2011 State of the State and Budget Address
Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, Honorable Justices, my fellow constitutional officers, distinguished legislators and members of my Cabinet, honored guests, friends, my family and our First Lady ... my fellow Idahoans.
Of course I especially include in that number the thousands of our fellow Idaho citizens now serving once again in Iraq. Our prayers and our thoughts are with them and we anxiously await their return to us.
Whether with the National Guard or Reserves, they are deployed as a matter of duty but serving as patriots and as heroes. They are shining examples of the best among us, and they should rest assured that their loved ones are protected, cared for and respected for their own sacrifices here at home.
My congratulations and thanks go as well to Idaho’s congressional delegation – and especially its newest member and your former colleague, Congressman Labrador – for leading our struggle to rein in government spending as well as unreasonable and sometimes unconstitutional federal actions.
I know they’re up to the difficult task ahead in Washington, D.C. Now let me offer my sincere congratulations – and my condolences – to our newly re-elected Speaker, our new Pro-Tem, and to the great leadership teams in both chambers and on both sides of the aisle. Your wisdom, patience, judgment and good humor will be crucial in the days to come as we navigate through the difficult process of balancing our State budget in a way that fulfills the proper role of government.
Let me also extend my congratulations to all the new and re-elected members of the Idaho House and Senate, as well as my colleagues in the Executive Branch. I know you are as humbled as I am by the confidence that the voters showed in what we have done, and what we have committed to do.
Now, we have our work cut out for us. But I am confident that together we can constructively fulfill our responsibilities to serve the people. I am optimistic that our course not only is right for the people of Idaho but is an example that other states would do well to follow. And I am positive that we will emerge from this session – just as we are slowly but surely emerging from this economic downturn – leaner, stronger, and even more clearly among the best places in the world to live, to work and to raise a family.
No one in this room is under any illusion about the task before us.
It could be the kind of legislative session that leaves people wondering why anyone would want to go into politics or public service.
Many of the decisions we make will be thankless. Our motives will be questioned. There will be no credit for good intentions. There will be no “moral victories.”
In some cases it may boil down to what our principles, values and the best data available tell us are the least-bad options.
We are entrusted with the best interests of the people of Idaho.
They expect us to conduct the business of State government honorably, transparently, decisively – and within the people’s means.
We must keep our commitments and stick to our principles. We must act responsibly and stand ready to be held accountable.
Now, that does not mean digging deeper into taxpayers’ pockets.
And it does not mean accepting that government can or should be the first response to all challenges – economic or otherwise.
We know what happens when that government-first mindset takes hold.
We wind up in court and working with our friends in Congress to stop the federal government from breaking its promises on delisting and restoring State management of wolves that are killing our big game and livestock.
We wind up fighting to stop the EPA from imposing unreasonable restrictions on the people of the Silver Valley.
Folks, we’ve got to turn this discussion back to personal responsibility. We’ve got to turn it back to the family. We’ve got to turn it back to our communities. The State’s role must be focused on finding better ways of fostering those local support systems.
The solutions we seek are in our towns, our neighborhoods, and around our kitchen tables. You all know I was born in Caldwell and grew up right here in the Treasure Valley. I was one of nine children. My Dad was an electrician, and so wherever the jobs were, that’s where we had to go.
That meant we were moving around a lot. I went to 14 different schools between kindergarten and my graduation from high school. I can remember time and again when my Dad would come home and say, “I’m sorry, but the job is finished and I don’t know what we’re going to do until I get another one.
“So instead of that new pair of shoes, we’re going to have to get the old ones repaired. We’re just going to have to do more with less.”
And you know what? We all survived. We all survived because we all understood that we were in this together – as a family.
Now, I don’t know exactly where it started, but over the years instead of going to our families, and instead of going to those volunteer organizations that we were either socially or spiritually a part of – instead of going and having those kinds of conversations, it just got too easy when government seemed to have a lot of money to say, “Let’s start this program,” and “Let’s start that program.”
And that’s precisely what happened.