Gov. Christine Gregoire gave her assessment Thursday of the marathon special session of the Legislature that ended Wednesday morning.
She had candid comments about what was the last legislative session she will oversee before leaving office at the end of the year.
“I think I have been as angry as I have ever been, in the last 31 days, as governor,” she said. “But that doesn’t do you any good, that doesn’t get the job done.”
Like legislative leaders, Gregoire highlighted what both sides got in the final budget deal. Democrats, she said, achieved their top priority, no cuts to education (either K-12 or higher education). And Republican got their top item, a package of government reforms, most notably scaling back pension benefits.
At a morning press conference, Gregoire shared details about the final day of the session.
“I gave them a full meal deal proposal on Monday at 12:30 to say, here it is, the full package. Done, finished, through,” she said. “Take it or leave it, or make some minor changes. And I think they finally started to talk.”
At that same time that the governor praised lawmakers for the agreement that was finally crafted, she expressed deep worry about what all these cuts are doing to the effectiveness of state government and state employees, especially as benefits get cut.
“If we’re not careful as a state -- I’m leaving but I’m telling you -- if we’re not careful as a state, we will not have the capacity to recruit and retain the best and the brightest, in which case, shame on us, and we will have a questionable future,” she said.
The governor also had some parting thoughts about the lengthy budget drama that included three special sessions.
“A governor needs more authority, you just do,” she said.
The only power she had to push lawmakers, she said, was to refuse to sign their bills into law. But even that proved futile. “When I saw progress, what happened after I signed the bills, they (legislators) fell apart again,” she said. “So, a governor needs more tools in the toolbox.“
Among the changes she would like to see is allowing the governor to make targeted spending cuts without legislative approval. All she can do now is make across-the-board cuts without calling lawmakers back into town.