Gov. Chris Gregoire reflected on a tumultuous eight years in office during a Tuesday farewell speech before a joint session of the Legislature.
Delivering her final State of the State address as part of an emotional and ceremonial day, Gregoire recapped accomplishments and challenges before concluding that Washington is “the greatest state in the nation.”
The Democrat made just two requests of the lawmakers crammed into the state House chambers: increase funding for education and transportation, in part, through raising taxes.
“Today is the day,” Gregoire said. “Now is the time. We must invest in our children and their future.”
But the governor spent most of her speech running through a laundry list of achievements, from investing in broadband Internet and combining several programs to create a state Department of Early Learning, to investing in clean energy and legalizing same-sex marriage.
She emphasized transportation, noting that $16 billion in construction projects were approved in her tenure — the most in state history.
“We — not the next big earthquake or windstorm — are knocking down the old (Alaskan Way) Viaduct, the 520 bridge and the Columbia River Crossing Bridge and we are building the future of the great state of Washington.”
But the governor also focused on budget cuts and what caused them — “the worst economic calamity since the Great Depression.”
“You were tested,” Gregoire said. “I was tested. This was not what I expected. It wasn’t what anybody expected. But we stepped up.”
Gov.-elect Jay Inslee, a fellow Democrat, will be sworn in Wednesday.
Before Gregoire’s speech, the Legislature recognized three other state officials leaving office: eight-year Attorney General Rob McKenna, 12-year Secretary of State Sam Reed and 20-year State Auditor Brian Sonntag.
Others attending the address included former Gov. Mike Lowry, King County Executive Dow Constantine and the fiancee of Washington state trooper Tony Radulescu, who was fatally shot in February during a traffic stop.