Gov. Howard Dean
National Conference of Democratic Mayors
Washington, DC
January 23, 2003


...If it had been my choice there'd be one mayor up here that wouldn't be here.  I've been in charge of recruiting all the Democratic candidates for governor for the last six years, and I actually was hoping that Mayor Campbell [Jane Campbell of Cleveland, OH] would end up being Governor Campbell, but she chose the wiser course and now she's got a great job that she likes.

I don't know if Peter Clavelle [Mayor of Burlington, VT] is here now.  Is Mayor Clavelle here?  There we go.  Now just to show you my great powers of persuasion, Mayor Clavelle, as you know, is not really a Democrat.  He's a Progressive.  But this year after 14 years in office he has finally agreed to see the light and he is running as a Democrat/Progressive.  Welcome, Peter [applause, inaud.]

Now we have to have a little truth in lending here.  Let me tell you a little bit about myself and then I want to tell you about some of the differences between myself and the folks that are running for this nomination.  Most of you don't know me.  My state is actually smaller than most of your cities.  We have about six hundred and some odd thousand people in our state.  In fact that's going to help me more than you ever know; we're going to get to that about half way through my talk.

I'm a fiscal conservative, a real fiscal conservative--I'm not a borrow and spend, borrow and spend, borrow and spend Republican who gives tax cuts by raiding Social Security and gives all the money to people who make more than a million dollars a year.

No, what we did was--I've also been governor long enough so I had the pleasure of serving through two recessions, not one [laughter].  And after we got through the first one in 1990, we began to set aside money to pay off nearly a quarter of all our debt in the last decade.  I never let the legislature spend too much more than the rate of growth and we invested in infrastructure, we invested in cities; we put all our state buildings in down towns and as a result--we have a terrible revenue problem in our state just like everybody else--but we're adding money to Medicaid, we're adding money to higher education, we're adding money to K-12 education, maybe it's not as much as we'd like.

You can't have social justice in this country without a balanced budget, because ultimately what happens is the folks that suffer the most at the end of the business cycle are those people you've got to cut off the rolls to balance the budget.  And if you build a sustainable spending curve like we did in Vermont, every year putting aside money for a rainy day, every year paying down debt so your debt service is not so high at the end of the cycle as it was at the beginning, then you can sustain what we need to sustain in this country.

I want  health care for all Americans.  We have health insurance, everybody under 18 in our state has health insurance.  I made Medicaid into a middle class entitlement.  Medicaid's not for poor people in my state; it's for middle class people.  Eighteen and under, you make $52,000 a year, you get health care.  We go to our small business community and say take your kids off your insurance policy, put 'em on our insurance policy, we'll raise our reimbursement rate and that'll be an incentive to help small businesses.

I was delighted that Dick [Gephardt] has joined me in that.  I started my campaign calling for repealing the President's tax cut, using half the money to start to pay off the deficit and the other half for health insurance.

If you don't think this is good politics--I was in a conservative area of my state about four or five years ago, a guy came up to me and said, governor, I'm a conservative Republican, I've never voted for you before, but I'm going to vote for you this time.  So of course lie any of us I got myself all puffed up and had to say, well why is that?   And he said, because my brother-in-law makes $25,000 a year; he's got five kids.  He can't get himself any health insurance, but he knows because of your program that his kids re taken care of.

This is a program that once we put it in, you can't take it away.  I want Medicaid for everybody in America under 23 years old.  I want a prescription benefit for Medicare so it's a decent prescription/health insurance policy, and I want to help small businesses and everybody between 23 and 65 by subsidizing the cost for small businesses, subsidizing individuals who can't afford to write and $8,000 check, and subsidizing folks who work for companies like Wal-Mart who employ as many part-time people as they can so as not to pay benefits.

You know what that's going to do? Not only will you have health insurance for everybody, but we're also going to stimulate small business, the generator of jobs.  You folks know like I do that the folks who get jobs in your communities are not big corporations. It's easier for us to deal with them, because it's a lot easier to bring somebody in who gives 300 jobs at a time than it is to go after 15 business who might bring in 20 jobs, but the truth is the majority of jobs in our country and in our communities are generated by small business, and health insurance is a big piece of generating those jobs, and we need to do it, and as Democrats we need to do it.

Now I don't think that the Democratic party is going to win back the nomination and win back the White House if we keep thinking that we ought to copy the president's policies and that's how we're going to win.  I think we need a real Democrat to run for the nomination of this party and that's what [applause, inaud.]

We've already lost the debate on the tax cut.  I appreciate what Dick Gephardt said; he's a good person, and I worked for him for president in 1988.  We have already lost the tax debate, tat cut debate because the Republicans came in with a $670 billion tax cut when we already have the largest deficit in the history of the country next year and no idea how we're going to pay for the president's war in Iraq.  And the Democrats, instead of saying, wait, should we really have a tax cut when we're facing a $350 billion deficit, can we afford this?  They said oh yeah, let/'s have $136 billion instead.  We've already lost the debate; the debate has now become about how big the tax cut should be.  We know who's going to lose that.  The debate should be should we have one at all.  [applause].

The Congress has spent five years arguing over the Patient's Bill of Rights.  The Democrats say you should sue your HMO; the Republicans say you shouldn't.  That's another debate we already lost.  Who cares which bill passes?  Not one more kid is going to have health insurance, and it isn't  going to be five cents cheaper for your municipal employees no matter which version of that bill passes.  What we ought to be doing in the Congress is putting it to the President: Mr. President, we have a plan to insure every American.  How come you're not there?  Let the Republicans go on record against insuring every American.  We've got to stand up for what Democrats believe.  [applause].

I appreciate Senator Kerry mentioning the "Every School Board Left Behind" bill, but the  [laughter] truth of that is, that is the second largest unfunded mandate passed in the last five years and the second largest ever in the history of education, and every single one of the people I'm running against for president voted for that unfunded mandate.  $109 [inaud.] the state of New Hampshire alone, and it's a lot more in your states.

You're going to be saddled with failing schools with no money to pay for the transportation, to fund teacher's aide--that now has to be two years of a diploma, and can't be paid minimum wage any more.  Who do you thinks going to pay for that?  Not the guy that voted for the "Every School Board Left Behind" bill.  It's your property tax payers.  We can do better than this folks.  If we want an education bill of course we want to have accountability.

You know what my platform is, after we get rid of the president's tax cut and start to balance the budget, in my first year's budget we're going to fully fund special education, the largest unfunded mandate you live with.  [applause].  And we're going to give school boards the ability to do this, pay teachers more, smaller class size, and reduce the property tax.  People don't want an income tax cut because most middle class people never got one, but they would die for a property tax cut, and if [applause] you fully funded special education, we [applause cont., inaud.]

Now here's the advantage of my coming from a state that's smaller than most of your cities.  I administer our CBDG program.  For everything, all but Peter Clavelle's city, it's the only standard metropolitan statistical area we have in our state.  I know the CBDG program.  We've used it to create jobs, to build housing.  It's wonderful discretionary money that we can invest that we would never be able to come u with out of our budgets.  I will double the CBDG program from $4.6 billion to 9.2.  [applause].

Now this one's a fiscal conservative and he's promising, promising, promising already.  You know what the bill for what I just proposed is?  $27 billion for full funding of special education and $4.6 billion additional dollars for funding CBDG grants.  You know what the national budget is?  $1.2 trillion.  This is a very small amount of money that'll do an enormous amount of good for our cities.

I don't believe the president's war on terrorism is serious.  We have 150,000 troops surrounding the third most serious world security problem.  North Korea's the second.  And the first is Al Queda, Hamas, Islamic Jihad.  We have no renewable energy policy of any kind in this country; we have no...conservation program of any kind in this country.  If we did, we could start choking off the money to terrorism.  And this week the Republicans in the United States Senate voted down a $5 billion bill to help you fund local law enforcement and public health services, to help me fund law enforcement and public health services.  Who do you think the first line against domestic terrorism is?  Is it the FBI with a few thousand agents in the field?  No, it's the 625,000 local law enforcement people.  They're willing to spend $100 billion on the war on Iraq and they're not giving $5 billion for the war at home against terrorism.  [applause].  We can do better than that.

We've got to deal with earmarks.  Congressfolks love earmarks.  We love earmarks too.  The problem is that we don't get to earmark what we want to earmark; we earmark what they want to earmark.  What I'd like to see is a separate budget.  We know we're never going to get pork out of a congressional budget and we know that when it comes to Vermont it's not pork; it's only when it goes to some other state, and that's when it's pork.  [laughter].

So what I want to do is separate the earmark budget.  The Community Development Block Grants and community money ought to be in a separate budget and ought not be eroded every time somebody thinks of a wonderful project in their home state, such as naming a shipyard after their nephew.  Those things do not help cities, they do not build housing.

Finally I want to change what we do in public housing.  In our state we have been incredibly fortunate--a program started by my predecessor Madeleine Kunin which I have funded enormously during my 11 1/2 years as governor.  It's called the Housing and Conservation Trust Fund.  Instead of having the state go into municipalities and say, we'd like to build some housing here, or go to a town somewhere that needs some affordable housing and say, we'd like to put our housing project here, we supply the bridge financing.

There are local land trusts.  They want to build housing; they want to rehabilitate housing all in down towns.  They go get the financing and then we use state taxpayers' dollars to buy down the mortgage, buy down the interest rates, and buy down the capital costs, and those units are forever affordable.  We will not put money into units that will go on the market rate after 20 years.  We learned the hard way, when I first came into office, that those programs are great until the nineteenth year, then everybody runs around wondering what they're going to do for all the dispossessed families a year from now.  It's an impossible situation.  It's permanently affordable and local people run the projects.  You come to us, tell us where you want the housing, what project you want to do; you show us how you're going to run the project, and then in a juried process you get the bridge financing that you need to buy down the cost of that houseing for rental and ownership.  That's the way to do this.

If you want to revitalize the cities [city?], you can't have the federal government do it.  You can have us supply the money, but you can't have us do it; it's up to you.  And we want to see how good you are at managing these projects.  We want to know if these projects are going to be managed properly, we want to know where the financing is, and if it's there we'll make up the difference.

So it'll be permanently affordable.  You can't revitalize the city if every time Congress moves to do anything it's an unfunded mandate.  We have got to start to rely on local people to determine their own needs.  We've got to trust folks enough--look in any profession including my own as a doctor, 5 percent of the folks aren't going to do a good job, and the other 95 are going to do a great job.  My philosophy, unlike President Bush's, is let's reward the 95 percent of the people that want to do the job right, trust their judgement instead of punishing them by [inaud.] and insinuating on top of them all the rules that deal with the 5 percent that are doing it wrong, and penalizing the 95 percent that are doing it right [inaud.] impossible to do their jobs.  That's what unfunded mandates do.  That's what the President's approach to education is.  The President doesn't have an approach to housing as far as I can tell.  We can do better in this country.

I want to work with you.  I want to be your partners.  As a fellow CEO, as somebody who's administered CDBG grants and understands what it takes for federal meoney to be really helpful, we don't want the earmarks, we don't want the unfunded mandates, we don't even want your expertise.  What we want when we say to the federal government is, we want your trust, we want to compete for the money, we can do this on our own, we want relief from your unfunded mandates so we donn't have to go to our property tax payers every time we have a good idea.  We want your commitment so we can rebuild our cities; we are strong enough to rebuild our own cities, but we need your help.  We need that share of the money that the President of the United States chose to give to people who make more than a million dollars a year instead of the hard-working, inner city, middle class people who pay property taxes every day, who work hard in their small businesses, who struggle to make America work in the toughest conditions.  We can do that.  I think we need a president who did not spend their career in Washingtonn.  I think we need a president who's been where you are, and I have.

Thank you very much.  [applause]

Transcript Copyright © 2003  Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action.