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State of the state: Gov. Gregoire targets jobs, transit, oil, same-sex marriage
Gov. Christine Gregoire gave her annual State of the State address on Jan. 10, saying that while Washington still faces tough times, there are always opportunities to be had in confronting and overcoming challenges. The governor said the way forward for Washington should include focusing on jobs, transportation, education reform and other hot-button social issues.
"Each time Washington survived an economic crisis and rebuilt its future, it has not been about political party," Gregoire said in her address to the 63rd meeting of the state Legislature. "It has been about the future of Washington state. And now it's time for us. This is our time, our time to build a better future for our children and our grandchildren."
Gregoire announced a $3.6 billion, 10-year transportation package intended to create 5,500 jobs in an effort to maintain the state's critical transportation infrastructure. In the Puget Sound region alone, transportation has become a hot issue, with fights over mass transit funding having taken place in the latter half of 2011, with the citizens of Seattle notably taking on an extra car tab fee to keep Metro Transit at current service levels. According to the governor, her package would include a new $1.50 fee on each barrel of oil produced in the state.
The governor took a tack that seems par for the course in today's political environment, taking a jab at oil producers in the state. She said it's time they help pay up and help the state.
"Our oil companies are getting all the profit and leaving us with the bill. We can do better. We can't wait until roads, bridges and ferries are falling apart to fix them. We can't kick the can down the road and saddle our future generations with the repairs we failed to make. This is our year to act and approve a jobs package and invest in our future," Gregoire said.
Outside of that package, Gregoire also said the Connecting Washington Task Force has outlined $21 billion in road improvements and projects across the state, which makes her package all the more critical moving forward.
"Our transportation system is the lifeblood of the economy," she said. "It moves people to work and goods to market, and supports our tourism industry. If we don't maintain and grow, we come to a standstill."
Gregoire also came back to her proposed half-cent sales tax increase she first brought up in November. Her office projects that the increase would raise approximately $494 million, with $400 million of that set to go toward schools. The remainder would go to safety net programs for the vulnerable and needy. The governor said failure to implement it would leave students and the most vulnerable in the state out in the cold.
"While I know the sales tax is regressive, you know what I find even more regressive?" Gregoire asked. "It's cuts in education that will hit our low-income students hardest. It's more cuts in our social safety net to poor seniors and people with developmental disabilities. And it's cuts to public safety that will impact our poor neighborhoods the most. That's regressive."
The Governor also touched on education reform and same-sex marriage. The education reforms would focus on the "implementation of a new teacher and principal evaluation system," connecting struggling schools with local universities, reduce requirements on teachers and students so more time is able to be spent on instruction, and would also include a "new, executive-level office to focus on educational attainment."
The governor's push for same-sex marriage is already meeting resistance, but she is moving forward, calling it an issue of equality that needs to be addressed here in Washington.
"Our Washington has always fought discrimination," she said. "It's time to do it again. It's time for marriage equality. Let's all stand together and make it happen. Let's tell the children of same-sex couples that their parents' relationship is equal to all others in the state."
To read the entirety of the Governor's State of the State address, visit www.governor.wa.gov.