2008 State of the State Address:
(Remarks as prepared for delivery by Governor Kathleen Sebelius:)
Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, Madam Chief Justice, legislators, justices, cabinet officers, elected officials, leaders of Indian nations, honored guests, and my fellow Kansans. Good evening. It is good to be back here in the newly renovated House chamber, where I once had the honor of serving. Tonight, we have some special guests who represent all the children of our state and are the true inspiration for hope and optimism about our future. Twins Kimberlin and Samuel are here from Mulvane with their parents Christie and Tom Lovell and their grandparents, Nita and Don Payne. Kimberlin and Samuel were born on January 8th, 2007, the day I was sworn into office to begin my second term.
The decisions that we make in the months ahead and in the years to come will help to determine what opportunities these two young Kansans - and thousands more like them - will have as they grow up in the Sunflower State. Will they have strong schools to attend? Will they acquire the tools they need to succeed? Will they find good jobs that allow them to compete in the global economy?
There are serious challenges facing our state and our nation. As Kansans, we are well-suited to face these challenges and capitalize on the opportunities. We start with some tremendous advantages: a resilient spirit; a strong work ethic; a shared belief in the power of education; a diverse and growing economy; and citizens in every corner of our state who believe in something greater than themselves.
Let us tonight resolve to create a Kansas in which futures are bright, hopes are realized, and our communities are safe and secure. 2007 began and ended with devastating ice storms. In May, the town of Greensburg was nearly destroyed by an EF5 tornado. And early last summer, Southeast Kansas experienced floods unlike anything in fifty years – only to see the damage exacerbated by an oil spill in Coffeyville. Unprecedented storms may have wreaked havoc on our communities but they could not diminish our resolve. Kansans came together. Individual citizens donated their time, money, and supplies to aid in the recovery effort. Local, state, and federal governments worked to protect our citizens and begin rebuilding the affected communities.
We should be proud of our efforts and with us tonight are four local heroes, representing the hundreds more who helped - and are still helping - communities recover from the storms. Greg Allen, Coffeyville Fire Chief; Darin Headrick, the superintendent who opened the doors of the Greensburg schools on time; Pam Kemp, Clay County Emergency Manager; and Matt Mercer, Southwest Kansas Emergency Management Coordinator.
Let us take a moment to remember those Kansans whose lives were lost and those families who still seek to heal and recover. And we say thank you to those who put the lives and families of others above their own needs; who helped strengthen our communities and our state.
When we look into the faces of children like Kimberlin and Samuel, we see the future, with both the challenges and the opportunities of a global, innovation economy. This economy is not waiting for the twins somewhere out on the horizon; the innovation economy is here - now - today.
Innovation, the new ideas which change the way we work and live, is first and foremost powered by people. So we must redouble our efforts to educate and train ALL of our citizens for jobs in this new marketplace. Quality education is essential to a prosperous future. Over the past few years, we have kept – and increased - our commitment to educating every Kansas child. But there is still work to be done. My budget contains funding for the third year of our historic investment in K-12 education. This will continue to ensure strong schools in every community across our state. And, I have proposed a fourth year of the school finance plan which includes all-day kindergarten. We know that the most important factor in a child’s success in the classroom is a well-trained and inspiring teacher. We will not have more scientists, engineers or skilled technicians without great teachers encouraging students to enter those critical fields. Therefore, I am proposing $1 million for new teaching scholarships in math, science and technology. High-tech industries represent the fastest growing sector of our economy. Children like Kimberlin and Samuel will need a strong math and science education to prepare them to enter the workforce. My budget includes funding for the Kansas Academy of Math and Science. Opening in 2009 at Fort Hays State University, the academy will ensure that talented young Kansans have the opportunity to be the next generation of world-class innovators.
We know that early education is key to preventing school failure. We can’t afford for any of our young Kansans to be so far behind that they never catch up by the time they enter kindergarten. My budget extends the state’s network of quality early learning opportunities for children during their most formative years. We have the opportunity to make sure that more Kansas children have a successful start by funding pre-natal care and newborn screening, Parents as Teachers, Early Head Start and quality child care.
To further support our youngest Kansans, I am proposing a new Early Childhood Block Grant, driven by research-based programming and accountability measures, focused on at-risk children and under-served areas. The global economy will demand much of our children later in life. We can’t afford to squander their earliest years of preparation and learning. But our commitment to education cannot, and will not, end with the 12th grade. There has never been a time in our history where higher education has been more closely linked to the future prosperity of our state. Kansas is blessed to be the home of world class research universities, four year colleges, community colleges, and vocational and technical training schools, still too many Kansans find the doors of opportunity barred by rising tuition costs, room and board expenses, and textbook prices. My budget takes significant steps to make college more affordable. I am providing an additional $3 million in scholarship money to ensure that 2,000 more students can afford the opportunity to compete in our new innovation economy. There are also significant new state resources proposed for post-secondary education, to lower the costs for parents, students and Kansas families. Last year I signed into law the Postsecondary Technical Education Authority to ensure Kansans are able to gain the knowledge and skills they will need to succeed in the workforce. Collaboration between education leaders and the business community is underway, so that training for new and current workers matches the skill sets needed for the innovation economy.
Our economic strategy also must focus on the prospects and promise of rural Kansas communities. I am pleased to announce the first Center for Rural Opportunity recently opened at Sterling College. Soon, centers at Colby Community College and Neosho Community College will open, concentrating on attracting investment, job growth, and business development to our rural areas. With us tonight are Joe Glassman, Chairman of the Postsecondary Technical Education Authority, and Dr Bruce Douglas, President of Sterling College, hosting the first Center for Rural Opportunity. With the Kansas Comprehensive Transportation Program nearing project completion, now is the time to develop a vision for our transportation future, and preliminary discussions are already underway. We have learned that every successful economic development proposal in Kansas includes transportation. Our ability to move people and goods throughout our state and to market is an essential component of future growth.
We have incredible assets that promise future opportunity, whether it’s our thriving aircraft industry, our emerging plant, animal and life sciences sector, or the barely-tapped potential of bio-fuels. I am issuing an Executive Order creating the Kansas Innovation Consortium, charged with overseeing the continued vibrant growth of Kansas. Key business leaders will join educators and agency heads to continue expanding and diversifying our economy. A growing burden for business leaders, for workers, for families and for seniors is the continued rising costs of health care. Our economic prosperity depends on making real changes in the current system. A fundamental problem with health care in Kansas, and around the country, is that our costs continue to rise and the results are getting worse. The delivery system is inefficient and fragmented – it is broken. Kansas can and must do better.
The Kansas Health Policy Authority, under the direction of the legislature, has submitted a plan to transform this ailing system. At the core of the health reform package are three priorities: promoting personal responsibility for health and wellness, paying for preventive care, and providing all Kansans with affordable health insurance.
I thank the Kansas Health Policy Authority and the steering committee for traveling across the state, listening to Kansans, and developing these recommendations. I strongly encourage the passage of the health plan, in its entirety, this session. It will begin to fix our broken system, and provide better care for all Kansans. In addition to making fundamental changes in the delivery of health care for Kansans, we have an important opportunity to provide cutting-edge treatment and develop cures for cancer. Every Kansas family has experience with a loved one with cancer, and too many of our citizens have to travel great distances or don’t have access to the best possible care. My budget continues the state’s investment in the life-saving goal of attaining the National Cancer Institute designation for the University of Kansas Medical Center by 2010. The Cancer Center will ensure that all Kansans will have greater access to the best cancer research, therapies, and prevention. Equally critical to cancer treatment and overall health care is addressing the shortage of pharmacists throughout our state, especially in our rural areas. My budget proposes the expansion of the University of Kansas School of Pharmacy. When completed, the capacity of the pharmacy school will nearly double, providing instruction to additional students, assisting with continuing education, and promoting residency programs in hospital pharmacies around this state. As we assist businesses, workers and families with innovation in reforming our health care system, so too must we work together in meeting the unprecedented challenge of finding clean, affordable, and secure sources of energy to meet this nation’s growing demand. We are at a moment in our country’s history similar to the moment nearly 100 years ago, when two innovative entrepreneurs, Clyde Cessna and Walter Beech, came to Kansas, joined a fledgling industry, and made history. Today, over 50% of the airplanes flown in the world are made in Kansas, and our economy, our state and the country has benefited from their vision and determination. We can again lead an American transformation – lead America to energy security by tapping our fertile resources, our workers, and the ingenuity of Kansas entrepreneurs. We can – and we must - reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and increase our economic competitiveness by using our natural resources. Kansas is uniquely positioned to meet this challenge. Our nation is in the midst of a bio-energy revolution that will fundamentally change the way we produce and consume energy. My budget recommends the creation of a Bioenergy Research Grant Program, to spur development of innovative new technologies producing the most cost-efficient renewable fuels. Congress has recently set an aggressive goal for alternative fuel production by 2022. Kansas can and should be a leader in reaching America’s goal. I have charged the Kansas Bioscience Authority with developing an aggressive plan for bio-energy technology and production, aimed at producing 20 percent of the nation’s alternative fuel needs. But our opportunity to find new and better sources of power doesn’t end with biofuels. Kansas is one of the best states in the nation for wind power. Until recently we had not even begun to harness this resource. Five years ago only one percent of our energy came from wind. Today, we are well on our way to meeting my goal of ten percent renewable energy by 2010 and twenty percent by 2020. Construction of the state’s fourth wind farm is now complete and many more are in the planning stages. Sunflower Wind has announced that they will begin manufacturing wind turbines in Hutchinson, creating as many as 250 permanent jobs. These commitments, along with announcements of new transmission lines, and the recent decision of the Kansas Corporation Commission that wind production is a prudent investment, are having a positive impact.
To continue the momentum, I have created the Kansas Wind Working Group and appointed Lt. Governor Mark Parkinson as chair, to aggressively pursue our opportunities and incentives for wind power, as well as to encourage Kansas communities to invest in wind projects.
Finally, the cheapest and cleanest form of energy is energy we don’t use in the first place. Conservation and efficiency measures can extend our current energy capacity much farther into the future. With aggressive conservation efforts involving individuals, businesses and government, we can reduce our need for electricity, and still continue to grow. We must embrace the Kansas Energy Council’s proposal to require that all new state buildings meet minimum energy efficiency standards. We challenge private developers and business owners to join us in that commitment. Regulatory support for utility companies to educate and encourage conservation efforts for their customers is essential. I am also proposing standards that will provide for more Kansans to qualify for interest-free loans to improve the energy efficiency of their own homes. By capitalizing on our state’s assets, we will reduce our dependence on foreign oil, boost our rural economy, and protect the environment for our children’s future. We need to join the 36 states that have begun or completed development of a comprehensive climate change action plan. It is clear the people of Kansas welcome an informed discussion about our energy future, economic opportunities, and the protection of our environment. We can rise to the challenges we face only if we commit ourselves to moving forward. For those of us here tonight, we must resolve to settle our differences the way Kansans expect us to: Not by looking back, over our shoulders, but by looking to the future. I am eager to work with legislators to capture this historic moment, and even though some difficulties lie ahead, let us once again aim for the stars.
As leaders we will be measured by a simple test – how well did we use the assets we were given to make Kansas a better place for future generations? Are we hopeful about the future for young Kansans like Kimberlin and Samuel? Are we willing to turn our attention to their future and focus on their opportunities? Tonight, we must unite behind common goals: a high quality education for all Kansans, providing the knowledge, skills and enhanced training needed for talented workers in our innovation economy. We must focus our efforts on lowering costs and providing access to the highest quality health care for our citizens, facing our energy challenges, and embracing them as a new economic opportunity. These goals unite us as Kansas leaders, and bring us together to serve the people of our state. The innovation economy comes with challenges and opportunities, but working together, we can ensure a bright future for Kimberlin, Samuel, and all Kansas children.
So tonight, let us join together, roll up our sleeves, and re-dedicate ourselves to working for a better Kansas. Thank you for your service and thank you for the great honor of serving as your governor.
May God bless the great State of Kansas and the United States of America. Good night.