Wednesday, January 16, 2008

And You Thought Democrats Didn't Stand for Anything...

Georgia Democrats are not accustomed to being the minority party. We held the reigns on state government for years, and when we dropped them (more on that later), we stumbled around for a while trying to figure out what the minority can effectively do. Well, today, for the first time-I think first time ever-Georgia Democrats provided a minority response to the State of the State address. Rep. Kathy Ashe was the spokesperson, but her remarks reflect the values of Democrats all across the state. She did an outstanding job for all of us! Below is a portion of Rep. Ashe's speech.

I've had the honor to serve in the Georgia General Assembly since 1991. During that time, I've come to know many men and women who exemplified the ideal of citizen legislators. One of those statesmen is no longer with us. Today, we continue to mourn the passing of Speaker Tom Murphy, a true Georgia leader. Mr. Speaker, you are missed in the General Assembly, and throughout this state. Speaker Murphy understood, better than most, the role of government. He knew that the true success of a state should not be measured at the top of the pyramid, but at its base. He understood the value of investing today for later reward. He knew that government must plan today for the problems of tomorrow, and he practiced what he preached.

Eight years into the 21st Century, five years after the Governor promised us a "New Georgia," our state continues to face the stagnant challenges of yesterday. Despite frequent promises of action from the Governor and his party, Georgia continues on a perilous course.

Our public schools, where we sow the seeds of Georgia's future, continue to struggle. More than one in six Georgians does not have affordable health care - including almost 300,000 children. We continue to feel the burden of 1.3 billion dollars in education cuts forced on your local governments by this administration. And every night in Georgia - all over Georgia - too many of our children go to bed hungry and without hope for a better future.

As Democrats, we believe we can take Georgia in a new direction, by simply planning ahead, working together, and believing in our shared values and common wisdom. On behalf of my Democratic colleagues in the House and Senate, I call on Governor Perdue and the Republican members of both chambers: Let us reason and work together to solve Georgia's problems. Let no good idea wither on the vine and dry up, simply because it came from the other party. Let us prepare today, and avoid crisis tomorrow.

What will be the next crisis to face Georgia? Will our schools continue to wallow in mediocrity? Will the 1.7 million medically uninsured Georgians become 2 million, and then 3 million? Will factories continue to close, and farms continue to fail? Or will we work together, to create a Georgia that we can all believe in again?
I'm pleased to announce the first piece of major legislation Democrats will introduce in this session. We will address Georgia's concerns with education and property

Next week, Democrats in the House and Senate will introduce a new plan for tax relief - not a hastily conceived scheme that changes with the political winds, but a responsible approach that helps those who need it the most – Georgia's families.

Our plan restores much-needed funding to our public schools, and eases the strain on local governments, giving them the freedom to do what their constituents demand, keep our obligations to our children, and reduce property taxes. Most importantly, it gives public schools what they need to produce the next generation of Georgians, brighter and better-prepared than any generation in our state's history.

We will keep the promise made to students and parents over twenty years ago - we will fund the Quality Basic Education Act, and we will create the some of the best
schools in the nation. Ideas like this do not come from us, the Democratic legislators, but from what we hear from our constituents every day in our schools, our churches, and our places of work. Our ideas for a better Georgia come from all of us, from our shared values, and from what we all believe. Once again, the Governor has said one thing and done another on education. Despite his rhetoric and rosy promises, Governor Perdue is introducing $141 million dollars in cuts to education this year. And as a result, our schools will be underfunded by one and a half billion dollars.

Democrats believe we should finally make good on our promise to our children to fully fund their schools; and emphasizing reading, math, science, discipline, character, and above all, preparation for a 21st century global economy.

Democrats believe that we should reduce class sizes and make Georgia's teachers the envy of America. We believe that every student deserves a teacher who has time to
teach, and a well-equipped classroom, not an overcrowded portable trailer.

Our children are our guarantee that Georgia will remain competitive economically, and that we will leave our state better off than we found it. We believe that if you work hard, and play by the rules, you shouldn't have to worry about going bankrupt when your health is on the line. We believe that every family deserves a family doctor, and that it is our moral obligation to make sure that every child in this state is free from preventable illness and pain.

We can reform our health care system, and make sure that every hardworking Georgian, and especially every child, has access to affordable health care.
We believe that by rebuilding our aging infrastructure, from crumbling roads to bridges on the brink of danger, we ensure that Georgia continues to be the economic engine that drives the South.

We can protect our economic future by making Georgia a place where responsible business owners want to do business, and by partnering with business to foster enterprise and innovation that brings jobs to Georgia, and helping small businesses down the path to prosperity.

We believe that we can cut the gridlock by cutting through the red tape at the Department of Transportation, and by looking to bold new ideas like commuter rail and other mass transit solutions to get Georgians home to their families quicker.
We can ask the tough questions about transportation in Georgia. How can our Department of Transportation lose 5 billion dollars of our money and not even know how many projects are underway? Why are Georgians spending more time in traffic and less time with their families?

We can mitigate today's water crisis and, more importantly, prepare for tomorrow. As Georgia continues to grow, we must recognize that the next drought will be worse. It's time to plan for that future today.

We must plan for the water we need, so that businesses don't hesitate before opening up shop in Georgia, and so that we are never again days away from rationing water.

Our state water plan should not divide Georgia, it should unite us in responsible development and conservation efforts. We believe that stewarding and protecting our natural resources is our sacred duty, and today, water is perhaps our most important resource.

A renewed commitment to education; a family doctor for every family; growing our state's economy; investing in infrastructure; tax reform for those who need it the most.

Some might say that this is the Democrats' legislative agenda. It is more than that. These are our guided values, our principles. They are guided by our faith and fortified by the conviction that we must judge ourselves as a people by how we treat the least among us.

These guided principles are why we fight for nurses, teachers, parents, and children, and why we will continue to fight until we have no fight left within us. We must take a long, hard look at how our state has grown, and how we must grow with it. We must plan ahead, and make the right decisions today for a better, more prosperous tomorrow.

Today, with the legislative session barely under way, we hope that all members of our state's government will put aside their bickering and turn to the future with a firm step and resolute heart. If Governor Perdue and the Republican leadership choose to face the future, we will stand with them.

If they choose instead to turn inward and focus on the political fights that distract us from the betterment of our state, then we will show them the way.Thank you all, and may God's blessings be with you.

1 comment:

Open+Transparent said...

Kathy Ashe, wow, I'd go to battle with her...DuBose, not so much.