Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Gov. Gregoire, Legislature lay foundation for Washington’s future Governor hails session accomplishments, cautions public on severe program cuts

OLYMPIA – Gov. Chris Gregoire today thanked members of the Legislature for their hard work and dedication following their adjournment yesterday, having confronted — and resolved — some of the most significant challenges the state has faced in decades.

“Unfortunately, the people of Washington will feel the pain of the difficult choices required to address the budget crisis. Like nearly every other state, we are managing our way through a deep recession, and severe budget cuts across the entire government were unavoidable” Gregoire said.

“In my inaugural speech in January, I asked the Legislature to summon the courage and the spirit of sacrifice to confront the challenge of a generation. I’m honored to say that’s exactly what its members did by passing a responsible budget for very tough times.”

The governor added, “We also prepared our state for a 21st century economy — especially in the monumental steps we took to build a transportation system that will create jobs and help us emerge stronger from this recession.”

Potential special session

The Legislature adjourned last night with a few issues unresolved that may need attention in a special session, including school levies and offender sentencing measures. Some of the items left undone are necessary to achieve all of the savings assumed in the budget.

“I’m disappointed that the clock ran out before the Legislature completed some of its work,” Gregoire said. “But I don’t want it to overshadow the important work they did accomplish.

“I will be meeting with legislative leadership soon to determine when to call a special session to address these important issues.”

State budget

The Legislature faced the daunting task of addressing a $9 billion shortfall in the state budget. Reductions were required in every aspect of state services to produce a balanced spending plan.

“There is simply no way to sugarcoat the impact of a $9 billion hole in the state budget,” Gregoire said.

Some of the areas hardest hit in the budget include:

· Health care, where 40,000 fewer people will receive state-subsidized health insurance

· K-12 education, which absorbed cuts in class-size reduction funds, resulting in larger classes for students

· Higher education, which will have to decrease access and increase class sizes

· Human service providers, whose reimbursement rates will be reduced, resulting in less access to services

Programs and services must adjust for significant reductions in “administrative” spending, which means there will be fewer people to deliver services, Gregoire said. “This will be hard work, and our employees’ skill and dedication will be sorely tested.”

Gregoire recognized the difficulties that state employees will face in a letter she sent to state workers this morning. “Employees will need to make difficult personal adjustments. For instance, we may be asking employees to take unpaid furloughs to save jobs and money.”

Also in her letter, Gregoire called on state workers to work with her to prepare for the future. “Amid these difficult changes, I ask that we continue — and strengthen — the partnership we forged last year when you helped me implement vital budget reductions to better position ourselves for the challenges to come.”

Major issues

“But the budget isn’t all we did in this very tough session — and as a result, I believe we maintained a solid foundation for the future,” the governor said.

Individual areas of emphasis from the legislative session included:


“For transportation, this has to be the most significant legislative session in history bar none,” Gregoire said.

“We are building not one, but two projects: a deep-bored tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct and a new 520 Bridge across Lake Washington. What we did is truly monumental — not just for the most-populated part of this state but for Washington’s economic future as a whole.

These two projects combined will create nearly 10,500 jobs at the height of construction and will ensure a more mobile economy in the future.”

The Legislature passed a $7.5 billion transportation budget that will create or sustain approximately 20,000 jobs.

“These projects will put Washington to work as we rebuild our infrastructure to maintain our competitive edge in the global economy,” Gregoire said.

The Legislature also moved forward on a long-range strategy to revitalize the ferry service by constructing new vessels while keeping fares affordable.

Economic development

The governor requested and the Legislature passed help for out-of-work Washingtonians by temporarily extending and increasing unemployment insurance payments. These payments will be spent in businesses across the state, boosting the economy.

Other actions to help ensure the long-term health of Washington’s economy include the creation of a new state Department of Commerce to focus on economic development.


The Legislature approved the governor’s request to allow the public four-year college and universities to raise tuition by 14 percent and the community and technical colleges by 7 percent in each of the next two years.

“These increases are necessary to offset cuts and to maintain quality and access in higher education,” Gregoire said. “We made sure our colleges and universities can continue to prepare our students to succeed in a 21st century economy.”

Progress was also made in education reform, which will help continue the improvement of the state’s K-12 system. “We laid the groundwork to make sure our K-12 system gives our kids the tools required to compete in the global marketplace,” Gregoire said.


“We kept moving forward to create a platform for an innovative, green economy,” the governor said.

The governor’s proposal to exempt the sale of electric vehicle batteries or the installation of electric vehicle infrastructure from retail sales and use tax was passed, which will contribute to a cleaner environment.

Civil Rights

The Legislature also passed multiple measures to ensure fairness for all Washingtonians. The highlights include:

Expanding the rights and responsibilities of state-registered domestic partners
Updating hate crimes law to include protections for gender identity and expression
Ensuring that male and female athletes are accorded equal opportunities to participate in community athletic programs
Protecting a mother’s right to breast-feed in public

“We gave equal rights under the law to domestic partners, better ensuring that these families can raise their kids, lead their lives and strengthen our communities the same as everybody else,” Gregoire said.

No comments: