Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Governor Sonny Perdue’s Remarks to the Georgia Economic Outlook Luncheon

Our nation faces an economic storm that many are calling the most troubling of our generation. And though that may be true, just yesterday, I sat in the chambers of our nation’s first Capitol at Congress Hall and thought about the utter resiliency of our nation, of our people, of America.

During the almost ten years it served as our nation’s capitol building, Congress Hall witnessed many historic events: three states were admitted to the Union under its roof, the Bill of Rights was ratified there in 1791. The second Presidential inauguration of George Washington took place in the House chamber in 1793, as did the inauguration of President John Adams in 1797.

But, I was quickly jolted back to the reality, that while we can learn from history and prepare a vision for the future, we may only act in the present. An old proverb says, “Vision without action is merely a daydream, while action without vision is a nightmare.”

I joined my fellow Governors in Philadelphia for what the media described as states begging for a Washington bailout. Well ladies and gentleman, let me be the first to tell you … the meeting was anything but that.

From Georgia’s perspective, our meeting with President-elect Obama was not intended to ask the federal government to fill a hole in our state budget. As a matter of fact, it was just the opposite. Many Governors shared what we are doing to balance our budgets, and live within our means.

As President-elect Obama considers putting together a stimulus package, we encouraged him to look at our country’s long term needs – investing in projects, not in budgets. Simply doling out money to states to fill budget gaps is no different than handing it out to companies with flawed business models. I believe it is imperative that we ensure that any stimulus avoids creating an undue burden for the future generations who will be left to foot the bill.

I'm sure you've heard T. Boone Pickens decry what he calls the "greatest transfer of wealth in the history of mankind" between America and other countries. But what troubles me, and many of my fellow Governors, is that this bailout fever sweeping through our economy will result in the greatest transfer of debt in America's history to our sons, daughters and grandchildren.

As we wrapped up nearly two hours of open, candid discussion, looking at America’s future from both the federal and state perspective, I am confident that many of my fellow Governors, as well as President-elect Obama, realized how much we all had in common when it comes to getting America back on track.

I was especially encouraged that we were able to put partisanship aside. Everyone in the room recognized that governors must be engaged to ensure that America’s economic health is restored. Despite the bitter campaign that has raged, the spirit in Congress Hall yesterday was one of collaboration, and I was proud to be a part of it.

We talked a lot about the issues we are facing in our own states, but we also took a collective message insisting that the federal government act as we governors are forced to year after year balancing the budget, in good times and in the lean years.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “This time, like all times, is a very good one if we but know what to do with it.” Or, as one of my fellow governors said yesterday, “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.”

Here in Georgia, we have been and will continue to take a hard look at the ship of state. Any ship at sea is going to pick up some barnacles along the way and at times like these you clean up the ship, making it more responsive and efficient.

Georgia, like other cities and states across America, has been affected by this ebbing tide throughout our national economy. But I can assure you we are plotting a course through rough seas just as we’ve done before, with a ship that is strong and built to last.

Since I have been office, we have made the prudent moves to position our state for growth and prosperity. We kept doing the things that are necessary, but we tightened our belts … Government got leaner, more efficient and more focused on delivering value for the taxpayer dollar.

Most importantly, we did the simple exercise that Georgia families do around the kitchen table every month balancing their checkbooks – we did what we had to do to make ends meet.

After Georgia went through a similar turbulent period six years ago, we spent conservatively and began building a rainy day fund – an action for which we were accused of hoarding money, of not spending enough.

Georgia is a state that has bounced back in the past, and that will continue to bounce back. And once again, we are poised to lead the nation in recovery.

Last year, the Pew Center ranked Georgia one of the best managed states in the nation. So it’s no surprise that Forbes currently ranks our business environment 5th best in the nation … Thanks Steve, we hope to be number one after today’s lunch.

Just recently, Newell Rubbermaid and NCR, both Fortune 500 companies, expanded their headquarters’ operations in Georgia and construction of the Kia plant continues to progress in West Point. And over the past seven years, our OneGeorgia Authority has awarded rural Georgia more than $230 million, resulting in total project investment exceeding $4 billion, while creating more than 40,000 jobs.

This is exactly the kind of investment that results in long-term, sustainable growth and could be a model for the nation.

Now it’s natural that the good things happening in our state are overshadowed in times like these, but I remind you of them today because we have enabled Georgia to weather this economic storm better than many other states.

This year, state revenues are down and probably do not fully reflect the damage from the most recent economic turmoil. But, we will manage this downturn well just like we did six years ago. We will emerge more focused on our basic tasks – leaner and stronger. We will be prepared to take advantage of business looking to invest when the national economy rebounds.

In closing, I would like to share something I read earlier this week about the origins of Thanksgiving.

In 1621, just months after 100 settlers came over on the Mayflower, Plymouth Governor William Bradford set aside a day for thanksgiving. They had sailed across the Atlantic Ocean on a trip that took two months, crammed into an area maybe half the size of your house. That first year; nearly 50 men, women and children died.

Now, let’s look at 1621 and 2008 side by side. In 1621, within a matter of months, nearly every family in that group had lost – not a job, not a big percentage of their 401k, not their house, not their business – but, a loved one. They were scratching out an existence, holding on for dear life, sometimes surviving, sometimes unable to sustain themselves or their families.

In the midst of their trials, Governor Bradford asked his people to be thankful for what they had and for the future that lay in front of them. He led the group with optimism and a hopefulness about the future based on a firm reliance on God.

That is the DNA from which we come … It is that strength of character and confidence from which we can build our future.

In the days ahead, we need – as a people – to recapture that faith and hopefulness. Georgia has been through rough seas and emerged each time stronger than before. Our best days are ahead; and while there will be some tough choices, it is up to us to confidently lay the groundwork that our rebound will be built upon.

Thank you and God bless!
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