Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire appeared before a joint legislative session Tuesday to give her final address as sitting governor.
Gregoire, who will hand over executive control of the state to fellow Democrat Jay Inslee on Wednesday, reflected on the challenges and accomplishments she met during her eight years in office—the second half of which brought great economic struggle to Washington state and the rest of the country.
“History will reflect that this was not just any eight years," Gregoire said. "You were not just any Legislature. And these were not just any times.”
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Despite economic challenges, the state made several important accomplishments during the past eight years, Gregoire said. She specifically touted the beginning of construction on the new State Route 520 Bridge, a declining statewide crime rate, the closure of three prisons, and the way officials have begun to implement the Affordable Health Care Act.
Another key accomplishment, Gregoire said, was Washington becoming the first state where same-sex couples married after voter approval.
“We made the best decision for our gay and lesbian citizens, and the people of Washington agreed,” she said. “We clearly saw that separate but equal is not equal.”
Gregoire concluded her remarks by urging legislators to act immediately to better fund public education, as mandated by the state's supreme court. Funding for education and transportation infrastructure will be central to Washington's economic recovery and competitiveness in the global marketplace, she said.
“There is no free lunch. We cannot cut our way out of this; we cannot save our way out of this,” Gregoire said. “Today is the day. Now is the time. We must invest in our children and their future.”
Outgoing Attorney General Rob McKenna, Secretary of State Sam Reed and Auditor Brian Sonntag also made remarks before the joint session on Tuesday.
Inslee will be sworn in as governor on Wednesday morning at the capitol rotunda in Olympia. An inaugural speech and inaugural ball will be held later in the day.