Economic Security Now

By:  Thomas Vilsack
Date: Feb. 25, 2003
Location: Washington, DC



GOVERNOR TOM VILSACK (D-IA): Gary, thank you very much, and Senator Daschle, thank you very much for your courtesies extended today. Senator Daschle is absolutely correct—the economies of the states and of this nation need immediate help, and they need it now. We join with Senator Daschle and his colleagues in a call for tax relief that will put resources in the pockets of working families. We know that this is a consumer-driven economy. Seventy percent of it is driven by consumer spending. We need tax relief targeted to working families so they in turn can stimulate the economy.

We also support the senator and his colleagues in asking for additional resources from the federal government to spur construction for schools, roads and other infrastructure items. We know that if we put people toward building, we will rebuild this economy. And finally, we believe that the states need assistance in the partnership that has been established between the federal government and the state governments in educating our children.

During the course of our White House visit, President Bush said something to me and to the rest of the governors, which I found to be quite surprising. In explaining how he believed that the Leave No Child Behind legislation was being adequately funded, the President suggested that if there's an achievement gap that exists in our schools today, if our youngsters are not reaching their fullest potential, then it is up to the states and governors in those states, and the states only, to rectify that situation. We believe that it is partnership, that we all have a responsibility to educate our children, which means that the Leave No Child Behind legislation and the special education proposal has to be fully and adequately funded. If it is not, then we, as governors, are faced with difficult circumstances and our local school districts and our children's education will suffer.

So if we're to have security at home, we need good-paying jobs, we need tax relief that makes sense, and we need schools that can enable our youngsters to reach their fullest and greatest potential.

Another area of significance, as we deal with the economy, is making sure that Americans feel less anxious about the future and that requires strong and secure homeland security. With that, let me turn it over to Bill Richardson to talk about that issue.

Q Governor, on the question of state budget deficits, fiscal conservatives are saying that basically states spent too much in years past (inaudible) GDP actually grew, and now it's time to get some cuts. What do you say to that?

GOVERNOR RICHARDSON: Well, I'm not the one to talk about that. Governor Vilsack.


GOVERNOR VILSACK: I took over in 1999. Our state budget today is less than it was when I became governor. This is not an issue of spending; this is an issue of a sluggish economy where revenues have gone down, which is why we're here today to encourage Congress, the Senate to take immediate action to stimulate this economy. In my state, we have reduced spending. We've cut our workforce by ten percent. We have reduced assistance to local governments. At the end of the day, we've done just about everything we can do. If we're required to do more, then we're going to sacrifice the education of our children, access to health care for our seniors and protection of our environment and public safety. And I think that's a price that we shouldn't require states to pay, and I think the federal government has a partnership responsibility, and I think that this is the time to step up.

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