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Gregoire reflects on administration's accomplishments
By ZOEY PALMER
WNPA Olympia News Bureau
OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire reflected on her eight years in office in her State of the State address at the Capitol Tuesday morning, her last official act before relinquishing the reins of that office to 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."
Gregoire commended her administration for work in funding education despite the challenges wrought by the dot-com bubble burst, 9/11, elimination of the motor vehicle excise tax, and the Great Recession.
Washington, Gregoire said, 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 as well as college aerospace programs and financial aid.
Gregoire 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," Gregoire said, "and today they provide nearly 35,000 good-paying Washington jobs."
She added, "In 2005 … we set out to cut costs, increase access, and provide higher-quality health care. We did, we are, and we lead the nation."
Gregoire said 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," she said.
Gregoire 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."
Continuing to support transportation was Gregoire's second piece of advice to legislators, assembled in joint session to hear her farewell address. She said Washington must continue to invest in transportation. "If education is the heart of our economic future, transportation is the backbone," she said.
She concluded, "And despite the challenges ahead, I can say today that the state of our state is strong."
Inslee, who defeated Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna in the November election, assumes the governorship Wednesday, delivering his inaugural remarks to another joint legislative session in the Capitol.
Gregoire was accompanied Tuesday by her husband, two daughters, son-in-law, and granddaughter.
— WNPA Olympia News Bureau Reporter Kylee Zabel contributed to this story.