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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

State of the States

As we get ready for the President's annual State of the Union address, it's important to remember that Governors are also reporting on their accomplishments, or lack thereof. Here's a few snatches of conversation from various states:

Governor Jim Doyle of Wisconsin:

Three years ago, I stood in this building and put my hand on the Bible. I took an oath to lead this state during a time of challenge:
Our deficit was out of control.
Our economy was out of steam.
Too many of our citizens were out of work.
And for many people, government seemed out of touch.

While we still have a long way to go, just think how far we've come.

We cut spending and solved the worst fiscal crisis in our history...without raising taxes.
We invested in education while passing a property tax freeze...
We protected SeniorCare for more than 90,000 seniors...
And together, we created more than 140,000 new jobs.


Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico:

We are pro-growth and pro-business: We've used our entrepreneurial spirit to create jobs, to cut taxes for every New Mexican and for small businesses, and to bring cutting edge industry to our state-such as film and media, aviation and aerospace, and groundbreaking high-tech businesses.

snip

I believe that government has an obligation to be fiscally responsible, and be prepared for unforeseen events or economic downturns. That's why we need to put money away. I also believe that when government has the resources, it should return those resources to taxpayers, invest in people, and invest in the future.The budget I propose meets both of these critical goals.

t preserves the largest surplus in New Mexico history-more than $500 million dollars. It would keep our budget reserves at 10 percent, and strengthen our already terrific bond rating. And with this budget, I will continue to fight against reckless spending, and demand accountability for taxpayers' money.

Our budget will also invest in people, and in our future-towards education, health care, public safety, and job growth. We want to make our schools even better, make college more affordable, keep kids healthier and safer, and make our high-wage economy even stronger.


Governor John Lynch of New Hampshire:

Fuel costs are higher than ever, but Washington still has not met its responsibility to provide fuel assistance to vulnerable families and seniors. In New Hampshire we were not going to leave our citizens out in the cold. Together, we acted - and funded fuel assistance for our families.

The new federal prescription drug program got off to a disastrous start, leaving many seniors unable to get their prescriptions filled. In New Hampshire, we were not going to risk the health of our citizens. Together, we acted - and made sure our seniors could get the medication that they need.

While scandal dominates the national headlines, we in New Hampshire are working to ensure the highest standards of ethics and integrity in state government. We must come together to enact bipartisan ethics reform this year.

snip

When we gathered last year, we faced a major budget deficit. Together, we balanced the budget without smoke and mirrors, while looking out for the needs of our citizens. We returned our state to sound financial footing, turning deficit to surplus, without new taxes.


Governor John Baldacci of Maine:

Tonight, I am proud to report that the state of this State is strong, secure and healthy.
More people are working than ever before.
More of our children are going to college.
More families are healthier and have health care.
More families are getting tax relief.

And - Empire Falls won two Golden Globes.

That's some of the good news.

But this past year, in fact the past three years, have not been short on challenges.
When I took office, we inherited a $1.2 billion revenue shortfall -- that's 20 percent of the state budget.
The rainy day fund had a zero balance.
When I came into office, we were borrowing $275 million to pay bills from one year to the next.


Governor Joe Manchin of West Virginia:

You, the Legislature, also approved a responsible one percent reduction in the state sales tax on groceries from six cents on the dollar to five cents, resulting in a savings to taxpayers of $25 million dollars. This one percent reduction is simply a starting point, and we will continue to reduce this tax in a fiscally responsible manner as the state's economy grows until we have eliminated it completely. These changes show that West Virginia is serious about getting our financial house in order and opening our doors to new businesses.

I also want to thank the Legislature, and the citizens of West Virginia, for their efforts on behalf of our state's veterans. As a result of a vote of the people, the Legislature activated a constitutional amendment in 2005 to pay bonuses to those who served in the conflicts in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. We gratefully acknowledge the service of these veterans and all of our veterans. We also say a prayer for the current Mountaineers who are fighting for our country at home and abroad, and for those families whose loved ones were lost during the past year while performing their military duty.


Governor Tom Vilsack of Iowa:

A strong community also supports quality education and recognizes that we depend on well-educated citizens. In this grand capital, much of the work that we do seeks to improve learning opportunities in our state. When we work together to reduce class sizes and to focus on math and reading skills for our early learners, our children reverse in an eight-year decline in test scores under the Iowa Basic Skills Test. Today we probably speak of a five-year increase in scores and we can expect even better results as a result of our "Strong Start" initiative designed to ensure the parents, as their child's first and best teacher, to improve the quality of childcare and to expand preschool opportunities.

A strong community also recognizes that healthcare, access to healthcare, access to quality healthcare, should always be a right and never be regarded as a privilege. Our work together now means that more of our children, more of our seniors, more of our veterans, more of those struggling to make ends meet and more of those coping with mental illness now have access to healthcare as their right and not as a result of any privilege.

A strong community also creates opportunity. Our work together on the Values Fund and venture capital and utility regulatory reform designed to increase new jobs and to increase incomes. Today a record number of Iowans are at work. Incomes rose in our state at a rate higher than all but one state in the country last year, and Iowans should be encouraged by the fact that we have the fastest-growing economy in the Midwest and the eighth fastest-growing economy in the entire
nation.


State after state after state, a pattern emerges. Democrats are honoring the public trust granted them by the people. They are governing more effectively and presiding over a period of rising quality of life while meeting expectations for improvement in all areas of services. These are not Governors who believe in nothing and stand for nothing - they are Govenors that make hard and wise decisions in a responsible manner. They stand firm on principle and are clear about their values.

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