Wyoming State of the State Address 2005

CHEYENNE, Wyo., Jan. 12 - The following is the prepared text of Gov. Dave Freudenthal's (R) 2005 state of the state address:

The year is 1963. Clifford P. Hansen is Wyoming's Governor. The 37th Legislature has assembled to hear the governor's constitutionally prescribed message.

Governor Hansen, speaking with an eloquence which I cannot match, focused on Wyoming's natural and continuing agenda.

The need for "ample jobs," economic diversification and a well-trained workforce is restated.

Governor Hansen recognizes our "...breathtaking scenery as well as the unique and diversified recreational opportunities..." as one of our best sources of jobs and payroll expansion. And game and fish as "a great renewable resource."

Highways are discussed, and "transportation and communication" are said to "pace all progress."

Financing of local governments is characterized as "one of the most widespread and important issues facing Wyoming."

Wyoming's water supply is cited as the resource which may most critically "...affect our growth and wellbeing."

Wyoming's continuing commitment to education - K-12, community colleges and the University of Wyoming - finds full voice in a call for funding and improvement.

In 1963, capital construction is referenced as "one of our greatest opportunities in providing for the future," dependent, of course, "on the amount of wisdom we exercise in the building of permanent improvements..."

Issues surrounding the health and welfare of our citizens are introduced with a statement of enduring truth. Governor Hansen said, "Perhaps no single area of the state's activities involves more people, gives rise to greater emotionalism, and evokes greater controversy than the subject of welfare and health."

A tone of government restraint and fiscal responsibility permeates the text.

And, finally, the all-too-familiar struggle with the federal government on resource management caused Governor Hansen to say, "I believe if we fail to recognize these problems and deal with them as a state, the federal government will transgress upon what rightfully belongs to Wyoming, and impose upon us even further federal control and authority."

Governor Hansen's address to the 37th Legislature reflects the basic issues of territorial and state governors throughout history. The addresses of Governor Hathaway and Governor Herschler moved towards a greater emphasis on the balance between economic growth and the maintenance of Wyoming's environment and lifestyle. Governor Hathaway's "Quality Growth" and Governor Herschler's "Growth on our Terms" were turning points in our history. Allowing variations for the issues of immediate urgency, the fundamentals remain the same.

We gather as products of our history, our geology and geography and the economic realities of Wyoming. The tasks to which the hands of our citizens and the programs of our government turn are dictated by these realities. But there is one significant difference between this Legislature and the Assembly of 1963: We have money. Our revenues are remarkable and our prospects, with the inevitable vagaries of the future, are generally bright.

Money should not, and must not, change our commitment to solving problems and building this state. Nor should we engage in some extended identity crisis as to the direction of the state. We know who we are and we know what we need. Ours is the remarkable opportunity to convert the hopes and dreams of generations of our citizens and leaders from the realm of words to the realm of action. Current and prospective revenues are simply tools to build this state and help its citizens. The amount of money available changes the rate at which we can convert our values into action - it should not change our values.

Action is not without risk. The safest course for public officials is simply to throw all of the money in a sack. Or in the way of one servant in the Biblical parable of the talents, bury the money in the ground rather than accept any risk. The servant's business plan proved reliable but ineffective. The truth of the Biblical parable applies to the modern world. Inaction may be safe but it builds nothing.

We have the roadmap of issues outlined by generations of Wyoming citizens and leaders. We have an unparalleled access to resources to address the issues. We must not allow a lack of confidence in ourselves and our citizens to defeat this opportunity.

In the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, "The only limit to our realization of tomorrow is our doubts about today." Let us demolish our doubts, ignore the politics of partisanship and credit, and get about the work our kids and grandkids deserve. Ultimate passage of legislation rests with this body and not the executive branch. However, I appreciate this constitutionally authorized opportunity to offer some constructive suggestions.

In the next 40 days we should address the variety of measures designed to provide for better government operations and better services to our citizens. From bingo to graduated drivers licenses to combating child pornography, the issues await our attention. Rather than speak to each issue in this address, I simply commit to work with you as they move through the legislative process.

Submission of the supplemental spending requests followed the normal course. With some exceptions the executive branch and the appropriations committee are in general agreement on the budget. Notable areas of disagreement were the rejection by the committee of investments in education compensation, the education innovation fund and highway construction.

I remain hopeful this body will re-address these areas of need. I understand, without necessarily agreeing with, the committee's position on the education funding given our shared endorsement of the added insurance and external cost adjustment dollars.

I do not understand the rejection of additional funding for state highway construction both by the appropriations committee and the sponsors of the legislation supporting more funding for the towns and counties. Surely the historical commitment to our transportation system merits a share of the added available revenues.

The basic agreement seems to be on a budget which concentrates on capital construction, economic development, community building and attempts to limit the increases in ongoing operating costs of government. We should remain wedded to these principles, not only in the budget but in the variety of spending measures attached to substantive legislative proposals. I express some reservations about the long term operating cost implications of the variety of human service related proposals under discussion by this body and the interest groups.

It may be more appropriate to adopt the approach taken by Secretary of State Meyer in dedicating a block of revenue to support the Help America Vote Act, instead of relying upon the dedication of future revenues.

A third set of proposals before this body improve, expand and implement strategies to build Wyoming. In a sense, we are fine tuning a business plan which builds on Wyoming's strengths and its shared values. Wyoming's economic strength lies in two items sought after by the people of this nation. First is our commodity production, including minerals and agriculture, which constitutes our most significant economic engine. Second is the natural beauty, wildlife and open spaces which have been the mainstay of the travel and recreation industry for many years.

And in the recent decade, for many of the businesses and people moving to Wyoming, it's the lifestyle and environment that made the decision an easy one. Our lifestyle, our wildlife, our land and our water remain critical to our definition of Wyoming and to our economic future. How do we strategically build on these assets to fulfill the vision of Wyoming?

We supplement our constitutionally enshrined habit of regular savings with a restricted reserve savings account to protect against the uncertainties of the future. This concept appears to enjoy wide support. Simply stated, the estimated $275-$300 million per biennium destined for the Permanent Mineral Trust Fund should be supplemented with a constitutionally protected account available for expenditure only upon a two-thirds vote of the legislature. I would argue for building the balance in this account prior to adding amounts above the current budget cycle's commitment of $325 million to the Permanent Mineral Trust Fund.

The Select Water Committee is advancing legislation to set aside monies dedicated to building water storage projects. Wyoming is a high plains desert state with water leaving our borders daily to quench the thirst of urban areas. No one can doubt the need to act now to protect our water. A more aggressive role for the state in the development of water storage projects is essential. Extended federal permitting obstacles simply wear down the patience and resources of private project sponsors. If the state does not act, little or nothing will happen. The legislation reflects a true collaboration between the branches of government and I commend it to you for favorable consideration.

Wildlife habitat quality and quantity are declining in Wyoming. The Interim Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee has introduced a bill reviving a bold step towards protecting our wildlife heritage. Please read the bill and the proposed amendments before making a decision. Seldom have I seen a legislative proposal so defined by preconceptions rather than content. I'd like to take a minute to talk about what this plan, with its proposed amendments, is not.

?The Wildlife and Natural Resources Funding Act gives no money to operate the Game and Fish Department.

?It does not allow the state or its agencies to buy land.

?It specifically states that it is not intended to restrict continued development of Wyoming's mineral resource endowment.

In fact, by working on wildlife issues and endangered species in a strategic way, the act should help reduce conflicts with mineral development and agriculture. It also holds the promise of helping to reduce the potential for disease transmission.

Wildlife and wildlife habitat are longstanding issues in Wyoming. Many of us were involved in the issues more than 20 years ago. This is not a new idea but it is an important strategic step in building on Wyoming's assets.

Equally important, but far more difficult to quantify, is the intimate and integral part wildlife, wildlife habitat and open spaces play in defining who we are in Wyoming.

As governor, I have attended nine funerals for Wyoming soldiers who lost their lives fighting for a country and State they loved. At each of these services, the eulogy, family pictures and the sharing of experiences included the soldier's love of Wyoming's outdoors and its wildlife. One of the services included a Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation video as part of the tribute to and definition of the fallen loved one and soldier.

Memorial services for Wyoming people, be they soldiers or citizens, link our lives to Wyoming's outdoor resources. If it is important enough to talk about when we have departed this earth - it is important enough to act on while God grants us life.

In considering Wyoming's future, we have images of our friends and family gathering together, in homes and facilities to enjoy their company and their community. These facilities were often times built with school construction funds, not just for schools but for the community. There has been an unfortunate and unintended consequence of the Supreme Court educational opinions. The opinions limit the use of school dollars to only supporting the building and operation of the facilities necessary for the delivery of the educational basket of goods. Our communities have been robbed of the historic practice of building community facilities with school construction dollars. Attractive, sustainable cities and towns must have community facilities.

I support efforts to develop new funding partnerships between local governments and the state to provide community facilities. And we can do this without inviting litigation or shifting operating expenses to the state. This proposal can make a huge difference to towns and counties that have lost a major partner in improving and maintaining our communities.

Many more issues deserve comment but I am mindful of the time and will limit my observations to four more items.

First, I support the split estate bill sponsored by the Joint Judiciary Committee and urge you to stay the moderate course charted in the original Task Force proposal.

Second, I continue to support the process and the recommendation for the location of a new state correctional facility. I encourage you to treat this as a correctional issue first and foremost. If this becomes a regional political battle at this late stage, we will again defeat our efforts to build a correctional facility.

Third, access to healthcare remains a critical issue for our citizens. I support a strong medical review panel including the admissibility of the panel's findings under the proper circumstances. Medical liability insurance remains a serious problem. If you have any doubt, ask the several thousand patients in Casper who are about to lose their healthcare provider. While we await the outcome of the debate at the federal level, we should consider state participation in extended liability coverage for non-economic damage judgments between $350,000 and $1 million. I am not terribly fond of further state involvement in this issue but I have not seen an alternative. We cannot simply throw up our hands in frustration and ignore this problem.

Fourth, I support creation of an endowment for higher education, especially the effort towards endowed chairs. At its current stage of development, I recommend funds be set aside for that purpose. However, release of any funds should be subject to further legislative action next year. This would allow time for refinement of the concept, further defining the expectations and accountability needed to justify such a program.

Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, fellow elected officials, members of the Judiciary, guests and citizens of Wyoming, it has been my honor to speak with you. In closing, I acknowledge my deep respect and appreciation for the dedication, work and efforts of those in this room. I especially appreciate the opportunity to work with the legislative committees and individual legislators in developing proposals over the last year. It has been a most cooperative experience ---unmarred by partisanship or competing claims for credit. We owe our citizens no less than our continued best efforts.

Ours is a most remarkable opportunity---the opportunity to direct resources to the fulfillment of Wyoming's vision. Our citizens and those who have gone before us have charted the broad outlines of our course. They would envy our opportunity to translate dreams into action. They will judge us harshly should we fail.

As in the past, I invite all of you, particularly the new members, down to my office for great conversation and occasionally bad coffee. Thank you.
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