Remarks by Governor Paul E. Patton
Governor’s Summit on Quality of Life
October 17, 2002

Good morning and welcome to the Governor’s Summit on Quality of Life.  Our subject today is how we have, and how we must continue, to work to move our disadvantaged people from poverty to prosperity.

My thanks to Secretary Miller and all her colleagues for the work you’ve done to put this summit together and for the work you do every day to make our vision reality. 

Seven years ago I came to Frankfort as Governor with a vision of a better Kentucky - for every Kentuckian.

My first task was to assemble a first-rate administrative team to run the largest enterprise in the Commonwealth; an enterprise that has more employees, spends more money, has operations in more places, owns more buildings, does more different things and affects more lives than any other Kentucky enterprise.  And I got lucky.  I found people like Viola Miller, Margaret Greene, Jim Bickford, Crit Luallen, Joe Norsworthy, Ann Latta and a host of other Kentuckians who were willing to sacrifice, to disrupt their lives, take pay cuts and work twice as hard as they’d ever worked before to make a difference.  And they have!

And when we got here we found over 36,000 dedicated employees that have helped us make that difference.

One of the first things we did after we finished our first legislative session was to put down in writing what it was that we wanted to do during our time as the leaders of Kentucky.  We knew we couldn’t do all that needed to be done but we knew we could do some of it.  And even more importantly, we knew we could lay a foundation upon which those who followed us could build that Kentucky where all could prosper. 

We put our goals and strategies in this policy document that I keep on the right-hand corner of my desk; a constant reminder of the work we still have to do.  Another thing I have on my desk is a calendar which measures the days we have remaining in office so that as every day goes by, I tear off a sheet reminding myself that I have to work every hour of every day to achieve our goal.  Seven years ago I had 2,920 days to get the job done.  As of today, I only have 419 left. 

As we began our task we established a simple but important overall objective, the goal of our administration, to “set Kentucky on the path to achieving a quality of life and standard of living above the national average in 20 years;” one generation; a fifth of a century; five gubernatorial terms.  We intended to serve two of those terms and the people of Kentucky have given us that opportunity.  We intend to be here until December 8, 2003 and to be working as hard on that last day as we did that first day, almost seven years ago.  But it’s our 36,000 co-workers who have allowed us to succeed.  We thank them every day.

We developed six strategies to enable us to achieve our goals.  These six strategies were: 

  1. Promote economic development.

  2. Improve the education product.

  3. Build self-sustaining families.

  4. Strengthen the efficiency of government.

  5. Reduce crime.

  6. Improve the quality of life.

We developed performance indicators so we could measure our progress.  And we initiated tactics that would help us move forward on this broad front.  Each of the cabinets developed strategic plans to carry on their part of the mission and implemented specific programs to produce real results.  And the results are showing, in a hundred different ways.

But I’ve called this summit to discuss one of our six strategies; building self-sustaining families; moving Kentuckians from poverty to prosperity.

While it is the Cabinet for Families and Children which has the prime responsibility for ensuring that disadvantaged Kentuckians get that extra help they need to overcome their slow start in life, all of our government plays a role.  From educating our citizens to creating jobs to protecting our environment to making safe communities to improving state government, we know that it takes all of us working together to make it happen.

No cabinet has taken our challenge more seriously or been more successful.  You have established your own goals and measures and strategies; and the results show.  Perhaps more importantly, you have institutionalized the concept that your mission is not to provide a subsistence living for these special families which need special help but rather to provide them with the tools they need to prosper; to contribute; to be self-sustaining.

Dr. Miller has led a movement to change the culture of an entire government bureaucracy; a successful effort, I might add.

We are gathered here today to talk about our successes and our challenges, and our opportunities.  I intend to be here all day and hope to visit with you more informally at the reception I’m hosting at the Mansion from 4:00 to 5:00 this afternoon.  I hope you too will be able to stay all day and join me at 4:00.

We have an outstanding program that will inform you and hopefully inspire you to join in this effort to make life better for every Kentuckian and especially for our disadvantaged Kentuckians.

As a starter, let me review some of the things that we’ve done and some of the results we’ve achieved.

Perhaps the most startling statistic is the reduction in dependency.  In October 1996, 65,559 families in Kentucky were dependent on welfare.

In August of this year, there were only 31,984 – a 52 percent decline.

Our high school dropout rate decreased 14.8 percent from 1991 to 2000.

We now rank third in the nation for home ownership: 71-percent owner occupied.

These are all great strides in addressing poverty, but we still have gaps in our journey to eliminating it completely.

And that’s why we have brought you here today – to help us continue to move forward in creating prosperity out of poverty.

To help us find ways to provide child care to the 35,000 eligible children in Kentucky who currently don’t receive this service.

Or cover the 500,000 Kentuckians who don’t have health insurance.

And to erase figures like 43 percent of Kentucky’s single female parent households living in poverty.

I am confident we can change these figures because we have had a great deal of success in many of the areas where we have set our goals over the last several years. 

We have spent our time creating programs that are crucial elements in our strategy to build self-sustaining families. 

"Education Pays” - "Bucks for Brains"  - “KIDS NOW” - are all initiatives that have gained national attention and that are making a true difference in how Kentucky's youth and workforce are being educated.

But it doesn’t stop there.

We must continue, for example, to link a higher level of education to the state's economic development programs, which has been a key factor in our success.  We must now concentrate on building a “new economy,” an economy based on the mental work of our people.

We have and will continue to support education at all levels with increased funding. From increased pay for teachers to more buildings for our colleges and universities, we have stayed the course.  We’ve made significant adjustments in the testing system used to measure educational progress in elementary-secondary education, but we haven’t backed down from the fundamental principles of the Kentucky Education Reform Act.  And the results are beginning to show.

In the spring of 2001, the Kentucky Department of Education announced that the comprehensive test of basic skills showed that, for the first time, Kentucky students placed at or above the national average in math, science, and language arts. I can’t express to you how proud I feel as I travel in national education circles and hear Kentucky praised as the leader in improving education in America.

Our Council on Postsecondary Education, a product of a 1997 special session, continues to help Kentucky’s colleges and universities enroll, retain and graduate more students.

The Council is the cornerstone of our postsecondary education reform that has improved research and development in state schools, diminished the lack of cooperation and needless duplication of departments and programs while enhancing adult education and virtual learning.

The reform is promoting a stronger workforce through a statewide plan to improve and expand adult education, which includes literacy training.  And we are assuming the responsibility to develop a knowledge-based economy with the help of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System.

This system has quickly embraced web-based education, working closely with the Kentucky Virtual University.

KCTCS has increased its enrollment by 46 percent in just four years – from 45,500 in 1998 to 66,000 in 2002.

Kentucky is one of only 5 states that spend more than 3 percent of our combined state and federal welfare funds, $10.8 million, on education and training for low-income families.  The KCTCS Ready to Work Program has received national and state recognition for providing intense academic and supportive services for over 1,300 welfare parents annually, allowing them to be successful in our community and technical colleges with a retention rate that exceeds the systems average.

KCTCS is one of 6 community college systems in the nation to be included in the Ford Foundation's "Community College Bridges to Opportunity" project.  The goal of this initiative is to enhance educational and economic opportunities for disadvantaged adults.

This is helping us take families out of poverty by providing them with skills to earn a living.

Our “Education Pays” program is helping to continue to increase the appreciation of the value of an education among our people and inspiring them to make the sacrifices they have to make to get the rewards that an education brings.

The message of this initiative is to encourage Kentuckians to stay in school or work toward a GED or get a technical or a community college degree or attend one of the four-year colleges or universities. Currently, the program is focusing on ages 18-49 who have low literacy skills, as well as middle and high school students at risk of dropping out of high school or not considering college.

As most of you know, economic development has taken center stage during this administration. My knowledge and support of this area have brought jobs into key areas of the state which businesses and industries previously overlooked.  The results are impressive.

For example, for 1998-2000 Kentucky ranked second in overall business expansion.  We’ve had the 12th best increase in manufacturing employment; we rank 14th in foreign investment; and we have the lowest overall cost of doing business in the eastern United States.

The Commonwealth also finished fifth, up from sixth last year, for new/expanded facilities and tenth for capital investment per one million residents.

Our workforce is 6 percent more productive than the national average and we had the 12th largest decrease in poverty in the country.

Our Cabinet for Families and Children and Workforce Development Cabinet have had a lot to do with this success.  It has more than doubled its efforts in employment services, job retention programs and child care assistance. 

And we’re doing a lot more like improving our farm economy, preserving our environment and restoring our inner cities.

Other major initiatives that are pushing Kentucky forward are our early childhood development program and improvements in the criminal justice system.

Through these programs and more, Kentucky continues to create boundless opportunity for its citizens and take new steps toward reaching the goals set by this administration and the Legislature.

But government cannot do this alone. It is important that we continue to have partnerships with private businesses and non-profit service providers if we’re going to succeed in our plan to wipe out poverty.

We have to make sure that the opinion leaders and the decision makers around the world understand that Kentucky is a great place to do business because of its willingness to bring together business and industry to improve the landscape for the future through partnerships.

We need to let the world know that businesses can continue to benefit from workforce development initiatives provided by government programs for screening and hiring employees, workplace training, credentialing, tax incentives and others.

We must continually remind ourselves that the business community, education, government and our citizens share a vested interest in the quality of life in the Commonwealth.

I'm pleased to announce today that the business community has joined with my office in committing to concrete steps that will advance our quality of life by improving access to education, training, social services and other benefits for workers and their families.

Under a memorandum of agreement that will be signed today, my administration and the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce will seek jointly to make access to education more flexible, more affordable and more seamless for workers and students transitioning into the workforce. The memorandum also calls for the state to develop skills assessments and credentialing initiatives, make workforce development programs more responsive to business needs and provide workers with more flexible access to child care assistance, the Kentucky Child Health Insurance Program, tax credits for low-income workers and other social services. For its part, the Chamber pledges that it will help promote all these initiatives, and that it will continue to work with state agencies to provide more seamless and efficient delivery of services.

These commitments are spelled out in further detail in the memorandum.

I challenge you today to find ways during your discussions to fill in the gaps and help us on our journey toward making Kentucky a better place for all our people citizens where they can enjoy the assets and benefits of modern society.

Again, my thanks to all the people who put this program together and to you for being here.  I’m looking forward to learning more about what you’re doing and to coming up with new ideas to make our last year in office just as exciting and productive as our first seven.

Thank you.