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George Voinovich
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Governor Voinovich's Selected Speeches   

1995 State of the State Address (26th January, 1995)
State Capitol Columbus, Ohio

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Speaker Davidson -- President Aronoff -- Lt. Governor Hollister -- distinguished members of Ohio's 121st General Assembly -- justices of the Supreme Court -- elected state office holders -- members of the Cabinet -- my wife, Janet -- friends -- and fellow Ohioans.

I want to thank Speaker Davidson and President Aronoff for participating in my Inaugural and for the hand of friendship you have already extended to me. It is also a great pleasure to welcome so many new faces to this annual gathering. I know each of you is looking forward to serving our fellow citizens and making a difference in their lives.

It's been 28 years since I heard my first State of the State speech as a member of the Ohio House of Representatives, and for the life of me, I can't remember one word Governor Jim Rhodes said -- except "jobs, jobs, jobs!" It's very possible that, 28 years from now, one of you will be giving the State of the State speech and saying, "I can't remember a darned thing Voinovich said, except 'harder and smarter, and more with less!'"

You assume office during an era of genuine good will, bipartisan cooperation, and respect among the branches of Ohio government that is the envy of other states. Just as we did during the 120th General Assembly, I look forward to working with each of you, Republican and Democrat alike, as, together, we put Ohio first in all that we do.

* * * *

On January 9th, in my Inaugural Address, I repeated my belief that government is only one thread in the fabric of a community. And I recognized that silent army of our fellow citizens who are doing so much to make Ohio a great state. We should thank God and take comfort that there are thousands of Ohioans taking care of themselves and their families, and making a difference in the lives of others every day.

Today, I want to talk about what state government will do to support the work of that self-sufficient, silent army and to help those who are not yet self-sufficient, to become so. In particular, I will focus on new initiatives to further reform Ohio's education and welfare systems.

One of the most important things we can do in state government is to maintain our resolve to work harder and smarter, and do more with less. In that regard, during my second term in office, we will build on the foundation we have laid since 1991. On Tuesday, I will submit to you the state's new biennial budget, which, when combined with our administration's first two budgets, will reflect the lowest growth in state spending in 40 years.

We're providing Ohio taxpayers with value: quality services for the least amount of money.

One of our most important fiscal achievements has been restoring Ohio's budget stabilization fund to appropriate levels. As you know, we emptied it of its $300 million, cut $711 million, and increased revenues in order to deal with a more-than $1 billion problem and balance the '92-93 budget.

The Ohio Revised Code uses four percent of the state's annual budget as a benchmark for this fund, which, in the current fiscal year, would be nearly $650 million. After what we went through in '92-93 and because of several other factors, it is my aim not to touch the state's "rainy day fund." For example, we do not now know the potential impact of Congress' deficit-reduction plan or a possible downturn in the economy late in the next biennium.

The $838 million we expect to have in the fund as of July 30th should give us adequate protection against the next storm.

Just as important, if we preserve the fund, the state's already-solid bond rating may go up another notch, which will save taxpayers millions of dollars in reduced interest costs. On the other hand, if things turn out better than I expect, I will look very hard at reducing state income taxes.

In order to maintain Ohio's leadership among America's states, we will also continue to focus on Ohio 2000 / Ohio First -- our strategic blueprint for keeping Ohio a national leader and world-class competitor by the 21st century. That means making targeted investments in those four areas where we have been making the biggest difference: Management -- education -- jobs -- and quality of life.

We must redouble our effort to focus on these priorities. When you review the '96-97 budget, you will clearly see this focus -- a commitment that was made possible, in part, because the majority of line items in this budget will be funded below inflation.

* * * *

I am convinced that a world-class education is the best way to help every Ohio citizen make the most of his or her God-given talents. It is also our best economic development tool and the best investment we can make in the future.

Since 1991, we have taken decisive action to increase our strategic investment in education. No administration has done more to recognize the needs of our low-wealth districts. That is why, in our first biennial budget, we established Ohio's first-ever equity fund of $45 million. Our second budget added another $135 million. We are also providing $138 million for school building assistance.

And we have done more since then. Our SchoolNet technology initiative will wire every Ohio classroom for voice, video, and data transmission, and put computers with CD-ROM into 14,000 classrooms in our low-wealth districts.

I'm happy to announce today that 14 projects have been selected to serve as SchoolNet prototypes -- seven of which are in low-wealth districts. What we learn from their pioneering efforts will ensure a smooth implementation of SchoolNet statewide, as we bring the 21st century into Ohio's classrooms.

In addition, our new budget includes funding for an initiative that will link all Ohio public libraries with one another -- with the state's telecommunications network, including our university libraries -- and, eventually, with SchoolNet. It's called the Ohio Public Library Information Network, or "OPLIN."

When completed, OPLIN will provide all Ohio citizens -- young and old, urban and rural -- with an access ramp onto the information superhighway, through their local libraries. This action solidifies Ohio's place as a telecommunications pioneer among the 50 states.

Altogether, General Fund spending for primary and secondary education has increased more than $1 billion over the last four years. Once again, I thank the General Assembly for being my partner in all of these efforts.

To build on our achievements, I am proposing the replacement of our separate equity fund with a new "equity factor," to be integrated directly into the existing foundation formula. Coupled with other formula changes, this measure sends the majority of new state aid to more than 260 low-wealth districts.

We are proposing this change because I want our low-wealth districts to be assured that this additional support is permanent -- we're putting it in concrete! We will also increase the base foundation level by more than twice the rate of inflation -- from just over $3,000 this year, to $3,500 in 1997.

We also recommend modifying the system in a manageable way by allocating marginally fewer dollars to the state's highest-wealth districts. The wealthiest five percent would be affected during Fiscal Year '96, and the top ten percent, the year after. This change alone will enable us to redirect $32.5 million to the remaining districts during the new biennium.

We must also address one of those "automatic entitlements," like so many at the federal level. Many knowledgeable Ohioans do not realize that the state pays one-eighth of all residential property tax bills, regardless of how expensive the property.

This entitlement has grown 27 percent, or nearly twice the inflation rate, just since 1991 and now costs the state $809 million. This costly and unlimited tax subsidy should be marginally scaled back in order for us to make more progress in adequately funding our schools.

We propose providing property tax relief only up to $200,000 in value. This cap will affect approximately five percent of residential property in this state and free up $33 million that we can spend on education.

We will also move forward with our proposed constitutional amendment to provide an unprecedented $1 billion over the next decade for the construction and repair of Ohio schools. I am pleased that Senator Aronoff and Speaker Davidson have made this initiative Senate and House Resolution 1.

You will note in the budget that we have created a line item for the Controlling Board which would be funded from a reinstated soft drink tax. This will require an amendment to the Ohio Constitution that would, essentially, "repeal the repeal" of the penny-a-can soda pop tax.

I favor the constitutional prohibition against taxing all food, but I oppose the unprecedented action by a greedy special interest group to specifically exempt their product from taxation, right in the Ohio Constitution! I would like to earmark this money for community projects, freeing up at least a half-billion dollars more for our schools from the capital budget over the next 10 years. With this money, we could easily put a computer in every classroom in the state.

These initiatives and others in the new budget will result in a greater share for primary and secondary education than the budget I signed two years ago. And the combined basic and equity funding for our low-wealth districts will increase 44 percent during my first six years in office -- more than double the inflation rate.

Even more important than our ongoing efforts to increase education equity in Ohio is our commitment to improve education results. Thanks in part to our nationally acclaimed "Education for Results" reform package, proficiency test, SAT, and ACT scores are up. Ohio is bucking the national trend!

The new biennial budget reflects our continued, strong support for education improvement, and mirrors our definition of "education" as "lifelong learning."

The first phase of lifelong learning is conception through kindergarten. In my first State of the State address, I drew the line in the sand for Ohio's children and pledged that this would be the last generation to go on welfare, get hooked on drugs, go to jail, and get pregnant as teenagers.

With our Family and Children First initiative leading the way, we have dramatically increased state support for programs that serve families and children. From Head Start to Healthy Start -- from immunizations to child support enforcement -- we're making a difference for Ohio children!

And we're going to do even more in the next two years to make sure our children are ready to learn. Substantial increases in funding for Head Start, preschool special education, and public preschool in the new budget will allow 80 percent of our eligible, low-income children to participate -- more than twice the national average, making Ohio number one in the nation.

The second component of "lifelong learning" is K through 12, including school-to-work programs.

To further ensure that our students have the finest instructors, I am recommending changes in teacher licensing and performance evaluation. We must guarantee that Ohio teachers are evaluated and not simply tenured and forgotten, regardless of their performance in the classroom.

Ohio is blessed with outstanding teachers. Recently, I was in Washington to recognize Ohio's first two teachers to be certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. In order to help more teachers in securing Board certification, I am including funding in the budget to pay the cost of making the application -- about $1,000. And, I am recommending that each teacher certified by the Board receive an annual award of $2,500 plus benefits.

If we expect our best, brightest, and most effective teachers to stay in the classroom, we must recognize them. The first recipients of this recognition are with us today. It's now my pleasure to introduce those two pioneering Ohio teachers: Penny Arnold, of Schrop Elementary School in Akron; and Susan Wander, of Whitney M. Young Middle School in Cleveland.

With respect to education governance, most people in Ohio hold me responsible. But Ohio law limits a governor's authority. I am asking you to give me and my successors the power that 36 other governors have -- the right to select the members of the state school board.

As you know, Ohio's break-the-mold schools are looked upon nationally as laboratories for the newest techniques in teaching and education reform. I am asking that we increase the number of our break-the-mold schools from 350 to 550.

Another initiative I want to place on Ohio's smorgasbord of education reform is a pilot school scholarship plan. I want Ohio to be the first state to have an honest-to-goodness experiment in school choice. How will we know if it works or not if we don't at least try it?

The third area of "lifelong learning" encompasses higher education and training. I am recommending that we continue to stabilize higher education funding, while encouraging further performance improvements, by beginning to tie new dollars to improved results. Performance standards are already in place at our two-year colleges, and, during this budget, they will be instituted at our four-year schools.

We're also giving priority to student financial aid by funding, at twice the inflation rate, Ohio's three basic financial aid programs. We need to go the extra mile to give every student the opportunity to succeed!

* * * *

Much of what I have discussed thus far is focused on increasing opportunities for those individuals and families who are already providing for themselves. I want to talk now about those who are not.

Hubert Humphrey once said: "The moral test of government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life -- the children; those who are in the twilight of life -- the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life -- the sick, the needy, and the handicapped."

Over the last four years, working with the General Assembly, we have met that "moral test." And we have taken important action toward helping those trapped within the welfare maze to step from the shadows of dependency into the warm, full light of self-respect and self-sufficiency.

Two of our most ambitious undertakings to date -- restructuring General Assistance and the Medicaid long-term care reimbursement system -- have saved Ohioans well over $1 billion since 1992. And our total welfare caseload has dropped by 85,000 recipients since that year. Those savings have gone to support children and families, improve education, and keep a lid on taxes for Ohio's working families.

Other states talk about welfare reform. In Ohio, it's a reality. We seek to create a new system that rewards work, encourages personal responsibility, and strengthens families.

This emerging, new system treats people, not like statistics, but as God's children -- most of whom desperately want a fighting chance to raise their families, become successful, and make a contribution to society. It is our responsibility to give them that chance!

Yet, despite positive changes, we must continue to restructure and improve Ohio's welfare system.

First, what remains of Ohio's General Assistance program for able-bodied adults will be eliminated as of July 1st. The vast majority of affected by this action will continue to receive Food Stamps and job training. And most health care needs will be met by the Hospital Care Assurance Program through the end of the year, and by our new OhioCare initiative beginning next January.

I believe that OhioCare, when combined with our day care program for the working poor and with the federal low-income tax credit, where Ohio leads the nation in new enrollees, will do more to keep people off welfare than anything else we do. OhioCare will eliminate the greatest barrier to welfare recipients accepting work and will enable them to choose a paycheck rather than a welfare check.

OhioCare is great news for Ohio's working poor, and I applaud Speaker Davidson and President Aronoff for appointing a joint House-Senate committee to immediately begin hearings on OhioCare so that we can move forward with implementation.

By eliminating GA and revising DA, we will free up $200 million for new human services initiatives that promote self-sufficiency, and for our education reform initiatives.

One area where additional dollars will go is our Job Opportunity and Basic Skills program, or "JOBS," which requires ADC recipients to develop personal and employment skills or lose welfare benefits. Ohio leads the nation in the number of people enrolled -- at one-third the cost of our closest competitor, California.

There are many success stories describing how the JOBS program helps people. One of those belongs to Lettie Neal of Akron. Seven years ago, after 20 years on and off welfare, Lettie enrolled in the Summit County JOBS program, where she received training to work in the day care field. She was hired by Mamie Gardner, the proprietor of the Kandy Kane Day Care Centers, and today is, herself, director of one of the centers. A grandmother, Lettie is also taking classes at the University of Akron and plans to get a degree in early childhood development.

Please join me in welcoming Lettie Neal and the entrepreneur who gave her a chance, Mamie Gardner. We must also restructure those aspects of our current welfare system that are anti-family. Toward that end, we will do away with the financial disincentive for ADC mothers who marry, and the 100-hour work rule which also discourages work for two-parent families.

I'm also proud that Ohio is a national leader in two programs aimed at keeping kids in high school, reducing the drop-out rate, and preparing students for the workplace. Our LEAP program, which keeps teenage parents in school, was recently singled out as a national model.

And our Jobs for Ohio Graduates program helps at-risk students to stay in school. Ninety-two percent of the participants graduate, and 85 percent of those find a job or further their education.

The cornerstone of our ADC reform efforts will be a requirement that recipients sign a Self-Sufficiency Contract agreeing to do specific things that help them move from welfare dependency, such as working for their assistance or participating in the JOBS program.

These reforms will increase the number of welfare recipients who actually work for the assistance they receive by about 60 percent. And the number of individuals who actually find jobs will increase by two-thirds, making the total over 50,000 per year. The best part is that the money to pay for all of this is coming as a result of the elimination of General Assistance for able-bodied adults.

* * * *

Because I've spent so much time talking about our education and welfare reform initiatives, I will touch only briefly on our key initiatives in the other areas of Ohio 2000 / Ohio First.

As I said in my Inaugural Address earlier this month, Quality Services through Partnership, or QStP, will be our top management initiative in my second term. This initiative strives to do for our state workers what many of the proposals I've described today will do for other Ohioans: Help them develop to the fullest, their God-given talents. I'm grateful to our unions and their leadership for their ongoing partnership.

The most recent example of a "quality" product is the new state map, which we just unveiled last week. It was designed and generated entirely in-house, by a Department of Transportation QStP team working with other agencies. They improved the final product and saved taxpayers $200,000!

I'm proud that Ohio's "quality" program is viewed as the nation's benchmark -- and we will continue with its expansion in the coming years.

On another "management" front, we are also taking steps to assure that all state programs deliver the results they promise. I am today announcing that, in the future, all state agencies seeking continued funding for a newly created program will be required to submit a "New Program Performance Report."

This report will be submitted to the Office of Budget and Management, as well as to the chairman and ranking members of the House and Senate Finance Committees. If we don't get this results-oriented report, we're not going to fund the program -- period! We're going to go the extra mile to make sure that the taxpayers get their money's worth out of every new program.

With the understanding that education and lifelong learning are our best job generators and retainers, we will continue our economic development strategy of capitalizing on Ohio's strengths and improving our business climate.

Our "Jobs Bills I and II" are considered models of successful economic development legislation across the country. For example, our Jobs Creation Tax Credit has generated more than $2.4 billion in private investment and created or saved more than 60,000 jobs.

To continue to build on this success, we will again seek the help of the General Assembly in putting together "Jobs Bill III." I look forward to working with you to identify additional ways to make Ohio's business climate more competitive.

In my State of the State address two years ago, I referred to our Workers' Compensation system as "the silent killer of jobs in Ohio." Since then, we've taken positive steps toward real reform through House Bill 107.

But we're running out of time. That's why I've asked for the management responsibility of the Bureau. It's the best way I know to bring the "silent killer of jobs" to justice!

I'm also extremely pleased that Ohio's unemployment rate is at a 20-year low. I believe this gives us a golden opportunity to really address the problems of the chronically unemployed. For this reason, I've asked Lt. Governor Hollister to coordinate our "Jobs: Ohio's Future" initiatives.

Among her first activities will be hosting a conference for Ohio mayors to review our job incentive programs and our new self-sufficiency welfare reform package. But, regardless of all that we hope to accomplish, it is absolutely imperative that government and the private sector work together to educate or train those who need the help, and to generate the private-sector jobs to put them on the path toward self-sufficiency.

The great thing about our economic development initiatives is that they are working. In fact, I am pleased to announce today that, for the second year in a row, Site Selection magazine has named Ohio number one in new plant facilities and expansions! Finally, keeping our cities and neighborhoods safe leads our "quality of life" agenda. I am grateful to the General Assembly and Attorney General Betty Montgomery for their leadership in this area. Together, we have taken the time to draft a crime package that will be second to none in the United States.

I am especially proud that our benchmark RECLAIM Ohio program for juvenile corrections rolls out statewide this month. The nine pilot projects recorded a 44 percent reduction in youth incarcerations! This initiative is giving juvenile courts the flexibility to rehabilitate youthful offenders and reclaim their lives.

For older Ohioans, our new budget will also fund another dramatic increase in our PASSPORT program, which keeps seniors at home with their loved ones, instead of in nursing homes. Nearly 23,000 eligible seniors will be served by the end of the new biennium , compared to 2,700 when I took office. I'm sure you would agree that this investment on behalf of older Ohioans is one of the best that we make.

Each of these efforts, and many more too numerous to mention today, are improving the quality of life in our state.

* * * *

In the two weeks since my Inaugural Address, I've hoped my words that day have served to encourage more Ohioans to get involved -- to identify the one thing that each of us can do to make a positive difference in the lives of our fellow citizens.

I promised then that, today, I would outline our recommendations for what state government will do over the next two years to support the good work going on in communities around this state. We aim to expand opportunities for those Ohioans who are already providing for themselves and their families, and to help those who are not, to become self-sufficient.

It's interesting that the words I used to conclude my first State of the State speech four years ago still have meaning today. On that day, I said:

"I am confident that, with a little pain in the short run, we can target our priorities -- get Ohio competitive in the '90's -- lay the foundation for greatness in the next century -- and improve the quality of life for ourselves today, and our children tomorrow."

We've come a long way since then toward meeting those goals. I'm confident that, working together for the next four years and with God's help, we'll go the distance.

Ohio 2000 -- Ohio First!

Thank you.

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