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'State is strong,' Gregoire says in farewell remarks to legislators
By Zoey Palmer
WNPA Olympia News Bureau
Gov. Christine Gregoire reflected on her eight-years in office in her state of the state address at the Capitol on Tuesday morning, her last official act before relinquishing the reins of that office to Gov.-elect Jay Inslee.
Among the issues she touched upon were her administration's achievements and involvement in industry, education, transportation and economic recovery. Gregoire also offered advice to the legislature, outlining her suggestions for the next administration.
Amazon, Boeing, Microsoft and Starbucks were among the companies Gregoire identified as examples of Washington's global reach in the modern economy in addition to the state's apple, cherry, potato, wheat and wine industries.
"One in three jobs in our state depends on international trade," she said.
Agriculture, said the governor, is the state's second-largest export (after transportation equipment), "... all shipped through our ports from the orchards and fields of eastern Washington: the refrigerator of the world."
The governor commended her administration's work in funding education despite the economic downturn due to the burst of the dot-com bubble, 9/11 and Initiative 695, which significantly cut state revenue by replacing existing vehicle taxes with a flat $30 fee. Economic problems then worsened in 2008 due to what has been termed the Great Recession.
Washington, said Gregoire, invested more in education during her administration than during any other time in the state's history. She praised the state's investment in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curriculum in early education as well as college aerospace programs and financial aid.
The governor lauded her administration's transportation revenue package, which included a gas tax hike and several new fees and fee increases that passed the State Legislature in 2005, paying for $7.1 billion in transportation infrastructure projects, according to the state Department of Transportation, including work on Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct and replacement of the SR 520 floating bridge.
Gregoire praised research efforts in life science and biotechnology research by the University of Washington and Washington State University – funded in part by PATH (Program of Appropriate Technology in Health) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – as well as startup businesses in biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical device industries.
"All relieve suffering here and around the world," said Gregoire, "and today they provide nearly 35,000 good-paying Washington jobs."
"In 2005," the governor said, "... we set out to cut costs, increase access, and provide higher-quality health care," to the state.
"We did, we are, and we lead the nation," she said.
The governor said that Washington was one of the first states in the nation to implement President Obama's health care reform, the Affordable Care Act.
"Every Washingtonian deserves an open door to the doctor when they need one," said Gregoire.
The governor recommended that legislators continue to develop Washington's education systems, saying that the legislature "... must give our children what we were given: good schools, good teachers and the chance to be part of the world economy."
"Education is the heart of everything we do and it is our future," Gregoire said.
Continuing to support transportation was the governor's second piece of advice to the legislators, assembled in joint session to hear her farewell address, saying that Washington must continue to invest in transportation:
"If education is the heart of our economic future, transportation is the backbone," the governor said.
"And despite the challenges ahead," Gregoire affirmed, "I can say today that the state of our state is strong."
Inslee, who defeated Republican candidate and Attorney General Rob McKenna in the election last November, assumes the governorship Wednesday, delivering his inaugural remarks to another joint legislative session in the Capitol.
WNPA Olympia News Bureau Reporter Kylee Zabel contributed to this story.