Rebuttal Delivered by Governor Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey
[The President's speech of which this is a response, can be found by clicking this link.]
Good evening. Before I begin, let me assure you I am not going to ask for equal time. I'm Christie Whitman, Governor of New Jersey, and I am addressing you tonight from the historic legislative chamber in Trenton, one of the oldest in the nation. Speaking to you this evening is a tremendous honor for all of us here in New Jersey.
It is appropriate that we have come together tonight in Trenton. On Christmas morning in 1776, George Washington crossed the icy Delaware River and surprised King George's mercenaries in their barracks here on these grounds. The Battle of Trenton was a turning point in the American Revolution.
Just as that revolution two centuries ago began in the Colonies, there is a revolution sweeping America today, begun not in Washington, D.C., but in the states. In Wisconsin, in Ohio, in Massachusetts, in South Carolina, in California. The American people are seeking freedom in a new revolution that began before I ever came to office.
It is a revolution of ideas, one in which the voters are given a clear choice between bigger or smaller government, higher or lower taxes, more or less spending.
It is a revolution about a free and sovereign people saying they want power to return to them, from their state houses, from their county governments, their city halls.
In elections all across America, the voters have chosen smaller government, lower taxes and less spending. They rejected the tyranny of expanding welfare state policies, the arrogance of bigger and bigger government, the frustration of one-size-fits-all answers.
In a word, they have chosen freedom.
They elected leaders like Gov. Bill Weld of Massachusetts, who in his first month in office, cut state spending by $1.7 billion. Since then he's cut taxes five times and brought Massachusetts the third-lowest unemployment rate in the nation. And Gov. Pete Wilson, who has already reformed health care in California, using market forces to guarantee access for millions of uninsured, and made health care more affordable for small businesses.
They elected governors who said we should have smaller, more efficient government and meant it. Like Gov. Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin: he's cut spending, cut taxes and led the most comprehensive welfare reform movement in the country.
And Gov. Fife Symington, of Arizona, who became one of several Republican governors to cut taxes every year they were in office and see their economies boom.
In state after state, the revolution of ideas took hold.
By 1994, Gov. George Allen reformed the criminal justice system and abolished parole in Virginia. And the same month President Bill Clinton signed the largest tax increase in American history, Gov. John Engler signed the largest tax cut in Michigan history, helping bring the lowest unemployment rate to that state in 20 years.
Here in New Jersey, like so many other governors, I was told my tax-cutting policies were a gimmick. I heard we couldn't do it, that it was impossible, that it would hurt the economy.
But I had given my word to the people of New Jersey that we would cut their taxes. And we did.
In the first year, with the help of the New Jersey Legislature, we cut business taxes. We reduced income taxes not once but twice. We lowered state spending, not recklessly, but carefully and fairly. Just yesterday, I announced a third wave of income tax cuts, another 15 percent, taking us to a 30 percent reduction to put more money in the hands of families like yours. The results have been solid: state revenues are up, even from the income tax, and 60,000 more New Jerseyans are at work today than were a year ago, making this year our best year for job creation since 1988. And we did it all under a balanced budget requirement to our state's constitution.
In November, the revolution came to Washington. Now people want less government, lower taxes and less spending from their Federal Government. People want results.
In both houses of Congress, the Republican Party has been elected, like many of us in the states were, on an agenda of change.
We're committed to reforming welfare: to encourage people to work and to stop children from having children.
We want to force the government to live within its means by stopping runaway spending and balancing the Federal budget.
We want to lower taxes for families and make it easier to achieve the American dream: to save money, buy a home and send the kids to college.
We're going to stop violent criminals in their tracks with real prison time for repeat offenders and a workable death penalty. We must send a message to our young people that crime doesn't pay.
And we're going to slash those unnecessary regulations that strangle small business in America, to make it easier to create more jobs and pay better wages and become more competitive in the global marketplace.
We intend to create a new era of hope and opportunity for all Americans.
Many of these ideas are the same ones governors have been enacting here in the states. Time after time, Republicans — and Democrats — have found that things work better when states and communities set their own priorities, rather than being bossed around by bureaucrats in Washington.
Our colleagues on Capitol Hill are facing the same opposition we did, the same cries of "it can't be done" from the Washington-knows-best crowd—people who think government can't be too big and that there's a virtue in raising taxes. Well, there is nothing virtuous about raising taxes. There is nothing heroic about preserving a welfare system that entraps people. And there's nothing high-minded about wasting other people's money on big government spending sprees.
We overcame the same objections, the same stalling and distortion, the same foot-dragging. We've heard it all. And in the end, we have won the battle of ideas in our states.
Now it's time to win the battle of ideas in Washington.
If the people's agenda is to succeed in Congress, everyone needs to work together. And while at times tonight some of the President's ideas sounded pretty Republican, the fact remains that he has been opposed to the balanced budget requirement; he proposed even more government spending, and he imposed the biggest tax increase in American history.
It's clear that your votes in November sounded a warning to the President. If he has truly changed his big-government agenda, we say, "Great, join us as we change America." Republicans welcome your ideas for making government not bigger, but smaller. As we have moved forward and as we move forward in the next two years, the President and Congress should be reminded that success is not measured in the number of laws passed, but in the results. Is government serving the people better? Are neighborhoods safer? Are families stronger? Are children learning more? Are we better prepared to meet the future? Do we have more freedom?
The election in November was a beginning, not an end; and we are committed to fulfilling the verdict of the voters and enacting our agenda of hope for the families of America. Change is hard. But we're going to work hard. We will keep faith with America. We will keep our word. We will do what you elected us to do. We will give you results.
On Election Day, you gave us your trust. We accept your mandate. President Clinton, you must accept it as well.
Put the principles of smaller, more effective government into action. Reduce spending and cut taxes.
Two weeks ago, in my State of the State address to the people of New Jersey, I made them a pledge, which, in closing, I would now like to make to the American people on behalf of the Republican Party.
By the time President Clinton makes his next State of the Union address:
We will have lower taxes.
We will have more efficient government.
We will have a stronger America.
We will have more faith in our politics, more pride in our states and communities, and more confidence in ourselves.
We will go forward together, as one family with many faces, building a future with opportunity.
A future with security.
A future based on mutual respect and responsibility.
And most of all, a future filled with hope, for our children and our children's children.
Thank you very much and God bless America.