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Posts tagged: gov. chris gregoire

Gov to Congress: Health Care? Get ‘er done.

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire and a phalanx of state officials who deal with health care tried to send a message to a Congress that may be wavering on the issue in the wake of last week’s U.S. Senate race in Massachusetts:

“Regardless of one election, national health care reform is essential,” Gregoire said at a mid-morning press conference. “Get it done.”

If Congress can’t pass a comprehensive reform package quickly, it should pass the funding changes that would send more federal money to Washington to cover Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates, and give the state a waiver that would help cover the costs of state health care programs for poor children.

State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said that under the current systems, Washington expects to have 1 million people without health insurance by the end of 2011, and currently has a fourth of its population that is “under insured.”

Asked how worried she is that Congress will not pass a health care funding package by the time the Legislature has to make decisions on the state’s budget problems, she replied: “Quite.”

She suggested they vote on fiscal health care issues first which take a simple majority to pass, then take up policy issues that might be more difficult with the Democrats’ loss of a filibuster proof majority in the U.S. Senate. 

Some policy issues, such as banning insurance companies from refusing coverage for pre-existing conditions, have broad support, she said. They should determine the issues on which they have strong agreement, and work out the disagreements on the rest.

 To read more of this story, Click Here to go inside the blog.


Gregoire wants new preschool standards

OLYMPIA — Washington state should help low-income residents get their children into the preschool of their choice, but establish standards for facilities that help prepare 3- and 4-year-olds for kindergarten, Gov. Chris Gregoire said today.

It also must have a stronger system for K-12 schools to force improvements on failing facilities, in part to have a chance to qualify for hundreds of millions of dollars in the federal Race to the Top program, she said.

Gregoire, Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn and Bette Hyde, director of the state’s Early Learning Department, were among a group calling for changes in state education policies and programs in preschool and K-12 education.

For pre-schoolers, Gregoire proposes the “All Start” program, which she said would open up preschool to low-income families by providing subsidies for those with incomes below twice the poverty level. The youngsters would have to be enrolled in certified preschools, which means the state would have to establish standards and develop a certification process.

“We have no standards for preschools. Preschool teachers are not required to undergo background checks,” Gregoire said.

Gov to Spokane crowd: Shouldn’t you be watching skating?

OLYMPIA — A Spokane-area group making its annual peregrination to the Legislature capped off the trip Thursday night with a meet-and-greet reception at the Governor’s Mansion. And since it’s her house, the governor did show up upon her return from Seattle where she layed out a new jobs program.

But what she really wanted to know was, what were the Spokanites doing in Olympia when people from all over the country were flocking to Spokane for the ice skating championships.

Gregoire is due in Spokane herself on Friday for ceremonies, and most of the delegation of 50 or so will be back, too. She was there for the 2007 championships, and said she asked at that time about bringing the event back in 2010, pre Vancouver Olympics. Too soon, she was told then. But things have a way of working out, particularly when the 2007 event set attendance records.

“We wowwed them then, and we’re going to wow them again,” she said.

Word is that a member of Gregoire’s staff bought her a skating outfit for the last event, which she didn’t wear. She intends to not wear it again, she said.

The reception was a final chance for business and education leaders to schmooz with legislators and agency staff over salmon, tortellini, wine and beer.

One of the travelling delegation wondered if there was a message in the choice of beers being poured: Redhook MudSlinger and Slim Chance.

Probably just a coincidence…or a chance to serve up Washington brewskis.

But in Olympia, you can never be sure about such things.

Guilty but mentally ill

Gov. Chris Gregoire will back legislation to allow defendants in Washington to be found guilty but mentally ill, and to be sent to prison instead of a mental hospital.

Persons who have already been found not guilty by reason of insanity would face a new Safety Review Panel before they are released.

Gregoire appeared today with a coalition of law enforcement officials and reiterated support fora  a constitutional amendment that allows judges to deny bail to any suspect which they feel is a risk to the community, and enhanced benefits for the families of officers killed in the line of duty.

GOP gets nautical on “ship of state”

Legislative Republicans searched for the right metaphor to describe their situation regarding the state budget Tuesday.

They say they’ve got lots of good ideas, if the governor and majority Democrats would only listen. Gov. Chris Gregoire said she’d listen to any ideas from anyone, called for nonpartisanship, and so on, but they were skeptical that any of their ideas would get much of a hearing.

“At the end of the day,” Sen. Joe Zarelli, the ranking R on Ways and Means, said, “we’re passengers on the Titanic, we’re not captaining it…They can ignore us, as they’ve chosen to do, in which case we’ve done our job.”

No, said Rep. Richard DeBolt of Chehalils, the House minority leader: “It’s more like the Lusitania.”

The what? asked Zarelli.

“The Lusitania. It’s the torpedoes that are going to get us,” DeBolt said.

This is not the first nautical reference Zarelli has made, by the way. Last week, during the legislative preview, he said Republicans have been on “the U.S.S. Titanic.”

Which, it should be noted, is not a correct reference because the Titanic was a British ship, not an American ship. Although he might have been making a reference to the very long ballad from the 1960s by Jaimie Brockett…

No, probably not.


Gregoire calls for balanced approach and nonpartisanship; GOP skeptical

Saying that many of the cuts she proposed last month are “unwise and unjust”, Gov. Chris Gregoire proposed a combination of program cuts, tax increases and federal aid to close the state’s projected $2.6 billion budget shortfall.

Gregoire told a joint session of the Legislature they face “an incredibly challenging year” and called for swift and decisive action.

“We cannot just cut or just tax our way out of this immediate budget shortfall,” she said. “We must have a responsible, balanced approach of painful cuts and new revenue.”

Majority Democrats praised her for a compassionate approach to an unbalanced budget. Minority Republicans said her proposals so far are short on specifics and would wait to see whether the nonpartisan approach she espoused would actually come to pass.

“This possibly could be the worst year I’ve ever seen,” said State Rep. Larry Crouse, R-Spokane Valley, who has been in office since 1995. “I like the fact that she says she’s going to listen to everybody. But that generally doesn’t happen on the budget.”

Partial list of programs Gregoire would add back into the budget, taxes she’d raise or reinstate

Here’s a list of the major programs Gov. Chris Gregoire wants to “buy back” by raising taxes and/or getting federal recovery money:
K-12 Levy equalization, which sends state money to school districts with lower than average property tax bases. $165 million.
Basic Health Plan, which provides health insurance for 60,000 residents, $160 million.
Higher Education Need Grants, to 12,300 low and middle income students, $146 million
General Assistance Unemployable, revised to give a maximum of six months coverage at $250 per month, $84 million.
All-day kindergarten, gifted program and reading corps, $42 million
Working Connections Child Care, to those receiving Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, $39.5 million
Maternity Support Services, to 50,000 women at risk of “poor birth outcomes”, $28 million
Optional Medicaid, dental, vision and podiatry services not covered by federal program, $21 million
Developmental Disabilities/Long-Term Care Housekeeping and Laundry, for 42,000 elderly residents, $18 million
Developmental Disabilities/Long-Term Care Homecare Provider Services, wages and benefits to individual providers, $14 million
Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program, for 1,500 three-year-olds, $10.5 million
For list of tax changes, go inside the blog.

Gregoire: Instead of all those cuts…

After ticking off the effects of the cuts she proposed in December, Gov. Chris Gregoire suggested the long-term costs would be too high.

We can make cuts that will write off a generation of kids…

We can make the cuts and waita for higher dropout rates and all the soaring social costs…

We can cut costs and transfer higher medical costs to our doctors, hospitals and insured families…

Gregoire: “an incredibly challenging year.”

Gov. Chris Gregoire welcomed the Legislature back to work with a less than cheery outlook for the state, its economy and its citizens.

“It’s an understatement to say this year will be incredibly challenging,” she said in her opening remarks after greeting state officials and justices, and noting the presence of her husband, Mike and daughter Michelle.

She noted the loss of seven law enforcement officers and 13 military members from the state in 2009, calling it an “unspeakable tragedy.” Later in the speech, she’s expected to propose some changes to pension laws to allow the families of fallen law enforcement officers to qualify for pensions and free college tuition, regardless of the length of service.

“These Washingtonians gave their lives so we could have safer communities and a secure nation,” she said. “For them and theri families, we have a duty this session to help build a better future.”

Here comes the gov…

With introductions of state officials, tribal leaders and consular officials over, Gov. Chris Gregoire is enterring the House chambers for the “state of the state” speech.

All rise…

Applause all around, somewhat more spirited from the Democratic side of the aisle, but hugs for members on both sides, and several members of the court.

WA Lege Day 2: State of the state at high noon

Gov. Chris Gregoire delivers her “State of the State” speech today at noon. As one state senator said yesterday after the session went into recess, it could probably be summed up in two words:

Not good.

Her speech will be carried live on TVW, which is available on most cable systems around the state, or online at

She and OFM Director Victor Moore will also be discussing the budget proposal with the Senate Ways and Means Committee at 3:30 p.m.

For a full list of the committee hearings for Day 2 of the session, go inside the blog.

No pardon urged for Goldberg

OLYMPIA – A former Newport, Wash., man should not be pardoned for helping slay his former son-in-law, a state board has recommended.

The Clemency and Pardons Board recommended unanimously last week that Gov. Chris Gregoire not grant a pardon and early release to Morris “Mel” Goldberg, who is serving almost 27 years for his part in the 1991 slaying of Peter Zeihen. The final decision, which may take months a spokeswoman said, is up to Gregoire.

“The governor has never, to this date, approved a petition for clemency against the recommendation of the board,” Melynda Campbell, of the governor’s office, said.

Goldberg, 78, was convicted in 2000 of driving the getaway car that fled the scene after his ex-wife Joann Peterson killed Zeihen with a shotgun blast to the head. Zeihen was in his car in the Spokane Valley home’s driveway.

Speak the speech I pray you speak

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Gov. Gregoire about K-12 education
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Gregoire on Aerospace Council
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Gregoire on speechwriter’s job

Whether they like it or not, practically everyone attached to state government in Washington is being forced to cut back.

Universities are cancelling programs and students are facing higher tuition. School teachers are getting layoff notices. State employees are looking at lower wages or higher benefit costs or both.

In the midst of such hard times, does it seem strange to anyone else that Gov. Chris Gregoire is looking for a speechwriter with a possible salary of $63,000 a year? (And no, I’m not jealous because I want to change jobs.)

Whether the job of crafting the governor’s spoken words is worth 63K may be worth discussion. That may be the going rate for someone who can, as the political cognoscenti say, “shape the message”, although the law of supply and demand in the labor market probably doesn’t apply as easily to the craft of speechwriter as it does to say, the craft of cab driver or plumber or bartender.

This isn’t a denigration of the job, which is often filled by former brethren journalists. Goodness knows there are more former journalists in need of a new line of work with each passing week. Anything that gives them a shot at a new career is a good thing.

If the governor had a longtime speechwriter in the job, former journalist or not, it would be cruel to suggest he or she should hit the bricks. But in this case, her speechwriter Hal Spencer left, and she’s looking to fill the spot. Why not do without?

That question was put to Gregoire late last week during an interview with The Spokesman-Review’s editorial board…


Brother, can you spare $7 trillion?

Now that the stimulus package has packaged, state and local governments are lining up to ask for money for projects that they’d like to get done, if only they had the money.

Gov. Chris Gregoire today debuted a new Web site, , that tells those looking for money how to go about applying for it, as well as offering updates on how the process is going.

And how is it going? Well, from the asking side, very well. The Web site also has a list of requests so far for federal stimulus money. It’s about 1,275 projects long, arranged neatly on a spread sheet that’s alphabetized by location.

Total amount for the projects listed? A tad over $7 trillion (that is, if $92 billion can be described as a “tad.”)

Let’s see, if the entire stimulus package is $787 billion, the list right now is about, umm, divide into 7, carry the 3…nine times more than that huge amount Congress approved.

We’ve all heard of wish lists, but this is a bit much. Want to see projects for Spokane or any other Washington state location? Click here to go to the spread sheet.

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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Nick Deshais covers Spokane City Hall for The Spokesman-Review.

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