Summary of the Washington State of the State Address
By Stateline Staff
"Jobs are the way out of this recession," Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire (D) told the Democratic-led Legislature in her state of the state address Jan. 12, laying out a series of proposals she said would create as many as 40,000 new jobs this year.
Among the proposals Gregoire identified were a new tax credit for each small business that hires a full-time worker and changes to the building permit process to allow construction projects to break ground more quickly. She also pushed a new "green building program" that would put Washingtonians to work retrofitting state buildings, resulting in energy savings for the state.
Perhaps the most notable line of Gregoire's speech, however, was her call for new revenue — "from new federal dollars, new taxes, or both." During her successful reelection bid in 2008, Gregoire pledged not to raise taxes. But Washington's fiscal situation has deteriorated, and the governor said a budget that relies only on cuts "would force us to abandon the values that define this state: fairness and compassion."
Government streamlining was another major theme of the speech, as Gregoire called on lawmakers to approve legislation that would eliminate 78 boards and commissions. She also proposed mergers or "realignments" that would eliminate other small state agencies. She said she wants to close all or part of 10 state institutions, including five correctional facilities.
Gregoire proposed overhauling the way teachers are evaluated, and on higher education, she asked lawmakers to give public colleges and universities the power to raise tuition independently, if necessary. Lawmakers currently hold the final say over tuition increases.
Responding to a year in which seven police officers were killed in the line of duty in Washington — including the murder of four Lakewood, Wash., officers by a career criminal in November — Gregoire also introduced a series of measures designed to ensure that dangerous offenders are kept behind bars. They include a sentencing change that would allow judges to divert mentally ill criminals to prison rather than to a psychiatric hospital.