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Eye On Olympia

The governor: a news conference sampler…

Gov. Chris Gregoire, from this morning's weekly "availability" with capitol reporters:

  • On the new state quarter:
"It is 100 percent Washington," Gregoire said, noting that the heads side shows, well, George Washington and the tails side shows a leaping salmon and Mt. Rainier. The mountain, visible across large swaths of the state, "Is kind of our bridge between Eastern and Western Washington."

  • On the state's new discount drug program for all:
Oregon had about 14,000 people signed up for its version after a year, Gregoire said. "After two weeks, we have 28,000 and it continues at a very rapid pace." New chains signing up include Kmart and Wal-Mart pharmacies.
(To find out more about the free plan, click here.)

  • On a bill to set up a worker-paid $250-a-week stipend for workers who take otherside-unpaid family medical leave in Washington:
"I think the Senate bill still was in need of work," Gregoire said, adding that "it's an open question" whether the bill will pass the House. She also hinted that she'd like to see the issue sent to voters first.
"If people are going to be taxed, I think they probably need to have a say in that," Gregoire said.

  • On the fight over requiring home builders to have years-long warranties on the construction:
"I believe we need something more in this state," Gregoire said, but added that she hasn't had time to look at the specifics of the legislation.
During her three terms as attorney general, she said, "We were really strapped to be able to do much for consumers" in such cases. "They were on their own."

  • On the WASL:
Gregoire, who in December proposed delaying for three years a controversial requirement that all students pass the 10th grade math test as a high school graduation requirement, said Monday that another year of delay looks likely. Additional teacher training in math makes 2012 the best year to launch the math requirement, and 2013 best for a requirement that students also pass the science part, she said.

  • On rainy days:
"I want a rainy day fund," she said. She and Senate budget writers are pushing for a constitutional amendment setting up a harder-to-tap state fund to help support government during economic downturns.
House budget writers are balking at that, saying it's enough simply to leave the money in the state's savings, so long as lawmakers exercise some restraint.
"Now is the time," reiterated Gregoire. "If we don't do it now, I can't see us doing it."

  • On the Senate's education-budget proposal:
The Senate wants to steer more money into basic education, saying that schools are already struggling to pay for day-to-day programs. Gregoire's budget proposal targets hundreds of millions into specific areas needing improvement, such as her push to improve math and science learning.
"We do need more revenue into those schools, 'cause they're struggling right now," Gregoire agrees. "...But at the same time, if we walk out of here, just funding the same system, then we can expect the same results, and that's just unacceptable."

  • On a new Sonics stadium in Renton:
So far, legislative leaders haven't expressed much interest in the issue, the governor said. She's asked proponent Sen. Margarita Prentice to discuss the matter with Senate Democrats, and if that goes well, Gregoire said she'll convene a meeting with the top four legislative leaders.

Short takes and breaking news from the Washington Legislature and the state capital.