OLYMPIA — Eight years after taking office following a hotly disputed election, Gov. Chris Gregoire said goodbye Tuesday with a noncontroversial speech short on specific policy and long on nostalgia.
The two-term Democrat made just two requests of the lawmakers crammed into the state House chambers for a joint session: Increase funding for education and boost spending for transportation, in part through raising taxes.
“We cannot cut our way out of this. We cannot save our way out of this,” Gregoire said. “Today is the day. Now is the time. We must invest in our children and their future.”
The Legislature faces a nearly $1 billion budget shortfall and a state Supreme Court order to spend more on education, but lawmakers are divided about whether to increase taxes.
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Mostly, the governor used her final State of the State address to reflect on “good times and bad.”
Accompanied by her family — including a 2-month-old granddaughter who drew more attention than all of the public officials combined — Gregoire summarized 14 of her policy moves, from combining several programs to create a state Department of Early Learning to a successful push to legalize same-sex marriage.
Gregoire pointed to first-term investments in broadband Internet, college-financial aid, long-term care and Puget Sound restoration, and she spoke of efforts to streamline government and increase international trade.
She also emphasized transportation, noting that $16 billion in construction projects were approved in her tenure — the most in state history.
But the governor also focused on significant budget cuts and what caused them — “the worst economic calamity since the Great Depression.”
“You were tested,” Gregoire said. “I was tested. This was not what I expected. It wasn’t what anybody expected. But we stepped up.”
Gregoire’s successor, fellow Democrat Jay Inslee, will be sworn in Wednesday.
Brian M. Rosenthal: 360-236-8267 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @brianmrosenthal.