Good morning, and thank you for the opportunity to be with you today.
Let me start by telling you that the most important mentor in my life was my mother -- Edna Drinkwine.
My father worked as a civil servant at the Hawthorne Navy base in Western Nevada during World War Il -- but he passed away when I was 11.
His death came after a long and painful battle with lung disease, contracted following years of exposure to the hazardous chemicals and toxic fumes on the base.
I'm sharing that with you because I know what it's like to be a single mom, struggling to make ends meet, while caring for your family.
I saw my mother do it after my father died.
She had never worked outside the home, but my mother knew she had to support her family -- my brother and me.
With meager savings, she bought a small dress shop, and I worked side-by-side with her until the time
she sold it when I was 20 years old.
That dress shop was, really, a classroom for me -- where I learned the importance of hard work, responsibility, honesty, integrity -- and yes, courage -- from my mother's example.
I think about my mother every day -- especially since I was challenged with the opportunity to become
Governor of Arizona. I say "challenged" because I inherited the worst state budget deficit in the nation!
Well, I am my mother's daughter. I was up to this challenge. I'm a problem solver.
I made a lot of painful decisions while fighting to bring Arizona back from the brink.
But, we did it. Arizona is back from the brink.
We now have a balanced and a positive cash balance for the first time in years.
Expenditures are down almost 20 percent -- and the number of state employees is down almost 15 percent.
Our state government is smaller with state personnel spending falling $200 million between 2007 and 2011 -- a huge reduction!
Compared to the population we serve -- our workforce is one of the most efficient in the nation.
We've rescaled our state's largest entitlement program to fit the budget we have -- not the budget we want.
We've consolidated, eliminated or privatized operations across state government. In the history of this state, no other Governor has cut state government more than I have.
Meanwhile, education in Arizona is being transformed.
And, this transformation is supported by education and business leaders all across Arizona.
Called Arizona Ready, we're engaging families across the state to take charge of their children's education and to expect more from their public schools.
Our reform initiatives include adoption of higher academic standards to make sure our students can compete with the best in the world -- and prohibiting employment policies that give retention priority to teachers based on seniority.
Seventeen years after we adopted the Charter School Law, Arizona is on its second generation of 15-year charter schools, -- including the best charter schools in the nation.
A terrific success, yes.
But, additional reforms are needed to promote economic expansion in our state -- including improving Arizona's economic competitiveness -- bringing needed reforms to K-12 and higher education -- modernizing state government including personnel reform -- and challenging a federal government that has exceeded
its constitutional authority.
Now, I know most of you in this room know about the burden of excessive regulation.
You deal with those excesses every day -- even in light of the tremendous progress that's been made toward more healthful air.
The auto industry has vastly reduced emissions from vehicles, we've gasoline adopted program, modernized and our own cleaner-burning local installed power emissions plants have controls, and Arizona has the most stringent vehicle emissions inspection program in the country.
Still, even when states achieve standards set for environmental pollution, it remains difficult to meet ever changing standards and expect to achieve environmental improvement in a cost-effective and common sense manner.
Reforms are needed that will give states the tools to manage environmental risks -- and take approaches that capitalize on innovations that will simultaneously allow us to grow our economies and improve the quality of life.
The EPA and our Arizona Department of Environmental Quality both have roles in protecting our environment.
But, let's face it, sometimes the EPA has exhibited a lack of understanding of the unique issues facing our arid southwest.
For example, ADEQ is attempting to intervene in an EPA lawsuit over regional haze in the Grand Canyon.
Under the Clean Air Act, States are given the responsibility to develop air quality plans to address issues like regional haze.
EPA has proposed a settlement that doesn't represent what's best for the state of Arizona and that could be harmful to Arizona's struggling economy.
By intervening, ADEQ hopes to stop the settlement and ensure that Arizona's rights are protected in resolution of the lawsuit.
We want to work with EPA to protect the environment, but we will challenge EPA at every turn to make sure that Arizona has a seat at the table to protect Arizona's interests.
After all, those closest to the issue have the best information to develop solutions.
Environmental policy should not be determined through litigation negotiated at the federal level at the expense of Arizonans.
Instead, my career, my record, my life ... are rooted in telling the truth and in pursuing freedom. My truth shares the spirit of our Founding Father's quest to "form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty."
When I took the oath of office, I promised the people of Arizona we would rededicate ourselves to the pursuit of freedom.
And, that's exactly what we're doing.
Here, in Arizona, you're free to work and earn a living -- to build a business -- to build a life.
You're free to find and speak the truth about government, and those who lead it.
You're free to move from place to place -- you're free to choose the best school for your children -- whether it's in a public institution, or in your own home.
You're free to pursue a higher education in our great research universities and our community colleges, at a cost that will not leave you under a crushing debt.
And, finally, you're free to contemplate the hand of God in the forms and colors of our breathtakingly beautiful state, and upon the hearts of its diverse people.
As a western Governor, let me close with the famous prophesy of an English poet -- one that Margaret Thatcher quoted to Ronald Reagan, as he headed to his California ranch in retirement:
"And not by eastern windows only -- when daylight comes -- comes in the light; "In front the sun climbs slow -- how slowly. "But westward, look. The land is bright."
Thank you, may God bless you -- and the National Aerosol Association -- and may God always bless and protect the United States of America.