State of the District A Call To Service: America's 24-Hour Heroes
Thank you, Lonnie. It's always a pleasure to see you, and to see so many friends.
Thank you for this Spirit of Enterprise award.
The spirit of enterprise exists in each of you, and you keep it alive by contributing everyday to the strong state of our district.
Our Nation's 24-Hour Heroes
The last few weeks have been a roller-coaster ride.
From coast to coast, there's been plenty of political intrigue, and we've been treated to front row seats at our television sets.
There have been leaks. People have been forced to resign. Others have been accused of things they did not do, and clearing their names proved difficult.
Throughout all of this, the central figure has never wavered. He has never forgotten his most important purpose, which is to fight terrorism and keep America safe, even when doing so comes at great personal cost. He has withstood critics who say his methods are too harsh and criticize the way he gets things done.
Week after week, we wonder what will happen next.
I'm talking of course about 24' and Jack Bauer .
We do live in a dangerous world, with enemies who mean us harm at home or abroad. Despite the reality of this danger, most of us go on about our lives in this post 9/11 world without fear.
We can sit in the comfort of our homes and watch as Jack Bauer beats the clock on 24;
We can cheer for Melinda Doolittle on American Idol;
Or tap our feet with Cliff on Dancing with the Stars.
We can do these things, in part, because there are real 24- hour-heroes keeping us safe, and allowing us to live in a free and prosperous land.
Jack Bauer is a one-man force on television.
But the men and women in the United States military are on the front-line everyday in real life.
The State of our District
We've all gathered today, once again, to reflect upon the State of our District. And I'm here to tell you what you already know. The State of our District is better than ever.
Every week there's news that another new company plans to locate in New Mexico.
Eclipse. Tempurpedic. Verizon. Tesla. Sony. Advent Solar.
It's always a pleasure to get a call from Gary Tonjes at Albuquerque Economic Development, as we did again this week, to help market our great city to another company wanting to be part of our success.
Nationally, we've added more than 7.5 million new jobs since August of 2003. That's 42 straight months of job growth.
The Dow is up more than 40 percent since we passed tax relief in 2001 and 2003.
In New Mexico, we've created over 16,000 jobs in the last year, and unemployment is at 3.5% -- its lowest point ever since they started keeping track in 1976.
At the same time, I regret to report that the new leadership in the Congress is turning the clock back and charting the course for economic policies that will slow job growth.
Last week, the House passed a budget that includes the largest tax increase in American history: $392 billion over five years.
Every bit of the 2001 and 2003 tax relief acts would be allowed to expire. That means the marriage penalty will return. The child tax credit will drop from $1000 to $500.
Capital gains and dividends taxes will go back up to 30 percent from 15 and zero percent.
Income taxes will go back up for every bracket and the death tax will come back to life.
A family of four making $50,000 this year in New Mexico would see a $2,092 a year tax increase under this Democrat blueprint.
Their budget also included $20 billion in new spending this year on top of what the President requested in his budget and on top of the $21 billion in little extras for spinach farmers and shrimp fisherman stuffed into the supplemental spending bill for our military.
Anyone who thought Mrs. Pelosi was going to turn into a fiscal conservative, or even a moderate, was proven wrong last week.
But for now, at least until these ill-advised policies kick in, our economy is still good.
KKOB Radio is a great example.
I want to take a moment to recognize Citadel and KKOB Radio for being a steady part of our economy for a long time now. Today is KKOB Radio's 85th Anniversary.
Art Ortega has been with KKOB Radio, I think, for each of those 85 years. And Bob Clark is the new kid on the block.
The day KKOB Radio went on the air, the DOW Jones Industrial average closed at 95 points.
I think last week the Dow dropped 95 points in a single day, and it still stayed above 12,000.
I want to wish KKOB Radio a happy birthday, and congratulations to each of your employees who all work so hard to inform us.
Our "National Security" Economy
Just the other day I talked to Bob Clark on the morning show about my committee assignments and how they put me in a strong position to work for New Mexico and our economy.
As many of you know, I serve on the Intelligence Committee in the House, as well as Energy and Commerce.
I spend a lot of time on technical and military intelligence - about 2/3rd of our intelligence budget.
Kind of like Chloe O'Brian's use of satellites to help Jack Bauer - sort of.
Intelligence is difficult and inherently uncertain: we are trying to find out what others are doing their best to keep hidden from us.
Intelligence is the first line of defense in the war on terror.
New Mexico continues to make exceptional contributions to national security.
Not too long ago, if you graduated from UNM or what was then TVI with a degree in science and technology, you had limited choices in New Mexico: Intel, or the Labs.
And that was it.
Today, a UNM or CNM graduate has his pick of good-paying jobs with companies doing exciting things.
Our high-tech graduates have the option of staying in New Mexico and raising their families here.
And working for a company like Qynerqy.
Qynergy started with a tiny battery using technology licensed from Sandia National Labs that can last 10 times as long as a regular battery - important for some national security work.
They are also developing a device used to detect dirty bombs and other weapons of mass destruction.
That's powerful stuff, and it's happening in New Mexico, with our growing "National Security Economy".
Tod Bisio, Qynergy's President, is with us today, as is Jeff Grusy (groozy). Can you both please stand.
Thank you both for being with us today and for your contributions to our economy.
The Air Force is concentrating its space research here in Albuquerque, which is great for local firms like Boeing SVS - another home grown company that does space work.
And Ball Aerospace, Northrup Grumman, and SAIC who help America maintain dominance in the highest altitudes.
We have new military missions coming to New Mexico with Special Operations Command at Cannon, the most advanced fighter in the world - the F-22 - coming to Holloman, and the Army's future combat system being rolled out at Fort Bliss and White Sands.
Honoring our 24-Hour Heroes
We talked earlier about New Mexico's News Leader, KKOB Radio.
KKOB, just like every news outlet throughout the nation, has reported widely on the conditions at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington D.C.
It's one of our nation's premiere hospitals for our men and women in uniformour nation's true 24-hour heroes. And the hassle and housing for outpatients at Walter Reed was unacceptable. It was a failure of leadership.
As a nation, we made an important commitment to take care of our nation's heroes.
New Mexico VA Hospital
I went to the VA medical center exactly a month ago. I go out there pretty frequently, mostly to visit patients. We do a lot of case work for veterans - untying red tape when needed. We've gotten pretty good at it. My staff are here today, and I'd like to ask them to stand.
Sometimes, my staff and I pick up on major problems through casework and the letters and calls we get. But I wanted to push harder and get more information.
So I recently met with Director George Marnell and his staff. And earlier this week I met with returning injured veterans and their families to find out from them what is working and what is not.
A Call to Service
I would share with you three observations about our support for returning veterans.
First, there is a strong desire in the community to help and support our men and women in the military while they are deployed and when they come home.
Whether it's the Auto Dealers with Operation Homefront giving financial support to enlisted reservists and guardsmen if their families are struggling
Or Sandia Labs that includes deployed soldiers in bids for job promotions even if they aren't there to apply for the position themselves.
Or Southwest Airlines, where they provide up to five days of free counseling to help their returning soldier-employees re-adjust to civilian life.
The community wants to help.
Second, there are services in the community for veterans and their families, but they are often operating in isolation. We don't have natural bridges between our islands of great help.
Third, the burden is put on the veteran and their families, sometimes at a time of crisis, to figure out where to go and how to find help.
To be sure, it is up to Congress, the military, and the VA to make sure programs are funded and well-run for our soldiers. But the challenge of supporting our soldiers and veterans is both larger and more local than any made-in-Washington solution can successfully address.
It's up to us, as a community, to answer a Call to Service, and it is our soldiers, our veterans and their families who need us.
And that's where you come in.
How will we welcome them home?
I recently learned about a group of people in Rhode Island, from all walks of life, who asked themselves a simple but powerful question: "How will we welcome them Home?"
The "Rhode Island Blueprint" is an attempt to answer that question, and today they are implementing this blueprint.
There are simple things we can do, like making it easy for a returning veteran to sign up for classes at CNM and the University, even AFTER the semester has started.
And employers letting other employees donate sick leave time to the parents of an injured soldier as a matter of policy - even if it's not written in to the union contract.
And community health centers, schools, the military, veterans service organizations and VA mental health care professionals networking better together to reach out to veterans and their families so that no one falls through the cracks.
Rhode Island started by getting community leaders together.
I have decided to convene community leaders here in New Mexico in a similar effort.
I wanted to thank Lonnie Talbert for agreeing to help in this effort as well as others from the business community including Sherman McCorkle and Alex Romero from the Hispano Chamber.
The incoming Presidents of UNM and CNM are both on board, as is the Kirtland Base Commander, George Marnell from VA Hospital and John Garcia, our State Secretary for Veteran's Affairs.
New Mexicans have always served. Now is the time for those of us who enjoy the fruits of freedom to link arms and answer the call to serve and support those 24-hour heroes who defend it for the rest of us.
We will start by convening this group of New Mexico leaders and hearing about what Rhode Island has done.
And then we will set out not just to replicate the Rhode Island Blueprint, but to build upon it, make it better and make it uniquely New Mexican.
Our heroes. We will welcome them home; we will lift them up; and we will make sure they are cared for.
Many of those very heroes are here with us today. Some are good friends, and others I'm just getting to know.
Michael Chamberlain and Trent Simpler are with us today. I met them on Monday during a meeting I put together with veterans who have recently returned from Iraq or Afghanistan. Both fought and were wounded while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Michael and Trent, can you please stand?
Thank you for being here today.
We gathered here two years ago, and I told you about Ben Rosecrans.
Three years ago Ben was with the Army's 25th Infantry Division. Ben was driving a Stryker in a convoy out of Mosul, when a suicide bomber in a Ford Explorer hit Ben's vehicle and then blew up. Ben's left arm was broken and the Stryker was on fire.
Today, Ben is home and he describes the Purple Heart he received in Iraq as the "you-can't-duck award."
When I first told you about Ben two years ago, he couldn't be with us because he was recovering from his injuries in a military burn unit in San Antonio. Ben is with us today, and Ben, I'd like to ask you to stand so we can thank you for your service.
And people like Tyler Wilson, who served in Afghanistan.
On May 3rd, 2005, Tyler and his Army unit went to help a village after a scout unit found out that Taliban insurgents were preventing kids from going to school. They thought about 20 insurgents were in the area, but there were 150.
Tyler took three bullets that day. One in his knee and one in his chest -- that one was stopped by his body armor. The third bullet is still lodged near his spine.
He's with us today, and I'd like a round of applause for this true American hero.
Tyler wants to attend school, possibly UNM, and he's already taking computer classes from home.
He is, by the way, is a huge fan of "24". He missed Monday's episode, but he downloaded it to his I-Pod, so don't tell him what happened.
Tyler thinks Jack Bauer is a good TV hero because Jack is always fighting for the "greater good." Tyler says Jack puts everything aside, and does what needs to be done He sacrifices himself to get the job done and protect America.
Tyler, that's exactly what we all think about you.
Thank you for your service.
It's people like Ben Rosecrans, Tyler Wilson, Michael Chamberlain, and Trent Simpler, who are the real 24 Hour heroes, not the Hollywood version.
They need us to answer this Call to Service.
It's time for us to step up to the plate for them. I look forward to working with all of you in that effort.
God bless you and God bless the great state of New Mexico.