Don’t rest on your laurels, she said on her last full day in office, give the state better schools and roads. And, in a message that may have little traction with her replacement or the Republican-dominated coalition that runs the Senate, she suggested they may have to raise taxes to get the important things done.
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“There is no free lunch” for some $1 billion extra the state will need to spend in the next two years on public schools to meet a Supreme Court mandate, she told a joint session of the Legislature. “We cannot cut our way out of this. We cannot save our way out of this. We cannot grow our way out of this.”
Fellow Democrat Jay Inslee, who will be sworn in as governor this morning, campaigned on a promise of not raising taxes to get the extra money for schools, as did his Republican opponent Rob McKenna. Inslee has said he can find the money by making state government run more efficiently, and helping the state’s economy get more jobs.
In a list of good decisions she said the state made over the last eight years, Gregoire listed reforms already made by consolidating state departments, closing some prisons and other institutions, improving workers compensation and unemployment insurance systems and state pensions.
“Together we ripped out the walls and pulled up the floors to remodel our 123-year-old house of government,” she said.
Despite a long and lingering recession, she said, the state also made the best decisions for public schools by putting more money into science and math programs, innovative schools and creative approaches to learning. It has scholarships for children who do well in school and stay out of trouble. It has expanded enrollment at the two- and four-year colleges and increased financial.
“Let’s build more schools, and fewer prisons,” Gregoire said. “Our future is at stake. We must fully fund a seamless education system from early learning through higher education.”
It made important investments in transportation during her two terms, from replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct to building the first half of the North Spokane Corridor, she said. But it has more big projects ahead.
“Our state will only remain strong if our roads, highways, bridges and ferries are effectively getting our people to work and our goods to market,” she said. “Remember our competition:
Legislators from both parties applauded Gregoire’s comments about government efficiencies, stronger schools and better roads. But there were a few partisan splits over other highlights she mentioned from her tenure. Many Republicans sat quiet while she lauded the Legislature’s decision – mostly from Democratic votes – to make
Gregoire has been mentioned for a possible spot in President Obama’s cabinet for his second term, but she gave no hint of any political future. She was joined on the House dais by her family, including her two-month-old granddaughter, Audrey Christine Lindsay, who represents the beginning of a new chapter in her life as the current one is ending.
“There’s nothing like changing diapers again to bring perspective to life … and to remember what really matters,” she said.