Calling it “our time to show courage,” Gov. Chris Gregoire on Wednesday urged lawmakers to back her plan to create 20,000 new jobs, boost unemployment benefits, and use the economic crisis to forge a more nimble state government.
“When this recession ends, and it will end, we must be ready for a new economy,” Gregoire told cheering state legislators at the capitol.
The economic crisis is hitting the state hard, she said, calling it “the most difficult and trying times maybe since the Great Depression.” Families are struggling with bills, businesses are trying to keep their doors open, and unemployment claims last month were up 75 percent over the same time last year.
But the state cannot just ride out the hard times and return to business as usual, Gregoire said. By planning well and making tough decisions now, she said, state government can “lay a platform for a better tomorrow.”
Her plan includes:
-a roads and transportation plan that Gregoire says will create 20,000 new jobs and spawn a “green economy” for the future. The state should tap Washington's healthy unemployment fund for better benefits. She also indicated that a tax break for business is in the works, although she didn't provide details.
-a balanced state budget that focuses on basic needs, like protecting children, schools and colleges, public safety, the environment and the economy.
-reforming state government, doing away with decades of layered-on bureaucracy in favor of a more responsive system.