It has been one incredible ride - and the honor of a lifetime - to serve as your governor during this most challenging of times.
Eleanor Roosevelt said "A woman is like a tea bag - you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water." In my case, it just happened to be the greatest natural disaster in American history.
When you face the unprecedented, you give it your all. You don't worry about headlines. You trust history to bring perspective to an incomparable situation. And you keep working.
That's what I've done, and I leave office proud to hand over a strong fiscal environment with sound accomplishments that will lead Louisiana well into the future.
Until now, public education has never been the priority in Louisiana, but we have truly put education first. From expanding Pre-K to funding teacher pay at the Southern Regional Average to fully funding our colleges or universities and investing in new technology, our reforms and efforts will revolutionize public education and end the culture of poverty that for too long has held us back.
We are making progress in economic development as well, having helped more Louisiana companies expand during my term than any in our history. And we've taken that effort on the road, aggressively promoting ourselves around the world in new ways to bring home new jobs. After four years, our work has yielded more than 41,000 new jobs and billions upon billions in new investments.
One example of this effort is an imminent announcement on the Guide Plant in Northeast Louisiana. Since the fall of 2006 - when we learned we may lose Guide - I have been personally working with a major investor I met while traveling to recruit businesses. This deal is now in its final stages, and promises to provide some 800 good paying jobs for our workers.
Our reforms expand way beyond education and economic development. We passed the largest single increased investment in Louisiana's history to road and infrastructure improvements. More than $1.3 billion dollars hits the highways this year. Another $256 million will go to building priorities in hurricane protection and ports. You are going to see construction like never before.
We enacted new building codes to increase safety. We reformed the juvenile justice system to a national model, and passed the most stringent ethics reforms this state has seen. We dramatically expanded access to health care for Louisiana's children.
We reformed the way we act on hurricane protection and coastal restoration. We have enacted a long-term state coastal plan - and are driving the long-term regional solutions. We're actively managing our own destiny as an energy-producing state, rather than just watching our coastline disappear.
We've done all of this, and we've done it while overcoming the largest natural disaster in American history.
This state committed at least $5 billion to the recovery. And, after nine trips to Washington, I've finally checked off the last big thing on my To Do list, having secured the final Road Home help we need. More than 90,000 families now have their award checks in hand. The momentum is underway, and some 150,000 families are expected to receive grants by June.
I've often questioned why those storms had to happen to our people and under my watch. But I will always be so honored and humbled to have served during these most trying of times. We have laid the long-term groundwork that will carry us forward over the next ten to fifteen years. And we're finally seeing the very visible progress in the neighborhoods of coastal Louisiana that our people so desperately need.
Ten years from now, Louisiana will be a different place. We will reach new heights in competitiveness, productivity, good paying jobs and opportunities for our children to succeed. Thank you again for the opportunity to do this work on your behalf.
The Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation
Louisiana's Fund for Louisiana's People
www.louisianahelp.org 1-877-HELPLA1 (877-435-7521)