Friday, January 16, 2009

The Governor's State of the State Address

The highlight of the first week of session is always the Governor's State of the State Address. Obviously, the huge fiscal crisis our state is facing right now was going to be going to be the focus and I, along with countless others, was eager to hear what she was going to say on that topic.

The Governor said she had four goals for this legislative session (as quoted from an e-mail sent out to supporters):

"1. Create 20,000 new jobs for working families by rebuilding roads and schools, and creating a green economy for the 21st century;
2. Balance our budget by focusing on basic needs - protection of our children, our schools and colleges, our public safety, our environment and our economy;
3. Reform state government so we can respond to the evolving needs of our state; and
4. Encourage continued generosity among all Washingtonians."

Early in her speech, the Governor described her vision for the legislative session. "We all know our state didn't make this economic crisis," she stated, "and we all know we can't unilaterally solve it. But we cannot just ride out the hard times and then go back to business as usual. Instead, we must renew hope for Washingtonians who are suffering today, and lay -- for them -- a platform for a better tomorrow."

There were two points in the Governor's speech that really jumped out to me as I was listening.

1. I was encouraged by what she said about dealing with the budget deficit. She made it clear she was willing to work collaboratively with lawmakers on issues related to budget and revenue:

"I have proposed a two-year spending plan that addresses the largest budget gap in state history.

This budget contains as much care and compassion as we could muster. But it still hurts real people, and with each cut I chose, I saw their faces. I don’t like this budget, but I proposed it for one simple reason — I must.

Let’s face it. We were dealt a terrible hand by forces beyond our control. We are forced to make unprecedented and difficult choices.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a time for real courage!"

2. I was concerned when she started talking about government reform because, as we all know, the "Law of Unintended Consequences" almost always inserts itself into these kinds of things. Government reform is fine, but what I want to know is if that means there will be fewer layoffs or more layoffs.

"This is our chance to reform state government to make it a more nimble and relevant partner in a new state economy.

Ladies and gentlemen, we need to reboot!

Over the decades, state government has evolved — layer upon layer upon layer. But too much of what served the people well in 1940 or 1960 or 1990 does not serve the people well in the 21st century...

Today, almost 40 percent of license tabs are renewed online, saving hassles and gas.

We can close 26 licensing offices across the state while extending hours of operation at the 10 most popular locations. We are finding new ways to serve our customers. And customer service is what it’s all about.

Today, 18,000 full-time students at our community and technical colleges are earning course credits online. It would take an additional four community colleges to offer all those classes the old-fashioned way.

Thousands of people go online to check the balance on their food stamp debit card. And more than half of small business owners are filing their state taxes online.

I ask you, if we can serve our motorists, our businesses, our students and our poor with 21st century technology, why can’t we serve all citizens in ways that are more convenient for them, and cheaper and more effective for government?

The answer is, we can. The answer is, we will!"

The bottom line is that I was encouraged by the Governor's speech overall. But it's clear that we've got a lot of work cut out for us in the weeks and months ahead.

TVW has the Governor's speech in it's entirety [scroll ahead about 50 minutes to get to the speech]:

-- Dennis

1 comment:

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