Business and Economy Health Care Press Releases

TNDP Praises President Obama’s Leadership on Affordable Care Act

Press Release from the Democratic Party of Tennessee, June 28, 2012:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester released the following statement in response to the Supreme Court upholding the Affordable Care Act.

“The Supreme Court affirmed what a majority of Congress and the President already knew; that the Affordable Care Act is a constitutionally appropriate response to the health care crisis facing Tennessee families. Because of President Obama’s leadership, millions of working families, including a half a million Tennesseans, will have access to doctors and affordable health care.

“The Affordable Care Act is law, and will continue to be the law of the land. We should all come together and work in a bipartisan fashion, as did the Supreme Court, in order to ensure that all Tennesseans can take advantage of the provisions in the law that provide health and financial security, such as:

  • Millions of young adults will still be able to stay on their family’s plan until they’re 26.
  • Many seniors will continue to save $600 a year on their prescription drugs
  • Insurance companies no longer have unchecked power to cancel your policy, deny you coverage, or charge women more than men.
  • Soon, no American will ever again be denied care or charged more due to a pre-existing condition, like cancer or even asthma.
  • By August, millions of Americans will receive a rebate because their insurance company spent too much of their premium on administrative costs or CEO bonuses.

“It is time for the legislature to start focusing on results and not politics. Tennesseans want our elected officials to move past the partisan bickering over health reforms and get to work on creating jobs and growing our economy.

Business and Economy Featured NewsTracker

Feds’ Decision to Scrap New Child Farmworker Restrictions Welcomed by Ag Interests

Tennessee farmers are breathing a sigh of relief after the Obama administration retreated from a proposal to restrict the kinds of agriculture-related jobs people under the age of 18 can legally perform in America.

Rhedona Rose, executive vice president for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation, said rules proposed by the U.S. Department of Labor last summer seeking to ban, for example, children younger than 16 from being employed to operate certain mechanized farm equipment, like tractors and hay balers, drew significant opposition across Tennessee.

“We received more comments on this issue last fall than anything else we were dealing with,” said Rose. “We were very, very pleased last week when we heard that the president and the U.S. Department of Labor decided to back away from these proposed rules.”

In fact, the U.S. Labor Department acknowledged it was inundated with complaints from across the country’s countrysides. It announced Friday it would no longer pursue the changes, saying the decision was “made in response to thousands of comments expressing concerns about the effect of the proposed rules on small family-owned farms,” according to a department press release.

“To be clear, this regulation will not be pursued for the duration of the Obama administration,” the statement read.

Tennessee state Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, sponsored legislation earlier this year that prohibited state and local government entities in Tennessee from facilitating or helping enforce any new federal rules limiting the kind of work kids can do on the farm.

The legislation, HB2669, passed the House 70-24-1 and the Senate 28-0. It was signed into law by Gov. Bill Haslam April 16.

Faison said Tennessee farmers and legislators who voted in favor of his measure deserve credit for encouraging Washington to rethink a misguided policy.

“I feel like this is one time that government got it right,” said Faison. “Many states, not just ours, and farmers all across America, stood up and said, ‘Listen, this isn’t okay.’”

The proposed rules were backed by organized labor and progressive advocacy groups, which argued some farm work is too dangerous for underage employees, as evidenced by it having the highest rates of injury and death for young people in the workforce.

“Children employed in agriculture are some of the most vulnerable workers in America,” U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis said back in August when the new rules were unveiled. “Ensuring their welfare is a priority of the department, and this proposal is another element of our comprehensive approach.”

Reid Maki, coordinator of the Child Labor Coalition, a group at the forefront of the push for stricter regulations, blasted the Obama administration for caving to pressure from agriculture groups and hysteria orchestrated by the president’s political opponents. “There was tremendous heat, and I don’t think it helped that it was an election year,” Maki told the Washington Post after the labor department’s decision was announced last week. “A lot of conservatives made a lot of political hay out of this issue.”

Sally Greenberg, co-chair of the Child Labor Coalition, said in a statement Monday that “agriculture is by far the most dangerous industry that large numbers of teens are allowed to work in.”

“Nearly 100 kids are killed on farms each year,” she continued. “The Department of Labor’s sensible recommendations — based on years of research indicating the jobs in which teen injuries and deaths occur — sought to protect these hired farmworkers. Unfortunately, the proposed rules fell victim to misinformation and exaggeration from the farm lobby.”

The Tennessee Farm Bureau’s Rose said that while there’s no doubt farm work can indeed be dangerous, kids who grow up working on farms tend to take lessons about the importance of safety to heart. She said farm-oriented organizations like 4-H and Future Farmers of America are always trying to improve how they teach kids about the fundamental importance of safety around dangerous crop- and livestock-production operations.

“Anytime you’re working around agriculture, you have to be very, very aware of the dangers around you, whether you’re a child or an adult,” Rose said. “But I think most children who grow up on a farm have a better sense of danger, and a better sense of what to be careful around than, oftentimes, children who are not exposed to those types of jobs.”

She added that most people who live and work in rural areas believe the lifestyle builds a strong work ethic and sense of self-reliance that will help a young person become a responsible, capable adult.

“I daresay that most adults today who had an opportunity to work on a farm when they were younger would cite the experiences of working on a farm to building them into the type of person, the type of adult that they are today, and they feel good about those experiences,” said Rose.

Press Releases

TNGOP: Moore’s Union Ties, Obama Support Spelled Trouble in November

Press Release from the Tennessee Republican Party, April 5, 2012:

TNGOP Chairman’s Statement On Democrat Gary Moore’s Decision Not To Seek Re-Election

NASHVILLE, TN – Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney released the following statement on Democrat State Representative Gary Moore’s decision not to seek re-election. Moore is now the eleventh Democrat legislator who has announced he will not be seeking re-election this year.

“We wish Gary Moore well. It is obvious that his big labor ties were going to be a drag on his candidacy. Moore’s stance on the issues epitomize why Democrats are having so much trouble connecting with Tennessee voters,” said Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney.

In August of last year, Moore was elected to serve as President of the Tennessee Chapter of the AFL-CIO Labor Council, a big union that has once again enthusiastically endorsed President Obama’s campaign. Soon after that announcement, TNGOP Chairman Chris Devaney sent Moore a letter asking him to make a choice between serving the interests of his constituents or the interests of the AFL-CIO.

“While I never received a response from Representative Moore, today, Tennesseans are being made well aware of whom he would prefer to serve,” concluded Devaney.

Recent Democrat retirements include four state senators (Joe Haynes, Roy Herron, Eric Stewart and Andy Berke) and seven state representatives (Eddie Bass, Bill Harmon, Mike McDonald, Gary Moore, Jimmy Naifeh, Janis Sontany and Harry Tindell).

Press Releases

Senate GOP Leader: Obama’s ‘Failed Economic Policies’ Holding Back TN Job-Growth

Press Release from the Tennessee Senate GOP Caucus, Sept. 7, 2011:

(NASHVILLE, TN), September 7, 2011 – Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) said today that if Senate and House Democrats in Tennessee really want to positively impact the economy, instead of the jobs tour announced today, they should head north to the White House to talk to the President about his failed economic policies. Norris, who called the Democrat announcement the “Obama Apology Tour,” said Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has done well over the past nine months in the face of the national unemployment and debt crisis.

“They are going to find what we — who talk with our constituents every day –already know; that the failed policies from Washington are destroying our U.S. economy and killing jobs,” said Leader Norris. “In order to get our economy back on track and grow jobs, we must have new leadership in the White House.”

Tennessee’s unemployment rate peaked under Governor Phil Bredesen’s administration in June 2009 at 10.8 percent. In August, the unemployment rate was 9.8 percent.

The announcement also came on the heels of last week’s announcement that a Michigan-based automotive supplier is planning a $23 million manufacturing facility to produce injection molded plastics for a wide variety of automotive manufacturers beginning in early 2012, creating 400 jobs in Perry County over a five-year period. Other August jobs announcements in Tennessee include:

  • An announcement by Quaprotek USA to locate a manufacturing facility for the production of metal parts for vehicles, engines and power trains in Ripley, Tenn. The German-based company will invest $22 million to fit out a 63,000 square foot existing building on Highland Street in Ripley, creating 126 jobs over a five year period to supply leading manufacturers within the automotive industry.
  • Sekisui Plastics decision to locate a second manufacturing facility in Mt. Pleasant with a $3 million investment and creating 25 new jobs over a four year period.
  • Expansion of the ABC Group Fuel Systems in Gallatin, representing a $5 million investment by the company and creating 114 new jobs.
  • The decision by C&F Group to locate a manufacturing facility in Kingsport, Tenn. The Ireland-based company will invest $12.5 million and create 450 new jobs over a four year period.
  • An announcement by Kruger to expand its existing Memphis mill with a $316 million investment and the creation of 100 direct jobs in Memphis, as well as protecting 2,400 existing jobs in the company’s facilities in both the U.S. and Canada.
  • Meritor, Inc.’s decision to expand its precision forging manufacturing operations in Morristown, with an investment of $26.6 million in new production equipment to serve the needs of the North American commercial truck market and creating 29 new positions.

“We had some very significant jobs announcements across the state during the past 30 days,” added Norris. “The Democrat tour, much like the Obama bus tour, is more about politics than job growth.”

Press Releases

Devaney Sends Letter to Rep. Moore

Press Release from the State Republican Party, Sept. 1, 2011:

TNGOP Chairman Chris Devaney Sends Letter to State Representative & TN AFL-CIO President Gary Moore

NASHVILLE, TN – Earlier today, Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney sent a letter to State Representative and President of the Tennessee AFL-CIO Labor Council Gary Moore, asking for clarification on a number of issues. Devaney has particularly requested that Moore address whether or not he can separate his labor organization’s interests from the interests of his district when voting in Nashville. The full letter is below.

State Representative Gary Moore

President-Tennessee AFL/CIO Labor Council

1901 Lindell Avenue

Nashville, TN 37203

Dear Representative/President Moore:

Congratulations on your recent appointment as President of the Tennessee AFL-CIO Labor Council. I am sure you would agree that it is certainly an honor and one that you have earned given your support of big labor issues that have come before the Tennessee General Assembly over the years.

Since you will be making decisions as a legislator and also “educating” your colleagues, as you put it, on issues important to the largest labor union in the country, I thought it would be important to let me, as a citizen of this state, and your constituents know where you will stand on the issues as they come before you in the General Assembly. Surely you would never put the issues of AFL-CIO boss Richard Trumka and his ally President Obama before the best of interests of your constituents in Metro Nashville.

For instance, the AFL-CIO wholeheartedly endorsed and lobbied for President Obama’s health care package. In Tennessee, your predecessor picketed across the state to urge for the passage of this controversial legislation. As a state legislator and now President of the Tennessee AFL- CIO, is this something that you would encourage? And do you agree with President Obama and the government takeover of health care? Even though former Governor Phil Bredesen has said that Obamacare could cost Tennessee over $3 billion to implement, do you agree that this was practical legislation and was in the best interest of our state and your district? As a legislator, and the head of a large labor union in the state, would you organize a protest?

The AFL-CIO’s proposal entitled The Labor Movement’s Framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform calls for amnesty for illegal immigrants across the country and in Tennessee. According to the document, amnesty would “raise labor standards for all workers.” Is amnesty for illegal immigrants in Tennessee something you would encourage as President of the AFL-CIO and something you would encourage as a legislator? Further, as legislator, and as the president of a large labor union in the state, would you work to stymie common sense immigration reform measures that come before the Tennessee General Assembly?

Finally, your boss, Richard Trumka, President of the national AFL-CIO, was a strong advocate for President Obama’s failed stimulus measure. In fact, Mr. Trumka recently called on the federal government to “spend more” in a new stimulus bill. Most authorities on the issue agree that the stimulus bill was a waste of money and only increased our national debt – something that caused one credit rating agency to lower the United States’ Triple-A debt rating and threatened Tennessee’s as well. As a legislator, and president of a large labor union in the state, do you advocate bigger government and increased spending to “stimulate” the economy? In your dual roles, would you lobby or, as you put it, “educate” your colleagues to pass similar legislation in Tennessee and also encourage our federal elected officials to do the same? These are but a few issues; however, I think it is fair that the people of this state know where you stand. When you are on the State House floor, will you consider yourself a servant to the people of Tennessee or a servant to the labor bosses and big government advocates in Washington? I certainly do not question your principles, but I do question your judgment and your ability to separate your labor organization’s interests from the interests of your district when you are voting in Nashville. Is this something you can separate? I have my doubts, and the only way for you to truly and fairly do that, would be to choose between the two positions. Only you can make that decision.


Chris Devaney


Tennessee Republican Party

Press Releases

TNGOP Labels Rep. Moore ‘Obama’s De-Facto Campaign Manager’

Press Release from the Tennessee Republican Party, August 18, 2011:

Democrat State Representative Gary Moore Tapped As ‘Obama’s De-Facto Campaign Manager’

NASHVILLE, TN – Earlier this week, Democrat State Representative Gary Moore, District 50, was elected to serve as President of the Tennessee Chapter of the AFL-CIO Labor Council.

The AFL-CIO, including all chapters, enthusiastically endorsed Barack Obama for President in 2008 stating, “…he’s leading the fight to turn around America…Obama knows what it’s going to take to create an economy that works for everyone…Obama has vowed to fight for working families and for an economy that works for all—and he has the record to prove it.”

“Make no mistake, Gary Moore will be leading the fight in Tennessee to re-elect Barack Obama and perpetuate his failed economic policies. Whether it includes raising money or organizing grassroots efforts, Moore will essentially be Obama’s de-facto campaign manager in the state,” said Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney.

Just today, The Hill reported that Michael Podhorzer, the labor federation’s top politics officer, said, “There’s no question that the Obama administration has done many things that have helped working people…” The story also indicates that the union is likely to create a “super PAC” that can spend and receive unlimited amounts of campaign cash to help fund campaigns like President Obama’s.

“One could give the AFL-CIO the benefit of the doubt about what they said of Obama back in 2008; but to reaffirm their position that Obama is showing leadership on the economy, even as the economy continues to tank, is not only misguided, but naïve. As the leader of the Tennessee chapter of this big union, it will be difficult, if not impossible for Gary Moore to distance himself from this position,” said Devaney.

In 2004 and in subsequent re-election campaigns, Moore has received thousands of dollars from the AFL-CIO to fund his own campaign.


The Obama Record Endorsed by the AFL-CIO:

New Low Of 26% Approve Of Obama On The Economy. From Gallup: “A new low of 26% of Americans approve of President Barack Obama’s handling of the economy, down 11 percentage points since Gallup last measured it in mid-May and well below his previous low of 35% in November 2010.”

Consumer Prices Rose By The Most Since March. From the Associated Press: “Consumers paid more for gas, food and clothes last month, pushing prices up by the most since the spring.”

Jobless Claims In U.S. Top Forecast, Climb Back Above 400k. From Bloomberg News: “More Americans than forecast filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, signaling the labor market is struggling two years into the economic recovery. Jobless claims climbed by 9,000 to 408,000 in the week ended Aug. 13, the highest in a month, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington.”

Business and Economy Education Featured Liberty and Justice NewsTracker

Curiously Armstrong

Rep. Joe Armstrong just learned it probably isn’t wise to pick a fight with somebody who buys breath-mints by the barrel.

Earlier this week the Knoxville News-Sentinel reported that Armstrong recently leaned on the University of Tennessee Bookstore manager to stop selling small novelty tins of “Disappoint Mints” that poke fun at the progress of President Obama’s “Change” agenda. The Knoxville Democrat indicated he believes taxpayer-supported universities ought to be places of solemn learning, not laughter at the expense of Leader-of-the-Free-World types who by coincidence happen to share Armstrong’s party affiliation.

Armstrong declared that “politically specific products” which aren’t “viewpoint neutral” and have “no educational value” shouldn’t be sold in a public university setting — especially a “discretionary product” so “very specifically insulting to the president.”

The marketer of the offending mints, The Unemployed Philosophers Guild, quickly perceived a teachable moment on the folly of what they saw as campus free-speech suppression. The remedy to be applied is more mints, the company determined. In a matter of hours they unveiled a zesty new line, “Joe Armstrong’s Strong Arm Censored Mints.”

In addition to the cool, refreshing satisfaction of lampooning yet another Tennessee lawmaker with a curious faculty for attracting national mockery, the Brooklyn-based company seems to be laughing all the way to the bank — or at least with mint lodged firmly in cheek.

“It’s official – we have SOLD OUT of Disappointmints thanks to Tennessee State Representative Joe Armstrong causing all that ruckus,” according to the company Facebook page. “In his honor, we present these new mints!” is an independent, nonprofit news organization supported by generous donors like you!

Press Releases

TNGOP: Mint Ban Stinks

Press Release from Tennessee Republican Party; Aug. 5, 2011:  

While the failed policies of President Obama and Democrats continue to hurt our country and weaken the economy, FOX News reported this week that State Representative Joe Armstrong (D-Knoxville) has been on a mission to get a particular brand of mints banned at University of Tennessee Knoxville bookstores. The mints with a picture of President Obama on the front and labeled “Disappoint-Mints” apparently offended Rep. Armstrong so much that he asked the product be removed from the shelves and not sold again. However, the UT bookstore claims they sold similar mints when President Bush was in office, and they were never removed.

Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney released the following statement today regarding Democrat’s curiously strong opposition to political humor.

“It is a disappointment and an embarrassment that Democrats feel the need to limit free speech on the campus of UT-Knoxville when President Obama is being criticized, but did nothing when the mints targeted President Bush. Regardless, the truth is that American disappointment with the President is continuing to grow and poll after poll reflects this. You will find Republicans are more focused with fixing our country’s problems and removing President Obama and his failed policies from the White House in 2012 and not mints from college bookstores.”

Democrats across the country seem to be missing the point and ignoring America’s economic problems. They continue to force their failed policies on the American people and that should leave a bad taste in the mouths of voters. Since Obama took office $3.7 Trillion has been added to the National Debt. Unemployment has risen from 8.1% to 9.2% since Obama’s failed $831 Billion stimulus passed. Our country has 14 Million unemployed workers and 6.3 Million of them have been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer. These numbers are unacceptable it is time Washington receive a breath of fresh air.

Press Releases

Haslam Requests Presidential Disaster Declaration

Press Release from Gov. Bill. Haslam,  April 30, 2011:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has asked President Obama to declare four Tennessee Counties as federal disaster areas following the severe storms, flash flooding and tornadoes that struck the state beginning on April 25, 2011.

Should this initial request for assistance be granted Bradley, Greene, Hamilton and Washington counties would have access to varying levels of federal assistance programs.

As local officials and responding agencies complete damage assessments, other counties are expected be added to the April 25 declaration request.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost loved ones in this emergency, and I commend the first responders who have spent many days engaged in search and rescue operations to save lives,” Haslam said. “I am confident the federal government will expedite our major disaster request so we can get to the work of helping people rebuild their lives as quickly as possible.”

As a result of the severe weather, Tennessee suffered 34 fatalities and more than 500 homes were destroyed or sustained major damage. At the height of the emergency, up to 18 shelters provided essential needs for 233 people.

In the request, Haslam seeks Public Assistance for debris removal and emergency protective actions and Individual Assistance, including the Individuals and Households Program (IHP), Disaster Unemployment Assistance, Crisis Counseling, Disaster Food Stamp Program, American Bar Association Young Lawyers Legal Aid, and Small Businesses Administration disaster loans. The request also seeks assistance through the Statewide Mitigation Grant Program.

The Department of Military/Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, Department of Agriculture, Department of Environment & Conservation, Department of Health (EMS), Department of Human Services, Department of Transportation, Department of Safety, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Civil Air Patrol and American Red Cross responded and provided emergency protective services to supplement local efforts.

Additional information about state and federal assistance for affected counties will be released as details become available.

For more updates regarding the state’s response, visit the TEMA website at

Press Releases

Obama, Biden Address National Governors Association

White House Transcript of Remarks by the President and Vice President to the National Governors Association, Feb. 28, 2011:

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. I’m Joe Biden — I’ll Jill Biden’s husband — (laughter) — which is how I’m getting to be known around here. You’re about to — we decided to bring in the second team now to talk to you all. (Laughter.) Folks, welcome back to the White House. And for those of you who — this is your first visit as governor, welcome and congratulations on your elections.

You know, over the last two years the new governors — the older governors will tell you, or at least the ones who’ve been around for two years, will tell you they probably got tired of hearing from me. I was on the phone with you all so often during the Recovery Act. I know none of you liked the Recovery Act much. (Laughter.)

But I just want to start off by thanking the governors who’ve been here for the last two years for the way in which you implemented it. I just wanted to give you a little fact. There were over 75,000 individual projects that went on in your states and a total of 250,000 awards, meaning a check had to be cut to 250,000 different entities. And a group of IGs and outside examiners pointed out there’s less than 1/100th of 1 percent of fraud in the entire operation. And that’s because of you. That’s because of all of you. (Applause.) And it’s because of the mayors.

The new governors, although there’s no Recovery Act, there will a be continued relationship between the federal and state and local government, and we plan on trying to use that as a template as to how to move forward so we save taxpayers money.

The recovery is underway, although I’m sure a lot of you, having to cut your budgets, don’t feel it. It’s a very difficult time for you all. And I just want you to know that I think we probably can all agree on the major initiatives. We may have a different prioritization, but we all know we have to do something about the long-term debt. We all know that we have to do something about preparing ourselves to compete in the future in terms of education, innovation and infrastructure.

But I want to remind you all that — I know you all know but sometimes our constituents, you look at some of the polling, they think we’ve already lost the future to China. They think we’ve already lost the future to India. They already think we are behind the eight ball.

We are still better positioned than any country in the world — any country in the world — to own the 21st century economically. Our GDP is bigger than that of China, Japan and Germany combined. We’re in a situation where here in the United States of America the median income is close to $50,000. In China, it’s $4,500. We wish them better. But just to put this in perspective, it’s important to know where we stand now, the platform from which we now operate, and why if we do the right things we have an overwhelming prospect — an overwhelming prospect — of not only recovery here in the United States but leading the world in the 21st century.

The man I’m about to introduce to you shares your view. Americans have never settled for number two — literally. This is not hyperbole. It’s not one of these chauvinistic things. We want other nations to do well. We’ll do better if they do well. But we are not — we not — prepared, nor are you, to settle for being number two in anything.

And so, folks, that’s why we’ve laid out — the President has laid out in his State of the Union speech the need for us to innovate. We have the most innovative economy in the world. We have the freest of free-enterprise systems. We know what we’re doing. We want to unleash the free-enterprise system.

We also know that we cannot rank tied with five nations for number nine in the world in the percentage of people we graduate from our universities. It’s not acceptable. It’s simply not acceptable. That’s why by 2020, we will, in fact, be once again leading the world as we did in the past. That is a goal, a goal we will meet. As my wife you just heard from, a community college teacher, would say, any nation that out-educates us is going to out-compete us. It’s as simple and as basic as that.

And thirdly, we cannot have a 20th century infrastructure for the 21st century — a 20th century infrastructure, as all of you know, that in fact is already in some areas teetering on needing major, major repairs. And by infrastructure, we not only mean ports, road, airports; we also mean modern infrastructure from broadband to the new changes that are going to have to take place for what reason — to make American business more competitive, to make American employees more hire-able, if you will. There’s no such word, but able to be hired. (Laughter.) But the neighborhood I come from people understand what I say. (Laughter.)

And so, folks, look, I just want to introduce you to the guy who — as I said, we’ll disagree in the details, but I’m sure you share this man’s view, there is no — no, no, no — acceptable rationale for America being anything other than number one in the world.

Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States of America. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you, everybody. Please have a seat. Thank you so much. Well, thank you, Joe. Thank you to the members of my Cabinet and my administration who are here. Thank you, Governor Gregoire and Governor Heineman, for your outstanding leadership. And I also want to acknowledge Ray Scheppach. Where’s Ray? There he is — who’s been NGA’s executive director for 28 years, and this is his final meeting. So, Ray, thank you for your extraordinary service. (Applause.) Thank you.

So I hope everybody had fun last night. I know that you had a wonderful time listening to Michelle and Jill. Joe’s main function is to provide a buffer between me and them so that I don’t have to follow them immediately — (laughter) — because they are really good and care deeply about what’s happening with military families.

I hope today, all of you, feel free to make yourselves at home. For those of you with a particular interest in the next election, I don’t mean that literally. (Laughter.)

We meet at a moment when all of us — Democrats and Republicans, leaders at the national and the state levels — face some very big challenges. Our country has come through a long and wrenching recession. And as we recover, the question we’re going to have to answer is: Where will the new jobs come from? What will the new sources of economic growth be? And how can we make sure that the American Dream remains a reality into the 21st century?

Now, in the short term, we came together here in Washington at the end of last year and enacted tax cuts that are already making Americans’ paychecks bigger and are allowing businesses to write off major investments. These are tax cuts and changes in the tax credit system that are going to spur job creation and economic growth, and I’m proud that Democrats and Republicans worked with each other to get it done.

In the long term, however, we need to address a set of economic challenges that, frankly, the housing bubble largely papered over for almost a decade. We now live in a world that’s more connected and more competitive than ever before. When each of you tries to bring new jobs and industries to your state, you’re not just competing with each other, but you’re competing with China, you’re competing with India, you’re competing with Brazil, you’re competing with countries all around the world.

And that means that we as a nation need to make sure that we are the best place on Earth to do business. We need a skilled and educated workforce, a commitment to cutting-edge research and technology, and a fast and reliable transportation and communications network. That’s how we’re going to bring new jobs to America, and that’s how we’re going to win the future.

Making these necessary investments would be hard at any time. But it’s that much harder at a time when resources are scarce. After living through a decade of deficits and a historic recession that made them worse, we can’t afford to kick the can down the road any longer. So the budget debate that we’re having is going to be critical here in Washington. And so far, most of it’s been focused almost entirely on how much of annual domestic spending — what in the parlance we all domestic discretionary spending — that we should cut. There’s no doubt that cuts in discretionary spending have to be a part of the answer for deficit reduction.

And that’s why, as a start, I’ve proposed a five-year spending freeze that will reduce our deficits by $400 billion. The budget that I sent to Congress cuts or eliminates more than 200 federal programs. And it reforms dozens of others, from health care to homeland security to education, so that rather than throwing money at programs with no accountability or measured results, we’re committed to funding only those things that work.

All told, the budget cuts I’ve proposed will bring annual domestic spending to its lowest share of the economy since Dwight Eisenhower. Let me repeat that. Under my budget, if it were to be adopted, domestic discretionary spending would be lower as a percentage of GDP than it was under the nine previous administrations, including under Ronald Reagan’s.

But we know that this kind of spending, domestic discretionary spending, which has been the focus of complaints about out-of-control federal spending, makes up only about 12 percent of the entire budget. If we truly want to get our deficit under control, then we’re going to have to cut excessive spending wherever it exists — in defense spending — and I have to say that Bob Gates has been as good a steward of taxpayer dollars when it comes to the Pentagon as just about anybody out there, but we’re going to have to do more — in health care spending, on programs like Medicare and Medicaid, and in spending through tax breaks and loopholes. That’s going to be a tough conversation to have, but it’s one we need to have, and it’s one I expect to have with congressional leaders in the weeks to come.

Those of you who are in this room obviously are on the front lines of this budget debate. As the Recovery Act funds that saw through many states over the last two years are phasing out — and it is undeniable that the Recovery Act helped every single state represented in this room manage your budgets, whether you admit it or not — you face some very tough choices at this point on everything from schools to prisons to pensions.

I also know that many of you are making decisions regarding your public workforces, and I know how difficult that can be. I recently froze the salaries of federal employees for two years. It wasn’t something that I wanted to do, but I did it because of the very tough fiscal situation that we’re in.

So I believe that everybody should be prepared to give up something in order to solve our budget challenges, and I think most public servants agree with that. Democrats and Republicans agree with that. In fact, many public employees in your respective states have already agreed to cuts.

But let me also say this: I don’t think it does anybody any good when public employees are denigrated or vilified or their rights are infringed upon. We need to attract the best and the brightest to public service. These times demand it. We’re not going to attract the best teachers for our kids, for example, if they only make a fraction of what other professionals make. We’re not going to convince the bravest Americans to put their lives on the line as police officers or firefighters if we don’t properly reward that bravery.

So, yes, we need a conversation about pensions and Medicare and Medicaid and other promises that we’ve made as a nation. And those will be tough conversations, but necessary conservations. As we make these decisions about our budget going forward, though, I believe that everyone should be at the table and that the concept of shared sacrifice should prevail. If all the pain is borne by only one group — whether it’s workers, or seniors, or the poor — while the wealthiest among us get to keep or get more tax breaks, we’re not doing the right thing. I think that’s something that Democrats and Republicans should be able to agree on.

Now, as we begin to get our budgets under control, the other thing we can’t do is sacrifice our future. Even as we cut back on those things that don’t add to growth or opportunity for our people, we have to keep investing in those things that are absolutely necessary to America’s success — education, innovation, infrastructure.

On education, our approach has been to partner with you — to offer more flexibility in exchange for better standards; to lift the cap on charter schools; to spur reform not by imposing it from Washington, but by asking you to come up with some of the best ways for your states to succeed. That was the idea behind Race to the Top: You show us the best plans for reform; we’ll show you the money.

We’re also working with you and with Congress to fix No Child Left Behind with a focus on reform, responsibility and, most importantly, results. And we’re trying to give states and schools more flexibility to reward good teachers and stop making excuses for bad teachers, because we know that the single most important factor in a child’s success other than their parents is the man or woman at the front of the classroom.

And I had a chance to see this recently. I went over to Parkville Middle School in Maryland, where engineering is now the most popular subject, mainly thanks to some outstanding teachers who have inspired students to focus on their math and their science skills. So we know teachers can make a difference, and we want to help you have the very best teachers in the classroom.

We also have to invest in innovation — in American research and technology, in the work of our scientists and engineers, and in sparking the creativity and imagination of our people.

Now, a lot of this obviously is done in the private sector. But as much as the private sector is the principal driver of innovation it’s often hesitant to invest in the unknown, especially when it comes to basic research. Historically, that’s been a federal responsibility. It’s how we ended up with things like the computer chip and the GPS. It’s how we ended up with the Internet. It’s also how a lot of your states are already attracting jobs and industries of the future.

I went to Wisconsin, for example, a few weeks ago, and I visited a small-town company called Orion that’s putting hundreds of people to work manufacturing energy-efficient lights in a once-darkened plant. They benefited from federal research.

In Ohio and Pennsylvania, thanks in part to federal grants, I saw universities and businesses joining together to make America a world leader in biotechnology and in clean energy. And if you have any doubt about the importance of this federal investment in research and development, I would suggest that you talk to the cutting-edge businesses in your own states. They will tell you that if we want the next big breakthrough, the next big industry to be an American breakthrough, an American industry, then we can’t sacrifice these investments in research and technology.

The third way that we need to invest is in our infrastructure — everything from new roads and bridges to high-speed rail and high-speed Internet — projects that create hundreds of thousands of private sector jobs. And I know that in some of your states, infrastructure projects have garnered controversy. Sometimes they’ve gotten caught up in partisan politics.

This hasn’t traditionally been a partisan issue. Lincoln laid the rails during the course of a civil war. Eisenhower built the Interstate Highway System. Both parties have always believed that America should have the best of everything. We don’t have third-rate airports and third-rate bridges and third-rate highways. That’s not who we are. We shouldn’t start going down that path.

New companies are going to seek out the fastest, most reliable ways to move people, goods, and information — whether they’re in Chicago or they’re in Shanghai. And I want them to be here, in the United States. So to those who say that we can’t afford to make investments in infrastructure, I say we can’t afford not to make investments in infrastructure. We always have had the best infrastructure. The notion that somehow we’d give up that leadership at this critical juncture in our history makes no sense.

Just ask the folks that I met up in Marquette, Michigan — I was talking to Rick Snyder about this — up in the Upper Peninsula. This is a town of 20,000 people far away from the hustle and bustle of places like Detroit or Grand Rapids. But because of the wireless infrastructure that they have set up, they’ve now got — the local department store, third generation family-owned department store, has been able to hook up with the university and have access to wireless, and they are now selling two-thirds of their goods online. They’re one of the 5,000 fastest growing companies in America — up in the Upper Peninsula because the infrastructure was in place to allow them to succeed.

And you’ve got kids in schoolhouses in even more remote areas who are able to plug in to lectures and science fairs anywhere in America because of the infrastructure that was set up. That’s a smart investment for every state to make. And the federal government wants to be your partner in making those investments.

These are the kinds of investments that pay huge economic dividends in terms of jobs and growth. They are the fundamentals that allow some states to weather economic storms better than others. They’re the fundamentals that will make some states better positioned to win the future than others. These investments are not just critical for your state’s success; they’re critical for America’s success. And I want to be a partner in helping you make that happen.

Which brings me to the final topic that’s going to help determine our ability to win the future, and that’s getting control of our health care costs. Now, I am aware that I have not convinced everybody here to be a member of the Affordable Care Act fan club. But surely we can agree that for decades, our governments, our families, our businesses watched as health costs ate up more and more of their bottom line. There’s no disputing that. That didn’t just happen last year. It didn’t just happen two years ago. It’s been going on for years now.

We also know that the biggest driver of the federal debt is Medicare costs. Nothing else comes close. We could implement every cut that the House of Representatives right now has proposed and it would not make a dent in our long-term budget, wouldn’t make a dent in our long-term deficits — because of healthcare costs. We know it’s one of the biggest strains in your state budgets — Medicaid.

And for years, politicians of both parties promised one thing: real reform. Everybody talked about it. Well, we’ve decided to finally do something about it — to create a structure that would preserve our system of private health insurance; would protect our consumers from the worst abuses of insurance companies; would create competition and lower costs by putting in place new exchanges, run by the states, where Americans could pool together to increase their purchasing power and select from various plans to choose what’s best for them — the same way that members of Congress do, the same way that those who are lucky enough to work for big employers do.

And the fact is, that the Affordable Care Act has done more to rein in rising costs, make sure everyone can buy insurance, and attack the federal deficit than we’ve seen in years. And that’s not just my opinion; that’s the opinion of the Congressional Budget Office — nonpartisan — the same one that puts out numbers that when it’s handy to go after me, people trot out and say, boy, these are — look at these numbers. So they’re saying we’re saving a trillion bucks because of this act on our health care costs. Otherwise, we’d be a trillion dollars more in the red. That’s something that we should build on, not break down.

Now, that doesn’t mean that the job of health care reform is complete. We still have to implement the law, and we have to implement it in a smart and non-bureaucratic way. I know that many of you have asked for flexibility for your states under this law. In fact, I agree with Mitt Romney, who recently said he’s proud of what he accomplished on health care in Massachusetts and supports giving states the power to determine their own health care solutions. He’s right. Alabama is not going to have exactly the same needs as Massachusetts or California or North Dakota. We believe in that flexibility.

So right now, under the law, under the Affordable Care Act,

Massachusetts and Utah already operate exchanges of their own that are very different — operate them in their own way. And we made sure that the law allowed that. The same applies for other requests, like choosing benefit rules that meet the needs of your citizens, or allowing for consumer-driven plans and health savings accounts.

And this recognition that states need flexibility to tailor their approach to their unique needs is why part of the law says that, beginning in 2017, if you can come up with a better system for your state to provide coverage of the same quality and affordability as the Affordable Care Act, you can take that route instead. That portion of the law has not been remarked on much. It says by 2017, if you have a better way of doing it, help yourself, go ahead, take that route.

Now, some folks have said, well, that’s not soon enough. So a few weeks ago, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat, and Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, a Republican, and Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu, they proposed legislation that would accelerate that provision. So it would allow states to apply for such a waiver by 2014 instead of 2017.

I think that’s a reasonable proposal. I support it. It will give you flexibility more quickly, while still guaranteeing the American people reform. If your state can create a plan that covers as many people as affordably and comprehensively as the Affordable Care Act does — without increasing the deficit — you can implement that plan. And we’ll work with you to do it. I’ve said before, I don’t believe that any single party has a monopoly on good ideas. And I will go to bat for whatever works, no matter who or where it comes from.

I also share your concern about Medicaid costs. I know this has been a topic of significant conversation over the last couple of days. We know that over half of all Medicaid costs come from just 5 percent of enrollees, many of whom are what’s called dual eligibles — seniors in Medicare as well as in Medicaid. The Affordable Care Act helps address this by changing the incentives for providers so that they start adopting best practices that will work to reduce cost while improving quality.

But we understand the pressure you’re under. We understand that we’ve got to do more. So today — and I mentioned this to Christine last night — I’m asking you to name a bipartisan group of governors to work with Secretary Sebelius on ways to lower costs and improve the quality of care for these Americans. And if you can come up with more ways to reduce Medicaid costs while still providing quality care to those who need it I will support those proposals as well.

So here’s the bottom line. Once fully implemented, I’m convinced the Affordable Care Act will do what it was designed it to do — cut costs, cover everybody, end the worst abuses in the insurance industry, and bring down our long-term deficits. I am not open to re-fighting the battles of the last two years, or undoing the progress that we’ve made. But I am willing to work with anyone — anybody in this room, Democrat or Republican, governors or member of Congress — to make this law even better; to make care even better; to make it more affordable and fix what needs fixing.

You see, part of the genius of our Founders was the establishment of a federal system in which each of our states serves as a laboratory for our democracy. Through this process, some of the best state ideas became some of America’s best ideas. So whether it’s through Race to the Top, or improving the Affordable Care Act, or reforming the way that we approach social programs by ensuring that spending is tied to success, our approach has been to give you the flexibility that you need to find your own innovative ways forward. In fact, this week I’m issuing a Presidential Memorandum that instructs all government agencies to follow this flexible approach wherever the law allows.

But even as we preserve the freedom and diversity that is at the heart of federalism, let’s remember that we are one nation. We are one people. Our economy is national. Our fates are intertwined. Today, we’re not competing with each other; we’re competing with other countries that are hungry to win new jobs, hungry to win new industries.

I’m confident we will win this competition as long as we’re fighting it together. And I know that, whatever our differences, you share that goal. So you’ve got a partner in the White House to make this happen. And I hope that this becomes the start of a productive and serious conversation going forward — one that I want to start by answering some of your questions.

So thank you very much. (Applause.) Thank you.


11:47 A.M. EST