Washington State House Democrats


Speaker Frank Chopp’s Opening Day Speech

Full text of Speaker Frank Chopp’s opening day speech for the 2012 Legislative Session:

Welcome back to the People’s House!

Before I get rolling,
I’d like to introduce my wife, Nancy Long.

And my daughter, Ellie.

Just last month, Nancy and I watched Ellie
go through the graduation ceremonies
at Western Washington University.
We are so proud of her!

By the way,
Ellie just moved into a new place.
So, Eric Pettigrew and Sharon Tomiko Santos,
she’s your constituent now.
Be forewarned, she’s opinionated.
I have no idea how she got that way.

Ellie’s got a bright future.
But other people, young and old,
are not finding their pathway to opportunity.
We must re-dedicate ourselves,
as Representatives of the people,
to work for the best interests
and highest ideals of our people as we confront the most challenging economic conditions since the Great Depression.

As we begin another session,

we should keep in mind five goals!
Create jobs now!
Fund basic education!
Save the safety net!
Ensure equality!
Provide opportunity!
Too many of our citizens are suffering from unemployment and underemployment, and all the problems that go with that.
We must respond!

When we faced another economic crisis ten years ago, I met together
with a representative of an airplane company and one from a Machinists Union,
who were working as partners in common purpose.

We discussed a list of seven items for the legislature to consider
to help save aerospace in Washington State.
In the 2003 session, we accomplished those seven items and added a few more.

Two years later, we corrected one of the original pieces of legislation, to make sure unemployment insurance benefits were fair for everyone.

Back then, it was not easy.
There were a lot of conflicting points of view.
Whether you thought the list was too much or too little,
in the final analysis, we got the job done.
With the great news of the 737 MAX to be built in Renton, and the historic agreement between the Company and the Union to put planes in the air, not blood in the water — the future is brighter for us all.

And we didn’t just focus on aerospace.
As part of One Washington, we developed an Ag agenda,
to help farmers and farm-workers to not just survive international challenges,
but to actually thrive in the global marketplace.

From aerospace to agriculture, and for many other accomplishments
that have improved the lives of our citizens, I am proud of this House for doing our part.

Whether our parents built planes in Everett,
grew wheat in Walla Walla, or overhauled ships in Bremerton,
we recognize that we are a state of innovation and productivity.

The people of this state make things, create things, grow things, and build things!
Right now, there is a draft proposal being circulated that would create 25,000 jobs in the construction industries.
Now…this year…putting our people to work by:
renovating schools,
building public works,
creating housing,
cleaning up the environment
and meeting a number of other needs
in concrete, tangible projects.

By the way, for those who say that government doesn’t create jobs,
let me remind you that this idea continues in the tradition of the hydropower
and irrigation projects in eastern Washington, which have provided decades of benefit to people all across our state.

When you consider this proposal, remember the veteran returning home from war and looking for a job.
Remember the young apprentice learning a skilled craft.
Remember the unemployed parent who will now bring home a paycheck.
With the House and Senate working together, with business and labor support,
we can enact this proposal.

And everyone will benefit, all across the state.
Jobs now! Let’s get it done!

Let’s also take action on proposals to increase the number of students graduating with college degrees and certificates in high demand fields like aerospace, high-tech manufacturing, health care and other industries.
Jobs now! Let’s get it done.

Last week, the State Supreme Court issued a ruling.
They stated what we already knew about our paramount duty in the state constitution.
Even in tough times, we need to fund Basic Education, our common schools.

At the same time, the Court recognized the work the legislature had already begun to address this problem; work initiated by this House.
Based on the hard work of many, many of you, we enacted House Bill 2261 in 2009, followed by House Bill 2776 in 2010, both prime sponsored by our Majority Leader, Pat Sullivan.

These two legislative acts outlined a path forward and a time schedule to increase and reform funding of our schools. With our creation of the Quality Education Council, we have already started the journey for better funding of Basic Education.

In addition to tackling funding, we have a lot of other work to do in Basic Education.
We need to promote quality teaching and successful learning, with better training
and evaluation of our teachers and principals.

We need to improve and integrate Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math
into the curriculum and teacher preparation.

We need to improve high school graduation rates, and share best practices among local school districts.

And we need to build on your work to foster financial education and literacy.

By the time they graduate from high school, our young people need to know how
to get decent terms on a home mortgage, how to take out a car loan without getting taken, and how to weigh the cost and time needed to repay a student loan.

This should be a practical part of our core curriculum.

The overwhelming cause of the Great Recession was abject greed on Wall Street and banks that jettisoned the time-honored principles
of responsible banking. But had we done a better job on financial education and consumer protection, some of the damage could have been averted.

In our budget deliberations, we should not make a false choice between funding education and fighting poverty. The best way up and out of poverty is getting an education.

And schools can only be successful if students are not battling the pressures of poverty.

Also, as we re-define Basic Education, let’s remember that in order to succeed in school, a kid should be healthy and ready to learn.
The investments we have made in children’s health have brought us national recognition and additional federal funding for our Apple Health program.

We received a Performance Award for Apple Health, which currently serves
over 730,000 kids all across Washington.

It’s a complete “win-win.”
Apple Health not only helps kids with health care,
it also helps their families make ends meet in hard times.

Your commitment to early learning programs
— the most productive investment we can make
in education — also brought us national recognition and funding.

This session, we can take early learning to the next level.
We can adopt the bi-partisan recommendations of the Quality Education Council,
and strengthen early learning programs from birth to age 5 and prepare more children to get the most out of K-12.

Washington is one of only four states to receive recognition for both children’s health care and early learning.

We are national leaders!

The state budget is much more than a spreadsheet, it is a moral statement.
As we consider home care for the elderly,
lifelines for the disabled, food for the hungry,
and the Basic Health Plan for working families,
we should keep in mind that funding these programs is not only morally right,
it is very popular.

Just like our safety net tradition of Social Security and Medicare.

When asked what state programs should be protected, recent opinion polls
show that 70 to 80% of our citizens support safety net services like home care, Basic Health, and assistance for people with disabilities.
By saving two of these popular programs, the Basic Health Plan and Disability Lifeline Medical, we not only provide critical care to those most in need, but we bring over $300 million in federal funds to our Washington.

And, by saving these programs, we are saving over 10,000 jobs in clinics and hospitals across the state.

It is important to remember that these two programs form the infrastructure we will need when Medicaid is expanded in 2014, when all those living in poverty will receive the medical care they need.

For those with incomes above the poverty line, the new Health Care Exchange will provide access for people of all incomes to affordable care.

As we work to save the safety net, we must objectively examine the best ways
to spend the available dollars.

If we don’t have a well-managed safety net, we incur costs in other settings,
in hospital emergency rooms and in public safety as well.

An effective safety net not only makes moral sense, it makes financial sense.

Nearly every family includes someone who has relied on basic social and health services at some point in their lives.

That is why the public expects us to save the safety net.

Another goal: ENSURE EQUALITY!
The principle of equality made us a great nation.
It inspires people all over the world.
It’s a very powerful notion.
Nobody likes to be discriminated against.
Everyone wants a fair shake.
Whether it’s:
equal opportunity when you apply for a job, or
equal rules when you apply for a home loan, or
equal justice under the law, or
equal representation in re-districting, or
equalization of property taxes for schools,
equality is one of our most fundamental ideals.

As we consider the next call for equality, just ask my daughter’s generation
about marriage equality, and you’ll see the future.

Ellie’s middle name is Rosa, after Rosa Parks.

By taking a seat on a bus, Rosa Parks stood up for the cause of civil rights and equality.

On that day there were people who said it was not time to act.

But for Rosa Parks that was the time.

As was the case more than fifty years ago, some will say that this year isn’t the time to consider this issue — that there are more important concerns.

I respect that there are strong views on both sides of this issue.

But this is the right time to be fair to people — and choose equality.

Which brings me back to my daughter, once again.
Ellie worked hard at Western Washington University. She got good grades,
and even became a teaching assistant in some of her classes.

But she is also lucky.
She is graduating without a student loan debt.
And she already has a full-time job
in a nonprofit that funds health care for the poor.
Many of our young people are not so lucky.
They are bearing the burden of the Great Recession.
We want our sons and daughters to be the best they can be.
But we are not doing our best for them.

We must ask some tough questions:
How are we going to finance opportunities for the next generation?

How can we increase the number of graduates with degrees and certificates
in careers like aerospace, high-tech, and health care?

Can we launch a focused effort for tax reform to create more resources for higher education?

How do we ensure greater accountability in institutions of higher learning?

Will the private sector rally to raise money for the Opportunity Scholarship Fund,
which we created last session, to help provide state need grants?

And, tell me, why is it that I can get a loan
for a new car today at 0% interest, but young people pay 7% on a student loan; particularly when I only paid 3% when I graduated from the U Dub back in the last century?

Luckily, many of you are working to answer these questions and more.

And despite our budget woes, last year you increased financial aid for students.

This session, we can create an Investment Trust that will lower interest rates on student loans, and help provide our businesses with the educated workforce they need.

You have proposed ways to make sure that students are getting their money’s worth — for example, LEAN management to streamline administration.

With these efforts, we can promote jobs and opportunity for all!

The five goals I’ve outlined are challenging to achieve.
I know we face very difficult decisions.
And I know how much you and your families sacrifice so you can serve in this House.
I thank all the members and their families for that sacrifice.
But let us also remember how lucky we are.
None of us go without a paycheck.
None of us go hungry.
None of us are homeless.
None of us lack health care.
None of us lack the opportunity to get an education.

So, as we go about the work before us, let us remember that the people we represent just want what we have.
Let’s get to work.
Thank you very much.