Washington State of the State Address 2002

Following is the full text of Washington Governor Gary Locke's annual State of the State Address, delivered in Olympia on January 15.

Mr. President; Mr. Speaker; Honorable Chief Justice of the Washington State Supreme Court; distinguished Justices of the Supreme Court; statewide elected officials; members of the Washington State Legislature; my wife, the First Lady of the State of Washington; members of the Consular Association; my fellow Washingtonians:

On a Tuesday morning last September, we awoke to what started as an ordinary day. We awoke to thoughts of the Mariners beating Anaheim, to the smell of brewing coffee, to the sounds of children scrambling down the stairs in those first days of a new school year. But our peace and tranquility were shattered as we turned on the television sets to images of anguish and horror. Sounds and pictures of destruction, terror and suffering seared into our memories.

We will forever remember where we were and how we felt on September 11th -- witnessing the collapse of the World Trade Center towers live on television, even before the anchors could comprehend what was happening, the fear that cities across America were under attack, feelings of vulnerability, the loss of serenity in our daily lives. So, we gather now in an age tarnished by the evils of a few, and yet invigorated by the goodness and decency of so many.

Within hours of the attacks, we witnessed the true spirit of the American people, surging up and washing over our despair. In our state, we saw neighbors come together and stand guard at area mosques against acts of ignorance and bigotry. We saw our children create artwork and raise money for the families of the victims. We saw firefighters throughout Washington travel to Ground Zero in New York City to help in the rescue and recovery efforts among the twisted steel. And we saw members of our National Guard, who are specially trained to respond to any chemical, biological or nuclear threat, assist law enforcement here and in other states. And we saw state employees from our Department of Labor and Industries and the Emergency Management Division go to New York to aid in the recovery efforts.

Please join me in recognizing all of these brave men and women from our state, some of whom are with us here this afternoon: firefighters from the Tri-Cities, members of our National Guard and employees in the Department of Labor and Industries. Please stand and receive our salute and our thanks. Thank you for your dedication.

Let's also pause and thank all of our dedicated state and local public servants who each day labor to provide for the safety and security of all of our residents. Twenty-four hours after the terrorist attacks, I was overwhelmed to see the sea of faces, 10,000 strong, at the Puyallup Fairgrounds singing patriotic songs but condemning discrimination. And then, two days later, more than 30,000 people gathered at the Westlake Center in Seattle, joining in a West Coast-wide minute of silence in tribute to the victims of September 11. From the extraordinary outpouring of patriotism, prayer and generosity among children and adults, we understood that the anguish that flows from the terrorist attacks cements our character and unites our faith. As a nation, we were wounded last year, but in the words of Abraham Lincoln, "we bound up our nation's wounds with the strength and resolve of our people."

In the face of adversity, we must draw together and labor in common cause for the greater good. Today we face forces unseen, but we accept those challenges with determination and optimism. More than four decades ago, President Kennedy said, "In the long history of the world, only few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger." Eleven days ago, Green Beret Sergeant First Class Nathan Chapman, who lived with his wife and two young children in Puyallup, was the first combat fatality in Afghanistan. He served and died defending our freedom. And six days ago, Marine Sergeant Nathan Hays of Wilbur, Washington, was one of seven Marines killed in a U.S. military plane crash. Let's observe a moment of silence for them and their families and friends. Imagine the state we could create if each of us captures just a small portion of their courage and energy and dedicates it to the greater good.

These are trying times. We find ourselves with a state economy and a state budget ravaged by war and a national economic recession. We'll pull through, just as we have in the past, but only by working together.

I believe in a better future for our state. I believe that we're a resilient people. But, how well and how fast we respond depends on the foundations we lay in the months ahead.

Just last year, in 2001, we weathered an earthquake, a drought, tragic wildfires, an energy crisis, and the uprooting of the Boeing corporate headquarters. At times, our experience resembled the biblical "twelve plagues of Egypt" minus the locusts -- but our citizens persevered with courage and optimism. Together, we averted an energy crisis by promoting conservation, by bringing more energy online and by planning strategically for our energy future. Together, we responded quickly and effectively to our state's drought by purchasing water farmers, by conserving, and reforming our outdated water laws. Together, we continued to move people from welfare to work. Together, we invested in smaller class sizes and targeted assistance to low-performing schools. Together, we established the Competitiveness Council to identify ways to reinvigorate our business climate. We must build upon our past successes, to enhance our economic vitality, to preserve our way of life, and to put our people back to work.

A study issued last week estimates that as many as 50,000 people in our state will lose their jobs as a direct result of the September 11th terrorist attacks. And our state has been one of the hardest hit by the national economic recession. Today, we have laid-off aerospace workers struggling to pay their mortgages; today, we have aluminum workers in Spokane and Goldendale worried about college tuition for their children; today, we have recent college graduates unable to find work. Their stories transcend statistics.

Just as thousands of families across our state have had to adjust their personal budgets in these tough economic times, so too must we rewrite our state budget. I've proposed many state budgets as a legislator and governor, but believe me, this was the toughest. All of the programs that I have proposed for elimination or reduction provide valuable services to real people in every part of our state. My proposal narrows state government's role as a social services provider. But, it protects the most vulnerable children and vulnerable adults, for we must ensure that the safety net remains strong and intact. The budget I'm proposing lays the foundation for our future. The half-a-billion dollars in spending cuts will save more than that, more than a billion dollars in the next biennium. In addition to reducing costs and preserving core services, we continue to improve business practices within state government and achieve millions of dollars in savings through efficiencies. And, we can balance our budget without a general tax increase.

Education, of course, remains our paramount duty. Great public schools are the cornerstone for our state's long-term success. And that's why funding for basic education, class-size reduction and higher academic achievement simply cannot be compromised. And the planned enrollment increases in higher education must be maintained. Indeed, we must retrain even more workers so that when our economy improves -- and it will -- our workers will be ready for family-wage jobs.

But now is a time for tough decisions. We have a $1.25 billion deficit that we must address. I know many legislators have differing ideas on the solution. I pledge to work together with all of you to develop a fair, balanced and humane budget for the people of our state. Rewriting the budget is part of our constitutional charge: we are required to have a balanced budget.

But in so many areas, like transportation, education, clean and plentiful water, and economic revitalization, we must ask ourselves, "if we don't act, who will?" These problems won't fix themselves. We must rise to the challenge. We must accept the risks. We must act.

Transportation problems present us with just such a challenge. We all want Washington and our citizens to prosper. But we will not prosper with a transportation system that is broken, that chokes progress, that diminishes our competitiveness. Our businesses understand that. Our farmers understand that. Our families and our friends understand that. Our state's Competitiveness Council determined that the single most important thing we can to enhance our state's economy and quality of life is to enact a long-term transportation plan that fixes congestion.

We must not allow our economic future to grind to a halt on our broken streets and highways. And, whether we live in the country or the city, we must ensure the safety of our loved ones who now travel highways in desperate need of repair. We tackled transportation last year. We failed. We did not get there. We must tackle it again this session. And this time we must act. We must provide statewide funding for transportation in every part of our state and we must authorize regions to partner with the state to build projects faster and to meet unique transportation needs. We must act for the in Eastern Washington, hauling his harvest to market. We must act for the commuter in gridlock that robs her of time with family, time helping her children with homework, time enjoying life. We must act for the businesses that would grow in Washington state if it for the traffic. And there is no reason why we can't pass transportation reforms and efficiencies within the next few days and have it on my desk for signature. Improving transportation provides lasting economic development in rural and urban counties, it reduces congestion, enhances safety and enables businesses to grow. Highway construction alone will create more than 20,000 new private-sector jobs throughout our state in the first few years. We must act, because what's at stake is the future of our state. Of course, we have other objectives.

In education: Yes, our test scores are rising. But we must work to erase the growing disparity in achievement among ethnic groups. Education begins at home and that's why we must encourage more parental involvement. Because reading is the foundation of academic success, I will launch a major literacy and parental involvement campaign this spring, mobilizing the help of businesses, volunteers and non-profits.

In water, we must build on our successes from last year and ensure safe, clean and abundant water for our growing communities, for farmers and for fish. I'm taking administrative action and submitting legislation to implement recommendations of our state's Competitiveness Council. Together we will forge ahead with tax simplification and our permitting process, but without compromising our environmental standards.

Lastly, I'm proud that our state is better prepared than most to respond to any terrorist attack. But, we need stronger laws to prevent and prosecute terrorist acts, while at the same time ensuring our civil liberties. And I urge you to pass the legislation that our great Attorney General and I have submitted to you. And let's pass legislation mandating harsher penalties for those who commit crimes motivated by bigotry and hate.

Of course, we have other objectives. But I won't list them all today. For this is no ordinary session and this is no ordinary time. We live in an age of an invigorated initiative process, one that holds a mirror to citizens and elected officials alike. It's a cherished part of our state's governing process, but so, too, is legislative process. We manifest a government of, by and for the people.

Ladies and gentlemen, if we want to reinforce faith in government by our citizens, we must deliver. I was moved by the patriotism, prayer and the generosity of the thousands of citizens across our state who assembled to memorialize the victims of terror. I was so proud that our citizens expressed solidarity with their Muslim neighbors. They renewed my faith that we can create great possibilities for our children and our grandchildren.

We approach the enormous challenges before us, not because they're easy -- they're not --but because they're right for our state. And they're right for future generations to come.

Early, on that sad morning last September, one of the first lawmakers to come into my office and offer his support was House Co-Speaker Clyde Ballard. Minutes later, Senate Majority Leader Sid Snyder joined me to reassure Washingtonians over the radio and television that our state government was vigilant and "on the job." On that day we stood and came together not as Democrats and Republicans, but as Americans. The American people demand that, in matters of public service and the greater public good, partisanship falls away.

Sergeant First Class Nathan Chapman volunteered for duty in Afghanistan. He volunteered told his wife there was a 50/50 chance he would not come home. He served and died to protect our liberty and to ensure our freedom. We, too, volunteered. We volunteered for public office to serve the people of our state and create a better way of life for our children and our grandchildren. Sergeant First Class Chapman and Sergeant Hays did their duty for love of our country. Now we must do our duty for the love of our state.

God Bless America. Thank you, and God bless you. God bless America. God bless freedom-loving people all across the world.
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