Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Senate Republicans offer revised state budget

Senate Republican President Len Fasano
Connecticut Senate Republicans said in a release that the caucus offered "revisions to their two-year, line-by-line state budget proposal with no new taxes that rejects the labor savings deal negotiated by Governor Dannel P. Malloy and state employee union leaders. "
The release is hared here, unedited, as a service to readers:
Instead of relying on the proposed deal with the state employee unions, which would lock the state into specified benefits including wage increases ranging from 9% - 11% over 5 years, the Senate Republicans identified two alternative labor savings plan options to accompany their two-year budget proposal:
        Option A: A savings plan that could be achieved by renegotiating a deal with the labor unions.
        Option B: A savings plan that could be achieved through legislative action alone if the state employee unions do not come back to the negotiation table.
“State employees are hardworking individuals who provide core services to people across our state every day. However, all parties recognize that current state employee benefits are not sustainable,” said Senate Republican President Pro Tempore Len Fasano (R-North Haven). “These benefits far exceed what is received by union employees outside of state government, state employees outside of Connecticut and employees in the private sector. We need to make significant structural changes to benefits in order to protect our state employees from dramatic layoffs and to make sure the pensions and health care benefits the state has promised will be properly funded. Just like we are asking for changes throughout state government, we have to make changes to employee benefits as well. Based on the numbers, the proposed deal made by the governor and state employee unions is not the best deal possible for our state. Therefore our caucus has outlined two different paths we can pursue instead.”
The governor’s proposed labor deal with the state employee unions is estimated to save $1.5 billion over two years, but only $186 million, or 12%, of those savings come from concessions that fall outside of the control of the legislature and that need approval from state employee unions and the governor to pass. By utilizing data from the Office of Policy and Management, the Senate Republican Caucus has calculated that $1.3 billion of the governor’s proposal could be achieved through statutory changes alone without locking the state into the SEBAC contract for another 5 years.
“A labor savings deal that locks our state into these state employee contracts until 2027 and only relies on $186 million in concessions is not a good deal for the state of Connecticut. We would be tying the hands of future legislatures and governors, and putting future funding for budget items such as social services and education in jeopardy in exchange for less than $190 million in labor savings. History has taught us it’s not in the best interest to lock ourselves into a contract for minimal savings,” said Deputy Senate Republican President Pro Tempore Kevin Witkos (R-Canton).
“Our proposed labor savings plans show that there are other options to achieve the significant structural changes we need to balance our budget, pave a path to a more sustainable future and protect jobs,” said Senator Paul Formica, Co-Chair of the Appropriations Committee. “These plans bring multiple ideas to the table so that we can all begin important conversations together.”
“We also need to look at progressive changes that won’t hurt lower paid employees more than higher paid employees,” Sen. Fasano added. “We are proud to offer ideas to implement significant reform and create a fair system, such as a sliding scale for health care benefits based on an employee’s salary.”
Option A lays out revisions to the deal negotiated by Governor Dannel P. Malloy to save at least an additional $657.4 million in state employee concessions achieved through collective bargaining if state unions are open to negotiations. Paired with statutory changes, this proposal would save at least $2.5 billion over two years and would extend the SEBAC contract in exchange for these significant structural changes and savings.
Option B includes approximately $2.1 billion in labor savings that can be achieved through legislative action alone outside of collective bargaining. Beyond the statutory labor changes, this option also includes approximately $160 million in additional changes to the non-labor portion of the Senate Republican budget released earlier this month to resolve the full deficit.
Either of these two options when implemented would balance the Senate Republican “Confident Connecticut” budget. This budget does the following:
        Does not include new taxes
        Increases Education Cost Sharing funding by $170 million in the first two years and implements a new funding formula
        Protects all towns and cities from cuts to statutory municipal grants in year one, either holding municipalities harmless or increasing funds
        Maintains tax exempt status for hospitals to protect them from a new local hospital tax
        Preserves core government services by restoring funding for social services and programs that benefit people most in need
        Prioritizes transportation needs and stabilizes funding without tolls
        Lowers taxes for retirees and helps seniors age in place
        Enhances funding for state parks and tourism
        Streamlines government
        Provides for structural changes
More details about the proposed labor savings options available in the attached presentation.
Full details on the complete Senate Republican “Confident Connecticut” fiscal years 2018/2019 budget proposal available on

Gov. Malloy's prepared remarks on Aetna

According to a release: Governor Dannel P. Malloy delivered the following prepared remarks on Aetna during a press conference; (shared unedited here)
Thank you for coming.  I understand that there has been a great deal of discussion over the past 24 hours about Aetna.  I’ve invited you here today to share my administration’s perspective on this important topic.
Let me begin by saying this: Aetna is an excellent employer and an important corporate citizen.  They have been a core part of our state and specifically of Hartford since 1853.  Connecticut should and does greatly value our relationship with this company, and with the thousands of people they employ here.
I deeply and truly believe that the City of Hartford and the greater Hartford region provides a strong foundation for any company in the insurance sector, large or small.  From a very deep bench of top insurance talent, to a knowledgeable and well-regarded state insurance department, to incredible school systems and a high quality of life for employees, Connecticut is the insurance capitol of the world for good reason.
And, as insurers are evolving its strategy to focus more on consumer-based products and services, Hartford is evolving too – bringing tech, marketing, and entrepreneurial talent right to its downtown.
Now, in terms of more recent conversations taking place about Aetna’s future, it would be wrong of me to speak for them in terms of where they are in any decision-making process.  Those are questions you have to ask them directly.  What I can do is speak for my administration’s role as a partner to Aetna and their employees, and share with you some of the efforts we’ve made – and continue to make – in order to ensure they remain a major Connecticut employer.
To begin, we have had many discussions with them over months – and in fact years – about their long-term plans and the prospect of changes, specifically at the executive level.
While we have not been notified by the company of their intention to change their footprint in Connecticut, it is my personal belief that some amount of change is coming, and that it will likely include a change in their headquarter designation, along with some number of executive positions.
I believe the vast majority of the 5,800 jobs in Connecticut will stay here, and that they could continue to choose Connecticut as their regulator.  This could be akin to another large Hartford insurer who is not headquartered in Connecticut, but chooses to have a substantial base here and operate as a Connecticut regulated insurer because of the benefits and predictability that choice provides them.
Here’s why I believe these things.  My administration has met and spoken with senior Aetna leadership multiple times in recent months.  In addition to repeatedly making clear how much the company means to Connecticut, we’ve put formal offers in front of them.
Most significantly, we have offered direct incentives for them to stay, up to and including matching anything put on the table from a competing state in order to keep Aetna’s headquarters and jobs here in Connecticut.  We’ve also included specific proposals that would, among other things, strengthen the City of Hartford, bolster our workforce development around Aetna’s needs, improve transportation in the region in which they operate, and make our state an even better and more responsive marketplace for them and other insurers.
To date, while we have continued to have conversations, we have not been taken up on these offers.  While I don’t have any indication that they have come to a decision relative to other state or city offers, I believe their lack of a direct response speaks volumes about their intentions, at least when it comes to their headquarters.
It is my own opinion that this has more to do with their desire to have executive leadership operate in a larger, more vibrant urban center than Connecticut can currently offer.  We all know that employers – especially large employers – are attracted to city centers.  We know that now more than ever, we are in competition across all industries – not just with Massachusetts or New York state, but more specifically with Boston and New York City.
It’s why my budget proposal this year is so focused on not just protecting our cities, but in growing them.  In making them into even more dynamic and exciting places to work and to live.  In following through on the investments that are now transforming Hartford with 1000 new apartments, university campuses downtown and increasing occupancy of our capitals office space.
And when it comes to the insurance sector, it’s why this session I’ve proposed changes that would reduce their premium tax, and why I’ve proposed legislation to provide for the timely review of new insurance mandates.
Let’s be clear: Hartford is not ever going to be New York or Boston.  And that’s fine.  Because New York or Boston are not ever going to be Hartford, not when it comes to the history and unique advantages we offer the insurance industry and many other companies that call Hartford home.  Not when it comes to the unmatched talent we offer these employers, and not when it comes to our responsive and supportive regulatory environment.
It is still my hope that Aetna makes the decision to keep their headquarters here.  But for me, this is now a conversation about the thousands of employees they have in our state.  Keeping those employees in Connecticut is far more important than where Aetna plants its corporate flag.
Finally, I will say that I hope any decision by the company – no matter what it is – is made soon.  For the sake of their employees and the City of Hartford, we should not prolong this conversation any longer than we need to.
The state’s offers are on the table. Those offers stand. We await a response.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Read Gov. Malloy's letter to DeVos

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy wrote a letter to U.S. Education Secretary DeVos. In a release, Malloy's office said "Last week, Secretary DeVos made a disparaging reference to East Hartford Public Schools. The Governor is inviting the Secretary to visit to see for herself the promise that the district holds in reality. He is offering personally to pay her airfare to Bradley."

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Sens. Looney, Fasano 'Applaud Passage of Legislation Enhancing Pharmaceutical Transparency and Consumer Protection'

Senator Fasano
The following release was issued Wednesday. It is posted here, unedited, to share with the community
HARTFORD, Conn. – Today Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven) and Senate Republican President Pro Tempore Len Fasano (R-North Haven) applauded the Senate’s bipartisan efforts to pass important patient-friendly legislation.
The health care bill passed by the Senate today with unanimous support will help increase transparency regarding pharmaceutical costs, prevent consumers from paying more for prescription drugs than the drug actually costs and ensure fair competition to benefit consumers.
Senate Bill 445 extends Sen. Looney and Sen. Fasano’s efforts over several years to implement significant health care reforms in the state of Connecticut.
A major portion of the bill addresses fairness in pharmacy benefit manager contracts. The bill eliminates restrictive “gag clauses” that prevent pharmacists from sharing price information with their patients, especially as it relates to lower cost options. It also bans “claw back” provisions which result in consumers paying more than a prescription actually costs.
Senator Looney
For example, if a consumer goes to a pharmacy and pays a $20 co-pay, this co-pay is agreed to by the pharmacy benefits manager (PBM) and the insurers who hire the PBM. Pharmacists are reimbursed for the price of the drug (sometimes a small service fee) which could be just $5 and the PBM pockets the difference, in this case $15, as a secret claw back. In some cases, patients could actually receive their prescription drug for a lower price if they pay out of pocket and not through their insurance policy. Similar legislation has been adopted in other states including Louisiana, Arkansas, and Maine and has passed the Texas legislature.
“This bipartisan legislation outlaws anti-consumer practices that have contributed to rising prescription drug prices and led to Connecticut residents being price gauged at pharmacy counter,” said Senator Looney. “In addition, our bill ‘requires that facility fee notices include a telephone number that the patient can call to get more information including the estimated exact amount of the fee.’ Also, the legislation addresses surprise bills for service from clinical laboratories and requires patient consent in writing for out of network services.”
“This legislation is intended to protect consumers here in Connecticut,” said Senator Fasano. “Pharmacists should not be prohibited from disclosing relevant information about the cost of treatment options. At the end of the day this is about making healthcare more affordable for Connecticut residents and protecting our consumers,” said Sen. Fasano. “The profits that these companies make on claw backs is shocking, these profits should not be bank-rolled on the backs of our hard-working families, and this legislation protects against that practice.”
Another provision of the bill addresses fair competition for the benefit of Connecticut consumers, specifically in regard to anti-trust laws. Connecticut is one of only 12 states that had not clarified their anti-trust laws to protect consumers. The bill explains that a pharmaceutical or medical device manufacturer cannot avoid liability for price fixing or other anticompetitive behavior simply because the consumer was not a “direct purchaser” of a product. Specifically in the pharmaceutical and health care market consumers are almost never the “direct purchaser” of a product, often times a much needed drug. This will allow consumers and the state, if they have been injured by anticompetitive behavior that violates our antitrust laws to have their day in court.
The bill also clarifies the definition of facility fee, requires notice of a facility fee at the time of scheduling an appointment, and requires that facility fee written notices include telephone numbers so that patients can find out the exact amount a facility fee would cost them. This is intended to provide more cost information to patients early on so they can better plan for their medical care.
“Transparency is the greatest tool we have to combat unsustainable drug cost increases and help Connecticut residents make the best decisions regarding their health,” said Senator Terry Gerratana (D-New Britain) Co-Chair of the Public Health Committee. “We have heard far too many instances of skyrocketing prices keeping medicine out of the hands of the people who need it. Passing this bill will shed light on prescription drug pricing, reducing costs and making our health system work better for everyone.”
“It is our job as legislators to always protect our constituents,” said Senator Heather Somers (R-Groton), Co-Chair of the Public Health Committee. “This legislation is about taking proactive steps to ensure accountability for anti-competitive behavior and safeguarding consumers from non-transparent pricing.”

Connecticut Voices for Children Statement on the President's Budget Proposal

The following press release is posted here, unedited, as an information resource only:

NEW HAVEN – President Trump’s budget proposal represents a major threat to Connecticut’s economic prosperity, inflicts severe cuts to the programs that serve the most vulnerable children and families in our state, and could dramatically worsen the state’s current fiscal crisis.
The proposal slashes nutrition, health care, and other important assistance that helps hundreds of thousands of Connecticut residents meet basic living standards – food on the table, a roof over their heads, and access to health care – while giving new tax breaks to the wealthy and powerful and undermining the long term economic growth and prosperity of the state. The proposal would shift massive costs to Connecticut at a time when our state is already struggling to meet needs for education, transportation and other services. Currently, the state relies of federal funding for one-fifth of its budget.
“Slashing these programs would be both unwise and unfair,” said Ellen Shemitz, Executive Director of Connecticut Voices for Children. “Connecticut cannot afford to undermine its long-term wellbeing with program cuts that threaten the very foundations of healthy child development. We need to understand that some cuts never heal.”   
The President’s proposal includes the following cuts to key programs.
  • The budget would make deep cuts in Medicaid funding, jeopardizing health insurance and access to regular medical care for the more than 318,000 children insured through Medicaid in Connecticut—almost three out of eight children. Medicaid cuts would also endanger health coverage for the 121,000 elderly individuals in the state that rely on the program. The budget assumes these cuts would be in addition to the $880 billion in cuts from Medicaid in the bill the House recently passed to repeal the Affordable Care Act. 
  • The President’s proposal would cut funding for the SNAP program (formerly food stamps) by a quarter, putting children at risk of going hungry and becoming sick. In February 2016, more than 233,000 households in Connecticut received SNAP; 35 percent had children.
  • The President’s budget proposal includes cuts to Social Security Disability, affecting 81,000 individuals in Connecticut, and Supplemental Security Income, with more than 64,000 recipients in the state.
  • The President’s budget provides only level funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant. In Connecticut, unless funding for child care is increased, 1,600 children would lose their child care.
About Connecticut Voices for Children:  Connecticut Voices for Children is a research-based child advocacy organization working to ensure that all Connecticut children have an equitable opportunity to achieve their full potential. In furtherance of its mission, Connecticut Voices for Children produces high-quality research and analysis, promotes citizen education, advocates for policy change at the state and local level, and works to develop the next generation of leaders.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

DeLauro statement on Trump budget

"DeLauro: Trumps Budget is a Betrayal of Working Americans and an Assault on the Vulnerable"
The following is the most recent release from the office of U.S. Rosa DeLauro: (unedited here)
WASHINGTON, DC  Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) released the following statement regarding President Trump’s 2018 budget after the Department of Health and Human Services’ budget was posted earlier today. DeLauro is the Senior Democrat on the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee.

“President Trump’s budget is a betrayal of working Americans and an assault on the vulnerable. Despite campaigning on the promise that he would fight for the American worker and the forgotten men and women of this country, President Trump proposes to recklessly slash critical programs that serve millions of Americans. The programs targeted in President Trump’s budget have a real and measurable impact on people’s lives, yet the Trump Administration feels no need to invest in their future.

“From completely eliminating LIHEAP, Preschool Development Grants, and the Community Services Block Grant, to cruelly cutting Head Start and the Child Care Development Block Grant, the Trump Administration is taking away lifelines for millions of working families. Combined with the Trump Administration’s $193 billion cut to SNAP, President Trump is set on making it harder for working families and the poor to get ahead.

“On health care, President Trump wants to make an unconscionable $7.5 billion cut to the National Institutes of Health and a $1.2 billion cut to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Further, he is proposing to slash nearly $616 billion from Medicaid and CHIP, as well as cut hundreds of millions of dollars from mental health programs. Where are the Trump Administration’s values? These cuts jeopardize the health and well-being of the American people.

“Budgets reflect our values and it is more clear than ever that President Trump only values corporations and the wealthy, not working Americans and the vulnerable. President Trump misled the American people during his campaign and he has now betrayed them with this budget. Congress must reject President Trump’s proposal and put forth a budget that works for America’s most vulnerable, not balance it on their backs.”

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Remarks by President Trump at United States Coast Guard Academy Commencement Ceremony

The following, unedited here, was released by the White House:
THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Thank you, John.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you, and congratulations to the Class of 2017.  Great job. 
And, General Kelly, I want to thank you for your leadership as the Coast Guard’s Service Secretary.  You’ve really been something very, very special to us as a country, and to me and our administration.  You’ve done throughout your entire life an incredible job defending your country.  Thank you very much, John.  (Applause.) 
And John and all of his folks are also doing an incredible job protecting our homeland and our border.  And I’m thrilled that my first address to the Service Academy is the graduation ceremony for the United States Coast Guard.  Believe me, it’s a great honor.  (Applause.)  I’ve been here before and it’s a very, very special place.  Every cadet graduating today, as your Commander-in-Chief, it is truly my honor to welcome you aboard.  (Applause.)  And you should take a moment to celebrate this incredible achievement.
Governor Malloy, thank you for being here.  Governor, thank you.  We’re glad you could join us.  And I know how busy the governors are nowadays, and they’re out there fighting.  It’s never easy.  Budgets are a little tight, but we’re doing a job, all of us are doing a job, working together. 
I want to also thank Admiral Zookunft and his leadership.  His leadership has been amazing.  Today’s graduates will be fortunate to serve under such capable and experienced Commandant. He really is fantastic. 
Thanks also to Admiral Rendon, the Academy Superintendent.  Admiral, I understand you come from a true Coast Guard family.  Two brothers, a nephew, a cousin have all passed through these halls.  That’s very impressive.  I guess you like the place, right?  (Applause.)  Somebody in your family has been doing something right, I can tell you that.  I’m sure they all are very proud, just as we are very proud of the fine young officers who are graduating today, Admiral, on your watch. 
I would also like to take this opportunity to express our appreciation to all of the parents and the grandparents and family members who have supported these amazing graduates.  Give your parents and everyone a hand.  Come on.  (Applause.)  Because America has families like yours, and we’ll keep all of those families safe and very, very secure.  You’re keeping your families safe now.  
If you are not already, you’re about to become military families.  So, starting today, I hope you feel the full gratitude of our nation.  These fine young cadets are about to take their rightful place on the front line of defense for the United States of America.  Cadets, you deserve not only the congratulations but the gratitude of each and every American, and we all salute you. (Applause.)  A proud nation.  And you’re a part of a very, very proud nation which salutes the 195 199 cadets of the Coast Guard Academy Class of 2017.  Good job.  (Applause.) 
And I understand from the admirals that this has been a very special class.  You’ve been trained here to handle the toughest of situations, the hardest of moments really that you can experience, and the hardest in people’s lives, and to help the weak in their hour of need.  But even for the Coast Guard, this class has been exceptionally dedicated to public service.
You served breakfast at the local food bank every single weekday.  You rebuilt a home with Habitat for Humanity.  Last year, you led cadets in donating a total of 24,000 hours -- a lot of time -- to community service.  You’ve done amazing work.  And in the true Coast Guard fashion, you had fewer people and fewer resources, but you accomplished the objectives, and you did it with skill and with pride -- and, I’d like to say, under budget and ahead of schedule.  We’re doing a lot of that now in the United States government.  (Applause.)  We’re doing a lot of that. 
I won’t talk about how much I saved you on the F-35 fighter jet.  I won’t even talk about it.  Or how much we’re about to save you on the Gerald Ford, the aircraft carrier.  That had a little bit of an overrun problem before I got here, you know that.  Still going to have an overrun problem.  We came in when it was finished.  But we’re going to save some good money.  And when we build the new aircraft carriers they’re going to be built under budget and ahead of schedule, just remember that.  (Applause.)  That will allow us to build more. 
Now, of course, there are always a few slip-ups from time to time -- you know that.  For example, I understand that once or twice, First Class Cadet Bruce Kim -- where’s Bruce?  (Applause.) Where’s Bruce?  Oh, Bruce, how do you do this to yourself, Bruce? (Laughter.)  As Regimental Parking Officer, might have accidentally caused a few tickets to be issued or a few of your cars to be booted.  Bruce, what’s going on with you?  (Laughter.)
But, Cadets, from this day forward, we want everyone to have a clean slate in life.  That includes Bruce, right? (Laughter.) And so, for any oversights or small violations that might have occurred this year, as tradition demands, I hereby absolve every cadet serving restrictions for minor offenses. 
Now, Bruce -- stand up once again, Bruce.  (Laughter.)  They saved you, Bruce, because they all wanted me to do that, okay?  Thank you, Bruce.  Congratulations, Bruce.  (Applause.)  Good job.  By the way, Bruce, don't worry about it.  That's the tradition.  I was forced to do that.  You know that.  Don't worry.  (Laughter.)   
This is truly an amazing group of cadets that are here today for commission.  You could have gone to school anywhere you wanted -- and with very, very few responsibilities by comparison. Instead, you chose the path of service.  You chose hard work, high standards, and a very noble mission -- to save lives, defend the homeland, and protect America’s interests around the world.  You chose the Coast Guard.  Good choice.  Good choice.  (Applause.) 
You’ve learned skills they don’t teach at other schools right here on the grounds of this academy and also on your larger campus -- the open sea.  That is a large, large campus, isn’t it? A beautiful campus.  But the greatest lesson you’ve learned at this proud institution is the knowledge you've learned about yourself.  It’s the knowledge that each and every one of you is something very special -- you are leaders. 
From the first stormy days of your Swab Summer to your final weeks as a first class cadet, you have been expected to take responsibility, to make decisions, and to act.  And I -- like all leaders, that's exactly what you have to do.  You have to act, and you have to act properly.  And you have to learn how to act under great, great pressure.  You're all going to be under great pressure.  You have to learn how to respond and to act under great pressure.
Just days from now, you will put this vital skill into the service of your ships, your sectors, and your country.  You’ll serve as deck watch officers on our amazing Coast Guard cutters. You’ll bring law and order to the dangerous waters as boating officers.  You will block illegal shipments of cash, weapons and drugs.  You will battle the scourge of human trafficking -- something that people haven’t been talking about.  One of the big, big plagues of the world.  Not our country only -- the world.  Human trafficking. 
Americans will place their trust in your leadership, just as they have trusted in generations of Coast Guard men and women, with respect for your skill, with awe at your courage, and with the knowledge that you will always be ready.  You are Always Ready.   
Not only will our citizens trust in your leadership, your commanders will trust you as well.  The Coast Guard is the gold standard in delegating decision-making down to chain command.  So just as your instructors have at the academy, your Coast Guard commanders will explain their vision, and then they will trust you to get the job done.  Just like I, as your President, will also trust you to get the job done.
It’s amazing to think of the adventures that are about to begin for you.  Across the country this month, millions of other students are graduating high school, college.  Many others are wondering, just what am I going to do.  They're saying to themselves, what are they going to do.  You know what you're going to do.  Many, many students are graduating from college right now.  They're saying, what am I going to do?  Where am I going to go to work?  You know it.  You picked a good one, by the way.  You picked a beautiful one, a good one, and we're really proud to have you, I can tell you.  (Applause.)
Years from now, some of them may look back and ask themselves whether they’ve made the right choice, whether they’ve made the most of the opportunities they’ve been given.  In the Coast Guard, you will face many challenges and many threats, but one thing you will never have to face is that question of what will I do.  When you look back, you won’t doubt.  You know exactly how you spent your time -- saving lives.
I look at your admirals, I look at General Kelly, I look at some of the great people in service, and I want to tell you, they're excited about life.  They love what they do.  They love the country.  They love protecting our country, and they love what they do.  Is that right?  Good.  I didn't think anyone was going to say no.  (Laughter.)  That would have ruined our speech, right?  (Laughter.)  They're great people. 
You always know just what you’ll be:  the leaders and officers of the United States Coast Guard.  (Applause.)
And when they see your uniform, everyone in the world will know exactly what that means.  What standard -- and really if you think of it, when you talk about the great sailors, and the great sailors of the world, we have them.  But what stranded sailor doesn’t feel relief when those red racing stripes break the horizon?  What drifting soul at sea, with only a short time left to live, doesn’t rejoice at the sound of those chopper blades overhead, coming back and coming down to rescue them from death? What poison-peddling drug runner, the scourge of our country, doesn’t tremble with fear when the might of the Coast Guard comes bearing down on them?  In each case, we know the reason --America's lifesaving service is on the way.  The Coast Guard is truly vital to the United States Armed Forces and truly vital to our great country.  (Applause.) 
Out of the five branches of our Armed Services, it's only the Coast Guard that has the power to break through 21 feet of rock-solid Arctic ice, right?  You’re the only ones.  And I’m proud to say that under my administration, as you just heard, we will be building the first new heavy icebreakers the United States has seen in over 40 years.  We’re going to build many of them.  (Applause.)  We need them.  We need them.
The Coast Guard stands watch at our ports, patrols our waterways, and protects our infrastructure.  You defend America in a world of massive and very grave threats.  Soon, some of you will be leading boardings of suspicious vessels, searching for the most deadly weapons, and detaining criminals to keep our people safe.  Others of you will work with partners in scores of countries around the globe, bringing in the full power of the United States Coast Guard right up to those distant shores.  And some of those shores are very far away.
To secure our borders from drug cartels, human smugglers, and terrorist threats, Coast Guard Cutters patrol more than 1,500 miles below our southern border.  A lot of people didn’t know that.  When enormous pride hits your heart, you realize that it’s with this great skill and tremendous speed, our Coast Guard men and women interdict dangerous criminals and billions and billions of dollars' worth of illegal narcotics every single year.  Your helicopters launch from the decks of world-class national security cutters, and they chase drug smugglers at speeds far in excess of 50 knots.
In rough seas, at high speeds, our incredible Coast Guard snipers take their aim at the smugglers' engines.  And time after time, they take out the motors on the first shot.  They don’t like wasting the bullets, right?  (Applause.)  They actually don’t.  Your slice through roaring storms, and through pouring rain and crashing waves is a place where few other people will ever venture -- exciting.  Exciting.  But you have to have it in your heart.  You have to love it.  You love it. 
In the Coast Guard, you don't run from danger, you chase it. And you are deployed in support of operations in theaters of conflict all around the world.  But not only do you defend American security, you also protect American prosperity.  It's a mission that goes back to the earliest days of the Revenue Cutter Service.  You’ve read about that and studied that.
Today, the Coast Guard helps keep our waters open for Americans to do business.  It keeps our rivers flowing with commerce.  And it keeps our ports churning with American exports. You help billions and billions of dollars in goods to navigate our country every day.  You are the only federal presence on our inland waterways.  You police the arteries we need to rebuild this country and to bring prosperity back to our heartland.  And we are becoming very, very prosperous again.  You can see that.
Think of the glorious mission that awaits.  You will secure our harbors, our waterways, and our borders.  You will partner with our allies to advance our security interests at home and abroad.  And you will pursue the terrorists, you will stop the drug smugglers, and you will seek to keep out all who would do harm to our country -- all who can never, ever love our country. Together, we have the same mission, and your devotion and dedication makes me truly proud to be your Commander-in-Chief.  (Applause.)  Thank you.
Now, I want to take this opportunity to give you some advice.  Over the course of your life, you will find that things are not always fair.  You will find that things happen to you that you do not deserve and that are not always warranted.  But you have to put your head down and fight, fight, fight.  Never, ever, ever give up.  Things will work out just fine. 
Look at the way I’ve been treated lately -- (laughter) -- especially by the media.  No politician in history -- and I say this with great surety -- has been treated worse or more unfairly.  You can’t let them get you down.  You can’t let the critics and the naysayers get in the way of your dreams.  (Applause.)  I guess that’s why I -- thank you.  I guess that’s why we won. 
Adversity makes you stronger.  Don’t give in.  Don’t back down.  And never stop doing what you know is right.  Nothing worth doing ever, ever, ever came easy.  And the more righteous your right, the more opposition that you will face. 
I’ve accomplished a tremendous amount in a very short time as President.  Jobs pouring back in to our country.  A brand-new Supreme Court justice -- who’s going to be fantastic for 45 years -- (applause) -- a historic investment in our military.  Border crossings -- thank you to our General -- are down more than 70 percent in just a short period of time -- a total record, by the way, by a lot.  (Applause.)  We’ve saved the Second Amendment, expanded service for our veterans -- we are going to take care of our veterans like they’ve never been taken care of before.  (Applause.) 
I’ve loosened up the strangling environmental chains wrapped around our country and our economy, chains so tight that you couldn’t do anything -- that jobs were going down.  We were losing business.  We’re loosening it up.  We’ve begun plans and preparations for the border wall, which is going along very, very well.  We’re working on major tax cuts for all.  We are going to give you the largest tax cut in the history of our country if we get it the way we want it, and we’re going to give you major tax reform.  (Applause.)  And we’re also getting closer and closer, day by day, to great healthcare for our citizens.  (Applause.) 
And we are setting the stage right now for many, many more things to come.  And the people understand what I’m doing, and that’s the most important thing.  I didn’t get elected to serve the Washington media or special interests.  I got elected to serve the forgotten men and women of our country, and that’s what I’m doing.  (Applause.)  I will never stop fighting for you, and I will never stop fighting for the American people.
As you leave this academy to embark on your exciting new voyage, I am heading on a very crucial journey as well.  In a few days, I will make my first trip abroad as President.  With the safety, security, and interests of the American people as my priority, I will strengthen old friendships and will seek new partners -- but partners who also help us.  Not partners who take and take and take, partners who help, and partners who help pay for whatever we are doing and all of the good we’re doing for them -- which is something that a lot of people have not gotten used to and they just can’t get used to it.  I say, get used to it, folks.  (Applause.)  I’ll ask them to unite for a future of peace and opposition opportunity for our peoples and the peoples of the world.
First, in Saudi Arabia, where I'll speak with Muslim leaders and challenge them to fight hatred and extremism, and embrace a peaceful future for their faith.  And they’re looking very much forward to hearing what we -- as your representative -- we have to say.  We have to stop radical Islamic terrorism.  (Applause.)
Then in Israel, I'll reaffirm our unbreakable alliance with the Jewish state.  In Rome, I will talk with Pope Francis about the contributions of Christian teachings to the world.  Finally, I’ll attend the NATO Summit in Brussels and the G7 in Sicily -- to promote security, prosperity and peace all over the world.
I’ll meet scores of leader, and honor the holiest sites of these three great religions.  And everywhere I go, I will carry the inspiration I take from you each day, from your courage and determination to do whatever is required save and protect American lives.  Save and protect American lives.  We want security.  You're going to give us security.  (Applause.) 
In just one example, we see how priceless that gift of life is to the people you touch every day.  A few years ago, a Coast Guard helicopter and rescue swimmer took off in the direction of three terrified fishermen who clung to their sinking and burning vessel.  That day, our Coast Guard heroes did their jobs well.  They flew over the sea, despite tremendous danger, and extended a helping hand at the moment it was most urgently needed.  There was very little time left.
But that’s not the most remarkable part of that story.  As one Coast Guard swimmer put it, you do that stuff all the time.  You do it every hour of the day.  Something is happening all the time with the United States Coast Guard.  You do an amazing job. A remarkable thing happened with that rescue, but when you think of it, you do those rescues all the time.  There, the Vietnamese fishing captain grabbed the swimmer’s hand.  He looked his Coast Guard rescuer in the eye, and said: “I was asking God to please let me live....I need to see my kids. Please, God, please, let me live so that I can see my kids.  Then God sent me you.”  That's what he said.  (Applause.) 
To every new officer, and to every new Coast Guard member here today, or out protecting life around the world on some of the roughest waters anywhere, you truly are doing God’s work.  What a grateful heart you must all have.  Because it is with my very grateful heart, and America’s cheers for the Coast Guard -- and America cheers for you often -- but we wish you good luck. 
As your Commander-in-Chief, I thank you.  I salute you.  And I, once again, congratulate the Coast Guard Class of 2017.  (Applause.)  God bless you.  God bless the Coast Guard.  And God bless the United States of America.  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you very much.  Thank you, everybody.  Great honor.  Good luck.  Enjoy your life.  (Applause.)   
                        END                12:18 P.M. EDT