addiction — gang killings — joblessness.

Thanks to a program called Husky Promise, which provides tuition and fees to low-income students, Janel today is a 21-year-old junior at the University of Washington and the first person in her family to go to college.

Janel has already made plans to give back by working with public schools to prepare kids who come from adverse backgrounds for college admittance.

Without tuition assistance, Janel is emphatic: She never would have gone to college. 

But she hasn’t left the inner city behind. She regularly returns to the community and talks to kids. 

She says the kids need to see someone they can relate to — like her — so they know it’s possible to break through tough circumstances. 

And Janel tells the kids this: If they do their part, somebody will meet them halfway.

Ladies and gentlemen, we need to be that somebody who meets them halfway. To be there for them. 

I’m pleased that Janel is here today. Janel, will you please stand?

And speaking of being there for those who need it: Those three young women who sang earlier are here due to our investment in the Washington Youth Academy. 

We cannot just cut or just tax our way out of this immediate budget shortfall. 

The academy is proving second chances work, and it is turning around the lives of at-risk kids who have nowhere else to turn.

There is no question we need to make dramatic cuts to the state budget. I’ve identified about $1.7 billion in real cuts.

But cuts at that level will end up costing us far more than we save. 

As we learn from people like Janel, investing in human potential today will produce a brighter future for Washington tomorrow.

We can make cuts that will write off a generation of kids, produce rising crime rates, increase public assistance costs and leave us with a legacy of squandered human potential. 

Or we can invest in tuition aid today and produce a new crop of first-in-family college grads.

We can make the cuts and wait for higher dropout rates and all the soaring social costs that will follow. 

Or we can invest today in early learning, which is a proven tool for increasing the success of kids.

We can cut costs and transfer higher medical costs to our doctors, hospitals and insured families. 

Or we can invest in health care today and help contain costs and prevent families from facing financial ruin.

Later today I will present a budget I can support. It counts on new revenue of about $750 million and cuts of almost $1 billion. The revenue will come from new federal dollars, new taxes or both.

Like you, I do not want taxes to harm the economic recovery of our families or our businesses.

But I also cannot abandon my values, eliminate the safety net for our most needy and cripple our economic future.

Let me be clear. We cannot just cut or just tax our way out of this immediate budget shortfall. We must have a responsible, balanced approach of painful cuts and new revenue.

It is clear our recovery will not be complete by the end of this biennium. Our 2011–13 budget is of looming concern for us all.

So let’s work together and do what is right for Washington state.

As we all know, building a bright economic future also starts with providing our children a first-class education. 

So we are making progress. But we can and must do more.

We have made progress in recent years. Our historic efforts to improve early learning are guaranteeing more kids success in school. 

Our K-12 student test scores continue to rank high nationally. Our innovative schools in cities around the state have been highly successful in raising vital math and science skills. Our community and technical college system is rated as one of the best in the nation.

In classrooms, our hard-working, committed teachers are focused on improving student and teacher performance. In 2009, almost 1,250 teachers received the prestigious National Board Certification, and we rank fifth in the nation in board-certified educators, in part because of the investments we put in place.

So we are making progress. But we can and must do more.

We must preserve and enhance the early learning initiative we started four years ago when we created the Department of Early Learning. Despite our tough times, now is the time to build the economic future for our children and our state. I ask you to adopt legislation creating “All Start,” a voluntary Washington preschool program to provide early learning opportunities to all 3- and 4-year-olds.

To ensure a good start for all our children, I ask you to continue our implementation of all-day kindergarten for all kids.

And to assure all our children get the education they deserve wherever they live in our state, I’m asking you to lift the levy lid and fund levy equalization.

Highly effective teachers in the classroom and principals who are leaders are key to student success.

I urge you this session to approve an overhaul of the way we evaluate teachers. The new evaluation system must focus on what really counts: high-quality instruction, student achievement and growth. And for the first time, I ask you to provide a system to evaluate the performance of principals based on student achievement as well. 

If we have schools where dropout rates are high, student performance and achievement are low, and where no progress is being made, we need to be able to step in and turn them around.

Our higher education system is a major economic engine for our recovery.

We need to keep the doors to higher education open to students of all income levels by restoring funding for the State Need Grant Program. 

Finally, rebuilding our future means we need to make sure our families are safe.

We owe it to all those, like Janel, who couldn’t attend college without our help.

I’m asking you to provide funding to our community and technical colleges to retrain 2,500 of our workers for the jobs of tomorrow.

And I’m requesting you provide our four-year institutions with competitive tuition flexibility so we can continue to be ranked among the best in the nation in producing the most innovative workers and employers.

As our nation prepares to adopt historic health care reform, let’s ready ourselves to implement it the Washington Way.

Our congressional delegation is working hard to achieve fundamental fairness for our state through changes to children’s health coverage and reimbursement rates for doctors and hospitals. Already, our Basic Health Plan is being touted as a model for the country.

We can show the rest of the nation how to provide higher-quality, lower-cost health care to thousands more Washingtonians.

Finally, rebuilding our future means we need to make sure our families are safe. We have been making progress. 

Our communities are safer today because we gave members of law enforcement the help they asked for in dealing with sex offenders. They have done an admirable job.

Last year, more than 28,000 address verification visits were made, resulting in more than 800 arrests for failure to register and 1,700 arrests made on other warrants. 

Our highways are safer. Since 2002, the number of highway deaths dropped from 659 to 481.

Last year, Mothers Against Drunk Driving selected the Washington State Patrol as the outstanding law enforcement agency in the nation for its DUI enforcement.

But we must do a better job protecting our law enforcement members and our families.

This session, we need to strengthen our mental health laws to prevent the release of violent offenders to our streets.

Our families aren’t safe when a murderer is released from a mental health hospital after just two years of treatment; when a man convicted of the brutal murder of an elderly woman disappears while on a field trip to a county fair; or when a violent criminal history isn’t considered when decisions are made to involuntarily commit individuals.

Let’s get to work for our fallen officers, their families and our entire law enforcement community.

The rights of dangerous mentally ill offenders cannot trump the safety of our families. It is time to ensure both.

I will send you a package of bills this session to hold offenders accountable, increase the sentencing tools of prosecutors, and give more weight to law enforcement and criminal histories when making commitment decisions.

Recently, we have all been shocked by the tragic loss of our law enforcement officers. Leaders of the criminal justice system have come together, and with them, I propose improvements to communications throughout the justice system, how bail is administered in our state and how the Interstate Compact system can better provide public safety to Washingtonians. 

We must ensure that the legacies of these fallen heroes survive by giving their families the support that they deserve. 

Surviving spouses must be entitled to retirement benefits regardless of the fallen officer’s length of service. 

And for their children, it is our duty to make available a college education.

These proposals have been carefully crafted with the help and the expertise of the law enforcement community. They are measured, thoughtful and ensure that from tragedies we learn, we take action and we do the right thing. Let’s get to work for our fallen officers, their families and our entire law enforcement community.

Someone once asked Martin Luther King Jr. when he thought the best time was to take serious action.

Dr. King had an answer for him.

“The time is always right to do what is right.”

To each of you sitting here in front of me this day, I ask you: Let us work together to do what is right for our people — all of our people.

We’re all good people. We all have values. Our work is complicated and sometimes values collide. What we do about that is called governing.

Let’s leave the partisan politics to elections. Washingtonians hate how divided things have become. They just want us to solve the problems.

Let’s provide the decisive, compassionate leadership Washingtonians want and deserve.

So I’ll tell you right now: If you have better ideas to create jobs, reform government, balance the budget, improve our schools, provide high-quality, affordable health care or ensure public safety, I am ready and willing to listen.

These are serious days ahead. Too many families today are getting layoff notices. Watching unpaid bills pile up. Losing health care. Telling their kids they can’t attend college. Standing in line at the food bank. Or dipping into a dwindling savings account just to get by.

Let’s not waste their time or the crisis.

This session is our time. Our time to encourage them to keep the faith in the great promise that Washington offers. Our time to help provide them a bright economic future.

It is not going to be easy. The decisions we have to make will not always be popular. But we have a duty to our struggling families and businesses to help build a bright future for Washington.

The time is now. It is our time. Let’s provide the decisive, compassionate leadership Washingtonians want and deserve.

Thank you, God bless you and God bless the great State of Washington.

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