State of the State Address
February 6, 2002
Mr. Speaker, Majority Leader Irons; Majority Leader Martineau; Senator Revens; Members of the General Assembly; My fellow General Officers; Members of the Judiciary; Distinguished Guests;
One year ago, when I stood before you in this Chamber our world was a very different place. The national economy was thriving. Rhode Island was on the move like never before. None of us could ever have imagined what lay ahead.
On September 11th, we witnessed the worst terrorist attacks we have seen on our beloved American soil. Our democracy and our fundamental freedoms were struck. Our spirit was tested.
With the eyes of the world upon us, we responded---with great strength and with tremendous resolve. And we stood united like never before. I will never forget the State House Vigil which took place just days after the terrorist attacks. Twenty-five thousand Rhode Islanders of all ages and ethnic backgrounds mourned for those who lost their lives and exhibited their patriotism.
With our nation at war, we have also seen an outpouring of support for our armed forces. Nearly 300 members of our National Guard are part of this important missionwhether it's defending our homeland or combating terrorism overseas, they have made us feel safe and secure.
Tonight we have with us a navigator in the Rhode Island Air National Guard. In December he led a group of guardsmen to Ground Zero to provide stress management to crews working at the site. In our state, we are also very proud to have General Centracchio who continues to exhibit outstanding leadership for the members of our National Guard to follow. Together they represent so many others who put their lives on hold for God and country.
General Centracchio and Lieutenant Colonel Jannitto, won't you please stand and accept our gratitude on behalf of the Rhode Island National Guard?
As we begin to heal and rebuild as a nation, the single-most important thing we can do is remember.
Tonight I am proud to announce that my administration will be working with the Council on the Arts to establish a memorial which will be placed in the State House to pay tribute to those who perished on September 11th. Next week, we will be launching the Rhode Island Remembers September 11th Fund.
I am calling upon all of our residents to donate to this meaningful project.
Without question, we have seen countless changes since September 11th. Changes that have torn our hearts, sparked our resolve, and inspired a wave of patriotism. Changes that have brought many challenges.
But much like the spirit of our great nation, I am pleased to report the state of the state is resilient, filled with unlimited hope and prosperity, and surging ahead.
You only have to look at some of our recent progress to see why.
We welcomed our nation's Governors' and highlighted the beauty and splendor of our state for all to seefrom the State House to the Breakers to McCoy Stadium. And what tremendous reviews we received.
And isn't it uplifting that Sara DeCosta will be competing in the Olympics again? We also have our Military Police providing security for the Winter Games and Johnson and Wales students are cooking and serving meals. All told, the Ocean State is putting its mark on the Olympics.
There's more good news in the world of sports. We have Vin Cullen our men's basketball coach at the Community College who posted his 700th victory. And let's not forget Bill Belisle who has not only led the Mounties to 24 state hockey championships, but he has the most wins of any coach in the nation. The Pawsox just hit another homerun for our state---they're hosting the Triple A All-Star Game in two years.
And to top it all, who knew this summer that the training camp at Bryant College would lead to New Orleans? How about giving a big round of applause to the Super Bowl Champions---our New England Patriots.
We're home to Citizens Bank--one of the largest commercial banks in the United States. Washington Trust, Sovereign and Bank Rhode Island are thriving. We welcomed Immunex to our state which marked another major step forward for our biotech industry.
We have lifted Rhode Island to new heights.
We're number one in the nation for providing comprehensive health care to our residents. And that's led us to be number one for ensuring that women receive prenatal care. We've already been hailed for having one of the best child care systems in the United States. Now we've been recognized for requiring high-level training for our child care teachers .
The Convocation Center is taking shape, and we broke ground on the ice rink at URI. And we are very proud that a graduate of the University of Rhode Island has been selected as a Rhodes Scholar. By garnering this prestigious academic award, Rachel Walshe has shown all Rhode Islanders what hard work and determination can bring. And what a credit to the faculty at URI. To recognize her great achievement and to wish her well, we have Rachel here this evening.
Without question, we have seen a great deal of success. We have lifted Rhode Island to new heights.
Over the past seven years, we've enhanced the quality of life in every single possible way in Rhode Island.
That includes addressing the issue of affordable housing. I know that my housing bond will be before the House tomorrow and the Senate shortly thereafter. I have my pen waiting to sign it.
We have given people the government they expect and deservea government they can trust and believe in. We have a new Washington Bridge on the horizon that will create a beautiful linear park and bike trail along the Seekonk River. We've preserved our state's natural heritage by protecting nearly 8 thousand acres of open space, parks and farmland. Just last week, we provided communities and organizations 400 thousand dollars to safeguard recreational trails in all corners of Rhode Island.
We've invested in our beachesfrom Misquamicut to Roger Wheeler. Recently T. F. Green was named one of the top airports in the nation. We're moving forward with the train station there. When completed, it will be a model transportation project for the nation to follow.
We've raised our voices against proposals that will diminish our quality of life and our ability to create and maintain jobs. That's why we have fought the expansion of any form of gambling and we'll continue to lead the charge. Let me issue this caution: increasing gambling is not sound economic development for Rhode Island's future.
There are four steps we must take this year.
First, I hope you'll join me in urging the Lottery Commission not to increase the number of video lottery machines at Lincoln and Newport.
Second, I am seeking your swift approval of legislation I am submitting to give voters the right to veto the expansion of video lottery terminals.
Third there is absolutely no reason why we continue to subsidize the dog owners at Lincoln Park. Let's put an end to that practice right now.
And finally, we know that the never-ending campaign to impose casino gambling in Rhode Island is before us again. Let me tell you this: if a casino bill comes to my desk, I will veto it. I will not allow a process to begin that will lead to casinos cropping up all around our state. Not on my watch. We have lifted Rhode Island to new heights. Let's not allow a casino to drag us down.
We've made our state more business friendly. Gone are the days when Rhode Island was the first to fall into a recession and the last to climb out of it. We've reduced our income tax by 10 percent. That will save Rhode Islanders nearly 70 million dollars when they file their tax forms this year.
Rhode Island is more competitive and our economy is diverse.
We've made our state a leader for financial services. Now we're targeting biotechnology as one of our state's growth industries. Just think. Immunex and Dow combined are investing over one billion dollars in our state. One billion dollars.
That's proof positive that Rhode Island is well on the way for being known as a major biotech center.
Here tonight is Anthony Rotunno, of Immunex and Charles Swartz of Dow. Let's show our appreciation for their great investment in our state.
To ensure that we have the skilled employees, the Economic Policy Council has been working with Dow and Immunex to establish a biotech training institute. This facility will give high school graduates the opportunity to acquire the knowledge they need to secure good-paying jobs in this cutting edge field.
We have also invested in our Slater Center for Biomedical Technology which has helped launch 23 biotech companies in our state over the past five years. We have seen continuing advances in biotechnology. And just look at the great strides the University of Rhode Island is making in this field. They recently received a 6 million dollar federal grant to develop a statewide network to spur the growth of biomedical research.
By investing in biotechnology, we will support a growth industry that will create high-paying jobs for Rhode Islanders. Job creation has always been a top priority in my administration. That's why we've targeted Quonset Point. What a remarkable transformation we have seen there. Kiefer Park is nearly full. Over the past seven years, 59 companies have opened their doors there and 18 existing companies have expanded. We have plans for a job training center led by the Community College of Rhode Island which will be the first of its kind in a business park in New England.
The signs of progress are everywhere in Quonset Davisville. Our work is not done. That's why I will be proposing a referendum for the November ballot to replace the Davisville Bulkhead, demolish buildings and improve the roads and rails in the park.
As we consider Quonset's future, the issue of a compact container port must remain on the table. Let me make this clear: the state has embarked upon a fair, open and independent process to determine once and for all if a port is both environmentally sound and economically feasible. There's so much potential at Quonset. Let's finally determine how we can best use the waterfront there.
We must support a process that will give us real answers. We must not let misinformation stand in the way of scientific fact.
As you know, Quonset Davisville is one of many Brownfields sites we have revitalized. Our efforts throughout our state have brought more than 68 million dollars in property value back on our tax rolls while providing jobs for Rhode Islanders. We have made progress, but we must build upon the momentum we've gained.
That's why I am proposing a new state tax credit to spur the redevelopment of neglected Brownfields. This is all about doing the right thing for our environment and our economy. It will revitalize our cities and towns. It will maintain Rhode Island's image as the perfect place for companies to locate.
As we fuel the economy, we must also invest in our greatest asset---our children. We're devoted to giving them the best start in life. That's why you've joined me in providing health care and child care to Rhode Islanders. We expanded eligibility for our state's health care program and today virtually all of our children have health insurance and approximately 94 percent of adults are covered. And we have nearly tripled the number of children in our child care program. Please join me in applauding our accomplishments.
Education has been one of the hallmarks of my administration. We have long upheld a strong commitment to elementary and secondary education.
This year we are spending 229 million dollars more than when I took office in 1995. Tomorrow our Department of Education will tell us how well our schools are performing. One of my proudest achievements is strengthening our state University and Colleges. Together we have made historic investments in our institutions of higher education.
What progress we've made--- New, high-tech academic buildings, rehabbed dorms, and computer labs. Now we have the opportunity to do more. That's why I will be recommending a 33 million dollar bond for higher education to enhance infrastructure at the University, Rhode Island College and the Community College.
We have lifted Rhode Island to new heights.
We cannot roll back the pages on important programs that set the foundation for our children to lead fulfilling lives. That's short-sighted. We have to look down the road and see the generations that will have benefited from our investments in health care, child care and education.
We know that a healthy, well-trained workforce will drive Rhode Island forward in the years to come. In the budget, I submit to you next week, I will not recommend scaling back on these core programs. I urge you to follow my lead. It is my goal to maintain Rhode Island's competitive edge. That's why we must hold the line on the income tax and the sales tax.
I've said it before. I'll say it again. Hiking the income tax in the 1990s was a huge mistake. That, coupled with the banking crisis, kept us mired in the recession longer than any other state. Companies and good-paying jobs were driven out of Rhode Island. Let's learn from the past. Let's not roll back the pages on progress.
We have a difficult road to travel. But we will chart a fiscally responsible path for Rhode Island that will position our state to benefit from an upswing in the national economy. One way to put our state on strong footing is to enact the supplemental budget by March 1st. If it is delayed, we will have tougher decisions to make. And the budget will be far worse than what it is now because we will have lost revenues.
We have tackled hard issues before. Together we will find the best solutions for our state.
Tonight as I stand before you for my final State of the State, let me just say that the past seven years have been unforgettable in every way. I look back on some of our state's finest hours---cutting the ribbon on Providence Place Mall, welcoming companies like Fidelity and Boston Financial. Watching CVS and Fleet expand their presence in Rhode Island. Reading to our children at our public schools. Seeing youth play golf at Button Hole. Cutting the ribbon on the Blackstone Valley Bikepath with Senator John Chafee. Welcoming the Tall Ships to the shores of Newport. Celebrating Maxwell Mays's birthday with a spectacular Waterfire. Dedicating the Nazarian Center for the Arts at Rhode Island College, and acquiring a new Campus for CCRI in Newport. Preserving Mount Hope Farm in Bristol where my wife hosted our nation's First Ladies this summer. Honoring all of our veterans who have stood tall for democracy.
Unforgettable that's what these moments are. Truly unforgettable.
I'd like to take a moment to express my gratitude to someone who has been there every step of the way, giving me endless support and encouragement, my wife, Marilyn. I'd like to thank my Cabinet, our College Presidents, Commissioners of Education, our Judiciary, the Members of the General Assembly, our General Officers, and our elected officials who are here tonight for their assistance. I'd also like to recognize my staff and all state employees for their hard work. We've come so far over the past seven years. In the next 11 months, we will continue to build upon our accomplishments.
As I look to the future, I see a vibrant business climate that will continue to create good-paying jobs, a thriving economy with nationally renowned companies opening their doors, and a highly skilled workforce.
I see children and families with health care and child care, schools where children are challenged, where teachers have mentoring programs, and where there is accountability.
I see top-notch academic buildings at our institutions of higher education and a Final Four berth for the men's basketball team at URI. I see families exploring open space, swimming at our pristine beaches, fishing in our parks and riding on our bikepaths. I see farmland where young children pick apples with their grandparents. I see visitors and residents celebrating Rhode Island's ethnic and cultural diversity at Heritage Harbor. I see a balanced governmental structure--one with a separate and co-equal executive branch of government. I see the end of the efforts to build a casino in Rhode Island. I see a state where every man, woman and child lives in peace and harmony.
Most of all, I see a Rhode Island where we uphold our state's mottohope.
May God bless the United States of America and the State of Rhode Island and all of our residents.