All Brittany wanted was a chance to work, to have the same opportunity as the rest of us. She might have needed our help, but because we gave her that help last year, she is ready to chart her own course.

A course fueled by courage, passion and an independent spirit. Because of our commitment last year, Brittany is now off the waiting list.

Her story and those of so many parents and sisters and brothers are tales of the every-day heroism shown by the families and friends of our neighbors with special needs.

That waiting list is a powerful metaphor for what has gone wrong in our society.

We need to act now and we must not turn our backs on all the other Brittanys who are out there currently on the waiting list. That is why I am counting on the general assembly to join with me to make certain we pass this next round of funding for expanded services for people with intellectual disabilities.

Please join me in a round of applause for Brittany and her mother, Harlena.

We are now at a turning point. Because we are regaining our financial footing, we now have a chance to fulfill our obligation to help more moms and daughters like Harlena and Brittany.

We now have it within our grasp to create more jobs for people like Greg;

We now have the opportunity to make every young persons job search a local one;

And it is now within our power to make Pennsylvania’s products, and not our young people, our greatest export.

But great challenges must be met if we are to continue strengthening our commonwealth and fulfill the promise of a brighter future for all Pennsylvanians.

Now is not the time to be timid in our approach. Now is not the time to cling to old ideas and the status quo. Now is not the time to make small changes and expect big results.

Now is the time to be truly innovative. Now is the time to embrace new ideas. And now is the time to be bold. Pennsylvanians deserve this from us now.

Every one of us has come here to make things better for all Pennsylvanians. Nobody in this room ran for office on a promise to keep Harrisburg the way it is. Nobody displayed a campaign bumper sticker that read: “Vote for me - I want to keep Harrisburg the same.” No one ran on the promise to bind Harrisburg to the status quo. We all come from different backgrounds, various philosophies, but we share the common goal of a better Pennsylvania.

Our job isn’t to explain why things can’t be better. Our obligation is to make things better. We ran on the promise to change Harrisburg. Leave it to the historians to write our history. Our job is to make history - now.

Education

Public education is entering an era of transformation. Ageless subjects – math, reading and science - have seen new strides in how we teach them.

We have moved beyond the age of the blackboard as new technologies tie every classroom to the world and have the potential to link every young life to a bright future.

My budget works to provide our public schools with enrichment funding to help them achieve academic excellence at all grade levels. It provides for enhanced learning opportunities, career-focused training and most importantly, a safe learning environment.

For the past two years, the commonwealth has invested more Pennsylvania tax dollars in basic education than at any time in our history.

It is true that we no longer have one-time federal "stimulus" dollars money that should never have been put toward school operating costs.

Yet once again this year, we will be putting a record amount of state funding into basic education, $5.5 billion, starting with early childhood programs and going all the way through grade 12.

Children enter this world as students. From the time a child opens their eyes, the world offers a wealth of learning. Those formative years, the ones before kindergarten, are crucial.

Pennsylvania currently spends more than $348 million each year in early childhood programs. My budget reaffirms that commitment.

I propose adding another $6.4 million toward our Pre-K Counts and the Head Start Supplemental Assistance programs. This money gives an additional 3,200 children, and their families, access to quality full and part-day programs as well as summer kindergarten readiness programs.