M. Jodi Rell

State of the State Address - Jan. 25, 2005

M. Jodi Rell
January 05, 2005— Hartford, Connecticut
State of the State address
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Thank you.

Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Williams, Ladies and Gentlemen of the House and Senate, friends and guests.

Before I begin my formal remarks, let me take a moment to thank everyone for their well wishes and their prayers over the last 10 days. I have been overwhelmed by your generous spirit. I have also been overwhelmed by the number of notes, calls and e-mails I have received.

Your outpouring of kindness has meant more to me than you will ever know. It has brought me strength and resolve in my recovery. It has touched my heart. Thank you.

As I stand before you today, I cannot help but think of all that our state has been through in the last year. I also cannot help but think of that day 20 years ago, when I stood behind my desk in the House and took the oath of office for the first time as a state Representative. Twenty years ago. It hardly seems possible.

I was filled with awe and wonder as I looked around this chamber, thinking of its history - and my new place in that history. Me, a nervous freshman legislator from Brookfield, preparing to serve a few terms and then step down to let others find their way, to let others serve their role in our state.

I remember watching Governor Bill O'Neill stride confidently into the chamber and up to this dais to deliver his State of the State speech. I was nervous for him. As I hid behind the shelter of my little desk, I kept thinking, "How can he do this? How can he stand before all of us and calmly deliver his remarks?"

My imagination was never so vivid, my political ambitions never so grand,

to think that I would be standing before you 20 years later, nearly to the day, as the 87th Governor of Connecticut, delivering my first State of the State address.

But I do stand before you - and I firmly proclaim that the state of our state is strong and growing stronger everyday.

We have been sorely tested over the last 12 months.

We witnessed countless revelations of corruption and breach of the public trust. We undertook an historic impeachment inquiry. We saw indictments handed out and plea bargains reached.

We saw the smooth transition of power from one administration to the next, devoid of pomp and circumstance, yet replete with the symbolism of renewal and restoration of faith and integrity in government.

We sent our sons and daughters off to war, and welcomed far too many of them home with tears after they had paid the ultimate price for protecting our freedoms.

We saw too many needs go unmet, from children born into circumstances where they do not receive even the most basic care to our seniors who had to stand in line for hours, often in vain, to receive life-protecting flu shots.

We saw a hero, a husband and a father, Master Officer Peter Lavery, cruelly shot and killed in the line of duty.

Yes, it has been a difficult year for Connecticut, in so many ways. We have been tested and we have been tried, but we have prevailed.

And we will continue to prevail, if we work together, with steadfastness of purpose and without the self-imposed shackles of convention and partisan politics.

For this is our moment. This is our time.

We have been called to leadership at a special time in history and we cannot, we must not turn away from our responsibilities.

As I said just six months ago when I took the oath of office on the north steps of the Capitol, we have been given a unique occasion to govern.

And as I look around this chamber, I am struck by all who are new - a new Governor, a new Speaker and House Majority Leader, a new Lieutenant Governor and Senate President Pro Tempore, and so many new faces in the House and Senate.

Yes, this is our moment. This is our time.

The people of Connecticut, and history, will judge us by whether we accepted our stewardship simply to preserve the comfortable status quo or whether we seized it with boldness of purpose.

I, for one, am emboldened.

I have been working too hard to clean up too many policy and ethical problems since becoming Governor.

I have attended far too many funerals of our brave young soldiers.

I have struggled through sleepless nights and heard the anguish of shattered families as I considered the case of Michael Ross.

I have been unexpectedly confronted with my own mortality as I was told that I had cancer.

Yes, I am looking through different eyes now. Eyes more focused on what is truly important, what is truly necessary.

Partisan posturing and political sniping are not. What is important and is necessary is to solve long-standing social, economic and educational problems.

We have the incredible privilege of serving in the highest offices in the state. We must prove ourselves worthy of our fellow citizens' faith. We must be trusted to always place the public's good above our own and to always choose fairness over favoritism.

We must accept the mantle of leadership with a new sense of inspiration.

We cannot put off the difficult decisions for another day, another generation.

And there will be difficult decisions that confront us.

Our state budget for the next fiscal year exceeds the spending cap by $800 million. And it has a projected gap of $1.3 billion.

We will need to address - once and for all - the issue of medical malpractice reform.

We will need to fully debate and consider the issues of stem cell research, education funding, ethics reform, election reform, traffic congestion, health care affordability and so much more.

The needs are almost limitless, but the resources of our taxpayers are not.

The budget I will present to you in a month's time will contain very difficult choices. Choices that none of us wish to make, but which must be made.

We wish we could fully meet every need, fully fund every program.

But we cannot.

In the month between now and when I return to this chamber to release my budget, I ask you to debate, vote upon and put on my desk for signature bills which will reform our ethics and elections systems.

I believe there exists, within all branches of government, both the consensus and the political will necessary for reform.

We've been talking about reform for months - now is the time to do it!

To that end, I will deliver to you in a few short days, my proposals for reform. They are bold proposals - and they will address what is right and what is necessary.

And I know many of you have your own proposals for reform. I urge you to bring them forward for discussion and action. The best result will come about by our working together, by our sharing ideas and by our not being worried about who gets the credit.

That will be true no matter what issue, what challenge we face. The people of Connecticut expect much from us, and we should expect much from ourselves.

Join me in making Connecticut stronger. Join me in being bold. Join me in seeing things through different eyes. For this is our moment. This is our time.

Thank you.