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Pelosi Delivers Address to National Governors Association

Location: Washington, DC

Pelosi Delivers Address to National Governors Association
Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Washington,D.C.-House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi today gave the following address to the National Governors Association:

Governor Kempthorne, thank you for your gracious introduction and your leadership - both of Idaho and of the National Governors Association.

Congratulations to Governor Warner of Virginia - the NGA's new Vice Chairman.

Thank you to all the governors - for your stewardship of your states and for the spirit of bipartisanship you represent. Your perspective - grounded in the everyday realities of the American people - can help ensure national policies that reflect the priorities of the American people.

State-Federal and Public-Private Partnerships
More than two centuries ago, the Founding Generation crafted what James Madison in the Federalist Papers called "the compound Republicof America." The federal and state governments, he wrote, are "two distinct governments" - a kind of "double security" for the interests of the people.

The Founders made the state and federal governments into a unique partnership with different perspectives and different means, but a common goal: ensuring the security and prosperity of the American people.

Our system of governance also relies on a partnership between the public and private sectors. Our states succeed, our nation succeeds, when all parts of our society - government, business, labor, academia, non-profits, and our civic leaders - work together.

From private enterprise comes the creation of wealth and jobs. From this creation of wealth and jobs the public treasury is achieved. And because the public treasury is achieved, our nation has the capacity for public action that should enhance the private sector.

The private sector, however, cannot succeed when there are not enough well-trained workers available, when one in five children live in poverty, when nearly 44 million Americans are without health care. Nor when public safety is not ensured. Nor can the private and non-profit sectors alone deal with such problems-at least on the scale that is necessary.

This is our charge today, to work together - as state and federal governments - to use appropriate public initiatives to secure an environment in which the private sector can flourish and in which we can help care for those who cannot care for themselves.

Strong, prosperous states make for a strong, prosperous nation. That is why Democrats in Congress fought last year for $31 billion in aid to help the states. And that is why I have brought with me a today a report that documents the impact of the President's budget on each of your states.

This morning, I want to focus on four key areas where the federal government must rebuild its partnership with the states and where we need your help: homeland security, job creation and infrastructure investment, education, and health care.

Partners in Homeland Security
First, we must work together to fulfill the foremost Constitutional responsibility - to "provide for the common defense," which includes homeland security.

Sadly, the President's budget cuts funding for firefighters and police by hundreds of million of dollars and includes no dedicated funds to help our first responders communicate in real time during a crisis. It cuts $1 billion for homeland security and bioterrorism grants, and includes no specific funds to help protect our ports and nuclear and chemical plants.

Tomorrow, the Democratic members of the House Homeland Security Committee will release a comprehensive report on where we stand today and what we still need to do to protect America from the threat of terrorist attack. The report documents that there are significant security gaps.

We know what we need to do - we just do not have adequate funds in the President's budget.

That is why the budget that House Democrats will propose next month will include more of the funding for the training and the equipment that the first responders in your states so desperately need to keep your states safe. As a nation, we must not allow every high-level orange alert to put states further into the red.

Partners in Job Creation-Transportation
As we "provide for the common defense," we must also work together to honor our Constitutional obligation to "promote the general welfare" - starting with growing the economy to create good jobs.

In the last three years, record federal surpluses have become record deficits. The number of long-term unemployed Americans has nearly tripled.

And the economy has lost nearly 3 million manufacturing jobs.

Sadly, in an attempt to make this number look smaller, the Bush Administration is now trying to call jobs at fast food restaurants making hamburgers manufacturing jobs. Playing with definitions will not create one real manufacturing job in America.

We need to create real jobs now. And a proven way to do so is to invest in our national infrastructure. Investing in transportation and infrastructure creates high paying jobs immediately. For every $1 billion invested, 47,500 new jobs are created. It enables us to move more products to market and people to work and school.

Investing in transportation and infrastructure improves America's quality of life - allowing families to spend more time together and less time wasted in gridlock. It helps the environment - reducing congestion and pollution.

Investment in infrastructure is an important homeland security measure. And investing in infrastructure to protect our ports and waterways helps keep America safer.

We must pass a bipartisan transportation and infrastructure bill that calls for investing well over $300 billion over six years and creating 1.7 million new jobs.

As a nation, we cannot run a 21st century economy on crumbling 1950s roads and bridges. Congress must reauthorize - and the President must sign - the bipartisan Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century. And we must fully fund it.

Partners in Education
Perhaps nothing "promote[s] the general welfare" more than investing in our nation's human infrastructure - our children.

Investing in the education of our children does more to help the private sector and to promote America's long-term prosperity than any tax cut you can name.

But the way to improve education is for the federal government and the states to work together toward shared goals. Not by decrees from on high from Washington. Not by more mandates without money.

Sadly, the President's budget continues to shortchange America's children by shortchanging his own No Child Left Behind Act by $9.4 billion, denying millions of children help with reading and math, and shortchanges special education by $2.5 billion. You know it so well-you live it.

The story is the same for higher education. As states struggle with budget shortfalls, students are struggling with higher tuitions at public institutions.

Students shouldn't have to leave college because they cannot afford higher tuition. And when students finish college, they shouldn't be saddled with unmanageable debt.

We must increase funds for initiatives that put disadvantaged students on the path to a college education, and we must increase funding for Pell Grants and Work Study so that students can afford college once they get there.

Pell Grants used to cover three-quarters of the cost of tuition at a state school. Now they barely cover one-third of those costs. Doubling Pell Grants would help correct this shortfall. The federal government must make that goal a priority; we need your help to get it done. As a nation, we simply cannot afford to fail our children.

We need your help to get it done because states bear so much of the burden.

Partners in Health Care
We promote the "general welfare" when we ensure quality and affordable health care for all Americans, especially our seniors and most vulnerable citizens.

Instead of making it easier for states to meet the burden of rising health care costs, the new Medicare law actually makes it harder. For the first time in history, states will be required to fund a Medicare benefit - depriving states of critical Medicaid savings and making it harder to provide prescription drugs to "dual eligible" low-income seniors who qualify for Medicaid and Medicare.

That is why Democrats want to repeal the President's drug bill, which unravels Medicare. We also want to repeal provisions that prohibit the Secretary of Health and Human Services from negotiating lower drug prices and replace it with a provision to allow the federal government to negotiate the best price for prescription drugs. And we want to lower the costs of prescription drugs by legalizing the safe reimportation of prescription drugs from Canada and elsewhere.

The federal government must also be a better partner when it comes to Medicaid. That's why House Democrats share your concern that we should not require prior federal approval of state Medicaid budgets and add bureaucratic barriers that states must clear before receiving needed Medicaid funding. Shifting more costs and responsibilities for Medicaid to the states and interfering with state budgets is not the answer to the challenges faced by Medicaid. Instead, led by Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle, we are working to adjust the federal matching rate for Medicaid to provide your states more money to help meet rising health care costs.

Working together, we can - and we must - ensure federal-state partnerships that provide all Americans access to affordable and quality health care.

Conclusion: Working Together Toward a "More Perfect Union"
By virtue of the Constitution, the states and the federal government have different powers. But the Constitution also compels us to share a common purpose - in short, "to form a more perfect Union."

This is our charge and our challenge. The federal government should make your job easier, not harder. On behalf of the Democrats in the House of Representatives, I want to congratulate Gov. Kempthorne and Gov. Warner for your outstanding leadership of the NGA. I hope you all will consider House Democrats a resource in making the federal government a partner with each of your states.

Working together, we can ensure the security and prosperity of the American people. Working together, we can fulfill our Constitutional responsibility to our 50 states and five territories "form a more perfect Union." Working together, with fiscal responsibility in Washington, we can - and we must - build the America our children deserve.

I appreciate and thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today and for the spirit of bipartisanship you bring to Washington. In that spirit, I will close by quoting a Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, who said at his second Inaugural Address: "With malice toward none; with charity for all." That should be a hallmark in our country. I know it is the hallmark of your proceedings. I hope to work with you to build a better future for all our children."

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