On Sunday and Monday, I will meet with America's governors during their annual gathering in Washington, D.C. As a former governor, I appreciate the work of these fine public servants. I look forward to talking with them about the challenges and opportunities facing their states and our nation and discussing how leaders of both parties can work together to solve problems for our citizens.
One of the most important issues we will discuss is how to improve health care for the American people, and we have a good example in the Medicare system that provides health care coverage for our seniors. When I took office, I found a Medicare system that would pay tens of thousands of dollars for a surgery, but not the money for the prescription drugs that could have prevented the surgery in the first place. So, working with Congress, we passed critical legislation that modernizes Medicare, provides seniors with more choices, and gives them better access to prescription drugs.
More than 25 million people with Medicare now have prescription drug coverage, and hundreds of thousands more are enrolling each week. This new coverage is saving seniors money on their drug premiums: the typical senior will end up spending about half of what they used to spend on prescription drugs each year.
Another issue I will discuss with governors is how to keep America the most innovative and competitive nation in the world. In my State of the Union Address, I announced the American Competitiveness Initiative. Under this Initiative, we will double the Federal commitment to the most critical basic research in the physical sciences over the next decade. We will also make the research and development tax credit permanent to encourage businesses and entrepreneurs to increase their investments in innovation. These investments will lead to new technologies that will offer a better life for our citizens and keep our economy strong.
My Competitiveness Initiative will also give American children a firm grounding in math and science to prepare them for the jobs of the 21st century. I proposed that we train 70,000 additional high school teachers over the next five years to lead Advanced Placement courses in math and science and bring in 30,000 math and science professionals to teach in classrooms and give extra help to students who struggle with math. By ensuring that our children are prepared to succeed in life, we will ensure that America's economy succeeds in the world.
When I meet the governors, I will also talk about our energy strategy. I proposed an Advanced Energy Initiative to take advantage of new technologies. Under this Initiative, we will change how we power our homes and offices by investing in clean coal technology, solar and wind power, and clean, safe nuclear energy. And we will change how we power our cars and trucks by investing in hybrid vehicles, pollution-free cars that run on hydrogen, and alternative fuels like ethanol and biodiesel. By applying the talent and innovative spirit of our citizens, we will move beyond a petroleum-based economy, protect our environment, and make America less dependent on foreign sources of energy.
I'll also discuss with governors our progress in the war on terror. The states are playing a vital role in the war effort through the contributions of their National Guard units. During the past two years, many governors have traveled to Iraq or Afghanistan to visit with the men and women from their states who are serving in freedom's cause. These governors have seen firsthand the courage of our troops and their dedication to the mission.
Last month, Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee visited Iraq and Afghanistan with three of his fellow governors. He said: "People back home need to realize just how proud they should be of our men and women here. It is obvious these troops remain upbeat and focused on ridding the world of terrorists."
To improve health care, keep America competitive, achieve greater energy independence, and protect our Nation, we must put aside politics and focus on what is best for the future of our country. America's governors are good allies in this effort, and I look forward to working with them in the year ahead.
Thank you for listening.