Excerpts from the prepared text of Gov. James S. Gilmore III's State of the Commonwealth speech:
I'm pleased to report to you that the state of the commonwealth is excellent and, in fact, has never been better. We will have sustained by next month the longest economic expansion in our history. More Virginians are employed now than ever before, and we've already created over 150,000 new jobs during my administration. . . . This prosperity is filling the commonwealth's coffers with assets. My secretary of finance, Ron Tillett, estimates that the revenue of the state is up nearly 10 percent this year.
We are afforded an unprecedented opportunity to enhance the financial freedom of all Virginians. My administration is currently cutting 16 taxes, including the phase-out of the car tax. The sales tax on food is also beginning to be reduced, and the income tax is being reduced on the wages of the soldiers and sailors . . . When all 16 tax cuts are fully implemented, Virginians and their businesses will receive nearly $1.6 billion in tax relief per year. . . .
But some in certain comfortable circles are calling for the undoing of our progress. They want government to not only spend every cent, but take more of the people's hard-earned money. . . . We must resist the temptation to incessantly increase taxes, which is typical of the old way of thinking.
Virginia is the Internet capital of the world. Half of the world's Internet traffic travels through Virginia. . . .
But the digital divide, which is being drawn between rich and poor, black and white and urban and rural, is separating our society between the technology "haves" and "have-nots." My goal is for Virginia to do what no other state in the nation has done--reach out and begin to close the digital divide. . . .
I have asked my secretary of technology, Don Upson, to take the lead in creating dozens of new Internet-ready computer centers across Virginia. These centers will give under-served youth both access to new technology and hands-on guidance on how to use it. . . . Second, we must ensure that our schools are using these new technologies in the most effective manner to educate our children. Connecting a school to the Internet is meaningless if computers are visited and explored only on the occasional field trip. . . . We must also modernize our curriculum by helping our teachers integrate technology into the educational process. . . . But we must reach more than just our young people; we must bring our senior citizens, our single parents and all families onto the Internet and into our new economy. I propose a new program called "Infopowering the Commonwealth" to place computers and high-speed Internet access at every local library.
The history of Virginia is a history of great Americans. Many heroes have sprung from the soil of our commonwealth, and all Virginians admire great American heroes. Many of those heroes have been recognized and celebrated for their contributions, including those we celebrate on Lee-Jackson-King Day.
But the combination of these individuals on a single day creates confusion among our citizens. The time has come to enhance these holidays and give them each their due recognition. I urge you to create individual holidays for Dr. Martin Luther King on one day and Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson another.
And so, my fellow Virginians, at the start of the new millennium, we begin anew. This is the dawn of a dynamic new age, with the opportunity to set out on new paths, in new ways. Change is everywhere around us, but change is not our enemy; it is our ally as we build on our strengths. The commonwealth has accomplished much and has much of which to be proud. But I assure you now, Virginia's best years lie ahead. Thank you.