Gov. Chris Gregoire gave her farewell address today (Gov.-elect Jay Inslee is being sworn in tomorrow).
Repeating the phrase, "we made the best decisions," Gregoire listed a batch of achievements: spending $16 billion on transportation infrastructure (she pledged to be at the Seattle tunnel ribbon cutting in 2015, with her new grandchild); ranking number one in the country in renewable energy (she noted that no wind power generation was up and running when she was first elected); being the most wired state in the country; passing gay marriage (she thanked her daughters for showing her the way on that issue); and (with a shout out to Democratic house speaker Rep. Frank Chopp, D-43, Seattle) applauding the state's successful program to provide health care for low-income children.
She also got a booming ovation for lauding Washington state's out front efforts setting up Obamacare. (Outgoing Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna, who was in the audience and whom Gregoire recognized warmly at the outset of her speech, was one of the Republican state attorneys general who joined the lawsuit against Obamacare in 2010.)
And because we were already reforming health care, we are among the first states in the nation to implement the Affordable Care Act.
This morning I ask you to embrace this historic opportunity to give every Washingtonian the health care coverage they deserve and you will save $140 million in the next biennium.
Every Washingtonian deserves an open door to the doctor when they need one.
Gregoire put the past eight years in context by citing the "historic recession" and noting that we watched "revenues pluning quarter after quarter after quarter," concluding that revenues had declined 13 out of16 quarters during her tenure.
"It's not what I expected. It's not what anybody expected," she said. And then she praised the legislature for dealing with it, "with our heads, hearts, compassion, and our Washington values intact."
PubliCola did a three-part Q&A with Gregoire heading into her final session, where she reflected on her legacy.
She also called for a standing ovation for the state's public employees, noting that we had the smallest state workforce since the mid-1990s, but that they serve a million additional people now. (Gregoire has been a passionate defender of public employees in the Scott Walker era.)
She concluded by making a rousing pitch to "fully fund a seamless education system from early learning through higher education" (though she didn't pitch the tax plan in her final budget proposal) and for more transportation infrastructure, calling education the "heart" of the economic future and transportation "the backbone."
She also declared that international trade was Washington's future, noting that we are the most trade-dependent state in the country.
The address was upbeat and well received, and she ended on a touching personal note:
I always believed what my mom said. You can make it in America if you work hard enough. If you respect yourself and serve those around you. If you keep the faith and don’t give up.
That’s what I did.
I was just a Washington girl who loved to play basketball, pick blueberries, ride horses in the summer.
I was just a young Washington woman who became the first in her family to graduate from college.
I was just a Washington woman who got that gift of education, who admired John F. Kennedy and who chose a career of public service as a clerk typist, a caseworker, an Assistant Attorney General, Director of Ecology, an Attorney General ...
And then the ultimate privilege: To serve as Governor of the state I love — the Great State of Washington.
And on my last full day as Governor, I can speak from experience and say we still live in the greatest state in the nation and the greatest country in the world. Thank you, people of Washington, for the pleasure of serving you.