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Thank you. Thank you. It's a great honor to have you. The White House, a very special place, beautiful and so meaningful in so many ways, and our country has never done better. You're all doing really well. Every state is doing well. I can say most every state in the room today is setting records. And we'd like to think that the federal government has been helping you a lot. But it is wonderful being with you. And we had a great evening last night.
And the talent of those musicians, they could be anywhere in the world. Many of them could work in the great opera houses, but they love the military. When you heard the violins and the talent, the great talent. I don't know if anybody has an ear for music. Believe it or not. A long time ago I was told to have a great year for music by somebody.
I took a test. They said he has a wonderful aptitude for music. I said I do, but would you listen to that? It's really incredible, the talent. And they're great people. They want to be in the military. They don't want to be anywhere else. So it's really, really something. As I said in my State of the Union last week, we're in the midst of a great American comeback with the help of many of the people in this room.
And you've done really a fantastic job. I think I can say it just about everybody. I'll say just about just in case someday somebody is going to run or do something that I won't like. And I can't have a little bit of an out when I say just about I said no, he was included in that. Just about. But we're creating the most prosperous economy and the most inclusive society ever to exist. Actually, since my election, America's gained seven million new jobs.
We added two hundred twenty five thousand jobs in January alone, crushing expectations. The unemployment rate reached the lowest level in 50 years. And a statistic that's incredible to me is the average unemployment that we've had during this three year period is the lowest in the history of our country. Compared it to any other administration. The lowest in the history of our country. The unemployment rate for African-American, Hispanic, American and Asian Americans have reached the lowest level ever recorded.
Low income workers have seen a 16 percent pay increase since my election, something that's so great to see. When I campaigned, they hadn't had rate rate increases, pay increases for 20 years, 21 years.
They were working three jobs and two jobs and making less money than they made made 20 years ago. Median household income, as you all know very well, is the highest ever recorded by far. Since 2016, 28 states have reached or matched their lowest unemployment rate on record. So we have 28. You I think soon we're going to have just about everybody. And at the end of last year, a record. Thirty nine states had unemployment below 4 percent.
Again, another record.
Just as I promised during my campaign, we're fighting every day to expand opportunity for African-American communities all across our country. African-American youth, we have such great news on African-American youth. Unemployment has reached its lowest level ever recorded. It's a great statistic. African-American poverty rates have plummeted to their lowest rate ever in history. And wages for African-American workers have increased two thousand four hundred dollars a year. That's also a record at the center of our economic agenda are opportunity zones.
I hope you're embracing them. I think many of you are. My administration has worked with the governors in this room to create nearly 9000 opportunity zones in our most vulnerable communities. The jobs and money are pouring into these areas that have never seen investment. I mean, they haven't seen him in decades and decades and decades. And hundreds of millions of dollars are pouring into certain communities, individual communities, hundreds of millions of dollars. And there's never been anything like an opportunity zones.
Tim Scott did a great job on that. Senators Tim Scott. I urge all governors to create a state level version of our White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council to coordinate the efforts of state government to provide maximum support for the opportunity zones. And we're there to help you if you have a problem. Call me, literally call me and we'll work it out. But the opportunity zones. And that's Democrat or Republican, by the way, opportunities have been fantastic.
We must not stop until we've delivered equal and abundant opportunity for every community in our land. And that's what's happening. To give former prisoners a second chance. This is work better than any program ever. I was proud to sign the landmark criminal justice reform into law. And since that time, 10 states have passed legislation following our lead and there were numerous states. I know Texas was their governor with criminal justice reform. Amazing. And Kentucky and few others that were thought of as being very strict states.
And yet they had criminal justice reform. We looked a lot of what Texas did and some of the other states where it worked so well. And Alice Johnson is an example.
She was in for 22 years and yet another 20 years to serve on something that everything's bad. But to be in jail for 40 and 50 years for what Alice did on a telephone was crazy. Thanks to a roaring economy, former inmates are now finding jobs and the employers are so happy. Now the economy is really helping, but it's the first time ever we're prisoners coming out of jail, are finding jobs, loving it. And the employers, the feedback we're getting from so many people, so many employers are these are among the best people they have.
And they were, in a way forced by the economy, the good economy, because it's hard to get people down to 3.5 and actually went to 3.6 because we're opening up the valve at hiring more and more people. There was a positive. Two hundred and twenty five thousand, as I said. But the prisoners are now working and they're doing a phenomenal job. For the most part, are booming. Prosperity is being fueled by our historic regulatory reduction campaign in my first month in office.
I imposed a 2 for 1 rule requiring for every one new regulation to old ones must be eliminated. Well, that turned out to be.
We went to four, we went to six, we went to eight.
We had a period where we're at twenty two to one, twenty two to one, and we're eliminating on average three thousand one hundred dollars in regulation costs per family a year.
Nobody's ever even heard of such a thing. And we're getting housing bill too. We have rules and regulations made it impossible. I hope California gets their act together because the cost of regulations is almost the cost of a house and they need housing and they can't they can't build it. They don't know what they're doing.
The governor's initiative, a regulatory innovation, is designed to continue our unprecedented progress through straight state level deregulation. Gov. Doug Ducey has achieved 3 4 one on cuts wisdom. Good job, Doug. Well, he only won by about 17 percent. You know, he should be, too. In fact, at 70 percent, you should be a 4 to 1, I think is a big win.
Big one as a great win. And Governor Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma has reached two for one. And going to three for one was Kevin.
Hi, Kevin. Good job.
We're also working together and many of you in the room have done much better than one for one, much better. Some of Europe the for. We're also working together to reform occupational licensing. Just this year, at least 12 governors have taken action to reduce burdensome occupational licensing requirements. That means licensing were either it's unnecessary or where you actually can do it very quickly. There are some licensing requirements that takes years to get approved and it could take a matter of days, could take a matter of days.
Governors understand the need to get infrastructure projects quickly approved to speed up permitting and reduce traffic injection led congestion. Last month, we issued a proposed new rule to reduce, permitting and the permitting time for new infrastructure by more than 70 percent.
Highways that would take in 12 years to get approved 14, 15, 17, 21 years. We're trying to get it down to one year. That means you may get rejected if you have an environmental problem or safety problem. In many cases, these always became much more unsafe and they took a long time because they try and get away from certain problems, including nesting. But they try and get away and that instead of having a straight run, they create curves in the highway, which obviously make it much more dangerous.
And they have problems with some of those highways and the much more expensive to build not only the time, the design, but the time, I mean by the time they get it approved. So we have highways that would take 21 years. We have roads that took 10 years, 11 years, 12 years to get approved. And Elaine Chao has been fantastic. Lane, thank you very much. What the job you're doing a transportation. We appreciate it very much.
And Jeff, you were over there for a long while. I will tell us I have to give you at least partial credit. Right now, you're at a different location, but you really did. You did a great job on that. And so we have it down to two years now. But we I think we're going to get it down to one and. And very good chance you'll be rejected if it doesn't meet environmental standards and tests.
And we are rescuing students from failing government schools by introducing the Education, Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act, which will replicate the great success of tax credit scholarships available in 18 states. We believe very strongly or at least many of the people in this room, not all of them, but believe very strongly in school choice. We're also working closely with the states to improve public safety. This includes the incredible work being done by our nation's heroic ICE officers. We've moved thousands of M.S.
13 out of the country back to where they came from, whether it's Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Mexico. And as you know, we reached agreements with those countries so that we can do that. In the past administration, they wouldn't accept them. They come from one of the country's tough countries and we would send them back and they wouldn't take him. Not me. They take him now. Now they say, thank you so much for sending them back.
We will look for this killer. Thank you very much. We appreciate it. But they all take them now. They take them very quickly before they used to say, don't ever even think about landing that airplane. We don't want those people. So they take them back rapidly. Someday they'll tell the real story as to why. But that's the way it has to be. We have thousands and thousands of killers and gang members that we're bringing back to countries that now accept them.
They were not taken back. Last year alone, ICE officers arrested 120000 criminal aliens charged with nearly 10000 burglars. 5000 sexual assaults, 45000 violent assaults and 2000 murders. Now, some of them we keep hear when they. It's very egregious. We don't necessarily trust other people to take care of justice. So we keep them here. But, you know, we don't like having people in our prisons for 50 years, 60 years, and we have to pay for it.
And so for the most part, we bring them back to their countries and give them a very bad recommendation. State and local cooperation is the backbone of this effort. We have a tremendous relationship with many of the states and governments cities. It's essential that all of our states and cities honor ICE detainer requests to ensure that safe transfer of criminal aliens into federal custody takes place. Jurisdictions that adopt sanctuary policies and instead release these criminals put all of Americans in harm's way a very, very serious problem.
I mean, we're all here for the same thing and know we have different policies, different feelings, different everything. But sanctuary cities are causing us a tremendous problem in this country. We have stone cold killers that they don't want to hand over to us. And then they escape into communities and they cause, in some cases, tremendous havoc. Another vital element of federal and state cooperation is the relentless fight against opioids and the drug epidemic. We've had great progress, were down 18, 19 and 20 percent in some of the communities.
First lady has been very much involved in that. Kelly-Anne has been very much involved in a lot of the people in this room. Almost everybody in this room has been involved in it. So I want to thank you for that. We're making progress very tough all over the world is a problem all over the world. This is big problem here, but it's a big problem almost everywhere. For the first time in three decades, we've achieved a decline in drug overdose deaths, including, as an example, Ohio.
Mike is around here someplace. Like, like. Like 23 percent in Ohio, 19 percent in Pennsylvania, 10 percent in Wisconsin, and we're averaging probably about 16, 17 percent. So it's been it's not enough, but we're making a lot of progress. And if we had more help in Congress, we could get it even lower.
My administration is truly grateful for the leadership, cooperation, partnership and friendship of the governors in this room. No matter our party, we must work together and really do the job. And I think that's what's happening. Our country is now receiving thousands and thousands of companies that are coming into the United States. Some had left and some it never been here before. But they all want to be where the action is. We lost 60000 plants and factories over the year, 60000.
It's hard to even conceive. And we've got many of them back and many are coming back and they're moving to a lot of your states. I know a lot of them are coming into Texas and Florida and a lot of different locations. South Carolina, North Carolina, Pennsylvania. It's incredible what's happening. Ohio is a big beneficiary. Michigan is a tremendous beneficiary with the car companies, tremendous. Someone who's saying they're so happy in Michigan. And I meet with Prime Minister Abie of Japan.
I say you have to Shinzô. You have to get more car companies here. We have a deficit with you have to get them in. And they are they're sending a lot of companies. We hadn't built a plant in years and years and decades, frankly. And now we have car plants being built all over the United States and we have expansions, a lot of expansions of existing plants. So it's been really an incredible thing. We're doing incredible work and with the number one country in the world right now in terms of the economy.
When I was running and long before I was running, it always heard that China, a great, respectful presidency and great respect for China, frankly, but that China was going to be the number one economy in the world during twenty nineteen. It actually was twenty eighteen, twenty nineteen. You all heard it that we were going to go to number to. And I will tell you, we had our battle when we took in hundreds of billions of dollars in tariffs and other things.
And you saw the it was just announced the trade deficit was the lowest it's been in years with China. Just happened two days ago. They just announced. But we are now so far ahead of China in terms of the size of our economy, that if somebody is smart, that's at this position four times into the future. Hopefully after five years, I won't joke by saying nine, thirteen, fifty. It drives them crazy for the governor's address.
Even when I joke, it drives them crazy. I won't say that. But if somebody smart is in this position, it it'll never happen with China over taxes. It'll never happen. So we right now have we're so far ahead of them. They're not catching us for a long time. If the wrong person stands here or sits in the White House, that beautiful chair in the White House, in the Oval Office, sure. They got to you know, they're going to catch you have 1.5 billion people.
We have 350 million people.
But we have a very special place at a very special country. And nobody's going to catch us if we have great leadership. And you have been great leaders for your states, and we appreciate very much it. You're at the White House. Thank you very much. So what we're going to do is I thought maybe we could take a few questions if you want. We could leave the press there. The press would love that, I'm sure. Or we could have them.
We could have them leave or we could talk in a different fashion. You won't have to showboat.
So would anybody preference. We'll leave her here for a little while and then we'll we'll go a different route, perhaps. Any questions, please? Please.
Today, we're doing a big infrastructure potential deal. We need obviously, we need help from we need the votes of Democrats. They've been so focused on something else and wasting a lot of people's time. Although my poll numbers have been driven way the hell up. So that's one way to do it, I guess. But they have been so focused on the impeachment hoax that they haven't had time to do anything else. But we're ready to go with the big infrastructure bill if they're ready to approve it.
We're also ready to lower drug prices very substantially. We did last year was the first time in 51 years that drug prices, prescription drug prices went down first time in 51 years. But to get them really down, we have to do exactly what we're doing, where we have we need the votes of the Democrats. And they just didn't have the time to do anything. So maybe they will now have the time, but we're all ready to go.
And infrastructure on reducing drug prices, very substantial. We can reduce drug prices unbelievably easily and substantially. But we have to get Democrat votes.
OK. Thank you. Thank you, Governor.
Please sit down with Rain Man. What's next on your agenda for trade?
So Europe has been treating us very badly. European Union was really formed so they could treat us badly. So they've done their job. And I was one of the primary reasons. But they treat us badly there and they treat us badly, frankly, on NATO. But NATO, I've gotten, as you know, $130 billion more they will pay because NATO is going down like a rocket ship. Our past leaders would go over, make a speech and leave.
I went over, made a speech and said, you got to pay more because the United States was paying everything. Essentially, they were paying close to 100 percent. And I let him know. We have no choice. And they are paying more. They paid 130 million. I think my biggest fan of the whole world is Secretary-General Stoltenberg, head of NATO. They said he can't believe it goes for 20 years in one day. It's like a rollercoaster death.
No, no. None of this just down. They paid less and less and less. And it got more expensive and more expensive with time. But I raised one hundred and thirty billion dollars. My first meeting and I raised four hundred billion. Second meeting. So now it's in good shape. But, you know, we were taken advantage of by a lot of countries, a lot of allies, frankly, sometimes allies do a better job idea than the enemy because the enemies you you watch out for.
Right. So, Pete, I think that. The next thing could be Europe, where we talk to them very seriously. And they have to do it because they've there's been a over the last 10, 12 years, there's been a tremendous deficit with Europe. They have barriers that are incredible. I didn't do that. I didn't want to do them while we were doing China, Japan, South Korea. You know, I didn't want to do the whole world at one time.
Does that make sense? People of Iran. That doesn't work out too well, even on trade. So we're going to be starting that. They know that. They know that they're ready for it. You know, we made a good deal with Japan. We're gonna do a bigger, much more comprehensive deal. But we're taking it 40 billion from Japan, which they didn't expect nobody expected. We've done great on the trade. It's going to have a tremendous impact.
Now, the virus that we're talking about having to do, you know, a lot of people think that goes away in April with the heat as the heat comes in. Typically, that will go away in April. We're in great shape, though, where we have twelve cases, eleven cases. And many of them are in good shape now. So but a very good question. Yes, please.
Colorado criminal aliens. What about also what are your ideas for fixing airport up for the kind of the dreamers and the folks who are here that are hardworking?
And, you know, it's really tough out there. And they work on our farms and their kids who grew up here. And how do we do that? And at the same time, you're you're also kind of enforcing the other side for those who violate our laws.
Well, we almost had a deal on that with the Democrats. As you know, it was done. And then we lost a decision and the Democrats said Trump, who's that? Trump? Who's that? But we were very close to having a deal. And the dreamers with the with the House and with the Senate would have been a very good deal for everybody. So we're looking at that. But now we're before the Supreme Court. I think we're going to win because if we don't win, that gives the president of the United States unbelievable powers.
You know, President Obama signed that bill. It was an executive order. And when he signed that, he said essentially, he said, I don't have the right to do this, but I'm going to do it anywhere. And he was upheld by a judge. And anyway, it'll be before the Supreme Court pretty soon. And at some point, I think we'll probably make a deal on that. I do feel that way. OK. Good question.
Question Yes, please. Gary, how is Mitt Romney?
You know, we don't want to go on stage doing a great job in Utah, by the way. Go ahead. Gary states you used to balancing budgets.
I think by and large, we spend more than we take in. And I know you unveiled your budget today, and I know there's a concern for you as the growing debt. I know we've had nonpartisan economists talk to us as governor saying this is going to come back to bite us in the future if we don't do something about it. I agree. What are we doing? How do we get to a more balanced budget? Certainly reduced the debt is the ball to continue to here.
So we're putting out a plan today that over a period of not that long a period of time brings our our budget and our deficit down to what it should be, which is close to zero. And I think people are going to be very impressed by it. We're not touching Medicare. We want to keep Medicare. We're not touching Social Security. We're making our country stronger again. We're not decreasing Medicaid, but we're doing a lot of things that are very good, including waste and fraud, tremendous waste and tremendous fraud.
So what we're doing that in terms of certain programs and we're taking good care of our military, we're increasing spending on our nuclear program because we have no choice because of what China is doing, what Russia is doing in particular. And so we have a very big number in for that. Now, at the same time, Russia and China both want to negotiate with us to stop this craziness of spending billions and billions of dollars on nuclear weapons. But the only way until we have that agreement, the only thing I can do is create by far the strongest nuclear force anywhere in the world, which, as you know, over the last three years, we've very much upgraded our nuclear.
But we're buying new. We have the superfast missiles, tremendous number of the super-fast, we call them super-fast, where they're four, five, six and even seven times faster than an ordinary missile. We need that because again, Russia has some. I won't tell you how they got it, they got it supposedly from plans from the Obama administration when we weren't doing it. And that's too bad. That's not good. But that's how it happened. And China, as you know, is doing it.
So we have a tremendous $740 billion for military. But again, it's also jobs in the United States. So it's you know, it's everything's made in the United States proudly. And we have the best in the world with the best equipment in the world, the best missiles, planes, rockets. Everybody wants our equipment. We have to be very selective, obviously, but we're we're going to have a very good budget with a very powerful military budget because we have no choice.
OK, about that. Ron, you have something about, for instance, your plan of buying and cutting prescription drugs. You want to tell them what we're doing?
Well, we can all about the administration approval under an old 2003 law and prior administration did not utilize to allow safe, affordable drugs to be imported from Canada. So that's gone through the regulatory process. We in Florida are working our own parallel track and your rules are in place. You know, we're looking to buy. And we could save a lot of money just for things like our prison system because. Right roads are a lot cheaper. So we think they'll be good savings here.
But I think he opens up a larger conversation. I know you want to harp about why are we funding the drugs for our world? You know, Americans want relief. And I know. Thanks for approving Florida for a program.
You can go and Colorado's doing that also. You can go to certain countries and the exact same pill made in the exact same plant factory, wherever it may be from one of the big companies will sell for 50, 60, 70 percent less than the United States is paying because it's broken. It's a broken system. And so one of the things I've authorized is that certain states have requested probably after this. Everybody in this group will go back. But but if we buy from Canada, you say 50 percent at this moment.
Now, that may go up or everything may come down. One thing is going to happen or another. Either the drug companies are going to raise it and not make it possible to buy. They're going to raise it in Canada, meaning say we'll be able to do it or everyone's going to go down because you have a middleman in the middle that are making a fortune. Nobody knows who these people are, but they're getting rich because we had a broken system and it's about time it gets fixed.
So a lot a lot of shakeup is going to take place. But if we had Democrats helping us, we could solve this problem in one day. But they don't want to vote again. They don't have any time to vote. They don't have any time to do anything other than what they do. So they seem to be freed up a lot now. They've freed up a lot. Actually, I hear. How about a couple of more and they will let the press go and relax and take it easy.
Please, Governor, your ministration has done a great job with regard to addressing the opioid crisis. An aspect about that is the growing problem of fitting all especially fitting on coming across the southern border. Right. It's my understanding that there's some information about a lot of that coming from China. Yes. What I'm curious about is what the status is with regard to the reduction of fitness coming from China and our ability to corral them to and to reduce that.
So as you know, it's gone down. I met with President Xi on the trade deal and I said, you have to stop fentanyl coming into our country. You have to do me a favor and stop it. You have to get it stopped. It has to end because it's a favor for our country. And we're losing thousands and thousands of people to fentanyl. I mean, the size of a pinhead can kill a lot of people. It's unbelievably bad.
And they send it direct and they sent it through Mexico and through the border. And we would catch a lot of it. But even of a little bit got through. It's a very deadly drug and they have cut it way back. And they've also criminalized it wasn't a criminal. They considered a a corporate kind of a thing. It was a drug of a different nature. And now they put it into their criminal statutes. And criminal angina for drugs, by the way, means that's serious.
They're getting a maximum penalty. And you know what the maximum penalty is in China for that. And it goes very quickly. It's interesting. We have Singapore. They have very little drug problem. We have China. They have very little drug problem states with a very powerful death penalty on drug dealers don't have a drug problem. I don't know that our country is ready for that. But if you look throughout the world, the countries with a powerful death penalty, death penalty with a fair but quick trial, they have very little, if any, drug problem.
That includes China. But they've put Fenton all now into there. He's working on that. And we've gone down a lot, as you know, they put it into their penalty system and. People will be getting the death penalty in China now for Fenton. I was a big thing. It's not it's not part of the trade agreement, but it is part of the trade agreement. And they have acted on it. Now, of course, they are working on something else.
And I think they're doing a good job on that on the virus. Had a long talk with President Xi feet for the people in this room two nights ago. And he feels very confident. He feels very confident. And he feels that, again, as I mentioned, by April or during the month of April, the heat, generally speaking, kills this kind of virus. So that would be a good thing. But we're in great shape in our country.
We have eleven and the eleven are getting better. Okay. So great question. I think that fentanyl is a huge problem. It's almost at this moment 100 percent made in China and they are starting to enforce it on our behalf. We have a good relationship with China now, probably the best we've ever had. Okay. OK, so I think what we'll do any other questions from the governors? Yes, please. As president, I want to thank you for giving the states more flexibility and health care, particularly last week.
Your Health and Human Services announced the Medicaid BLOCK Grant Waiver Authority for the states. Arkansas will be pursuing that. I want to thank you for that. And also ask you in terms of your State of the Union address, you talked about health care. Is there anything that we can expect this year in Congress, an election year? Is there anything that we can get done that you're going to be a priority in Congress this year?
So we did a big thing on health care. We got rid of the individual mandate on Obamacare, which basically made Obamacare, not Obamacare anymore. It was the most unpopular thing in Obamacare. And basically, you paid a lot of money for the privilege of not paying to have bad health care. And nobody wanted that. And we got rid of a big, big move. And I had a choice I can make. So it really isn't Obamacare anymore, but I can and we do.
As you know, we left preexisting conditions and everything. We left it because preexisting will always have. And I think I can speak for Democrats, too. But we are all going to have preexisting conditions. We are always going to make sure that that's taken care of the preexisting condition situation. I think I can speak. I know I can speak for Republicans. I think I can speak for Democrats. It's a it's a part of our society right down.
Nobody's going to change it. If a law is overturned, that's OK, because the new law is going to have it in. The new law would replace the old law that was overturned. It would have preexisting conditions. So I think it's important to say but one thing that we will be doing is, at least from a Republican standpoint, you have 180 million people out there that have great health insurance. They love it, private health insurance. And we're going to save it.
Other people are thinking about terminating it, which is brutal for unions and others. So I don't know how they're going to get around that, but we're going to be saving that. But when I took over, I had a choice. So we got rid of the most unpopular thing in Obamacare, almost got rid of Obamacare. But essentially we did.
But now I said, do we run it really well? Or do we run it really poorly? Do we make everybody unhappy and blame the Democrats or do we make people relatively happy with a bad law? It's a bad law. Bad. It's a bad policy. But to make people relatively happy and I chose I felt I had an obligation to do the latter. So it's been working out pretty well. And it goes along. And we've done block grants.
We've done a lot of different things with different states. And we're telling me really it's tailor made for different states. We are doing things for states. Some people want block grants, some people want something else. And we're working with individual states. And I think governors are really happy and really surprised that we're doing that. I could have just cold lined it and just said, we're not doing anything and everybody would be happy. Everybody would be complaining.
But I think the best thing for our country to do is the way we're doing it. Until we get a replacement for Obamacare, a full replacement, that's going to be great. And I would say this, if we change the house, if we get the House, the Republicans get the House back, we will have that. Otherwise, we'll just have to negotiate with the Democrats. And I think at some point they'll come around and start negotiating these things because they really are good.
So media, thank you very much. We appreciate it. And we'll have a little more discussion. Thank you very much.