Gregoire: State economy remains resilient

Between running for re-election and planning for her daughter’s upcoming wedding, Gov. Christine Gregoire has her work cut out for her.

Between running for re-election and planning for her daughter’s upcoming wedding, Gov. Christine Gregoire has her work cut out for her.

“I think the national debt and my bank account have something in common, they’re both going down dramatically,” she joked while at a recent visit to the Overlake Rotary Club in Bellevue.

As part of the Rotary club’s new candidate forum series, the governor reflected on the challenges Washington state faced over the past four years she spent in office, reviewed the progress made, and looked forward to the future successes of the state. On a national level, the economy continues to struggle, but Washington state has remained resilient through the turbulent times, Gregoire said. While 30 states face troubled budgets, many in deficits, Washington has a surplus. The governor pointed to two main components of the state’s success: economic development and education.

On the state level, the focus has been on diversifying the economy by investing in new opportunities for jobs across the state.

“We have been trying to emphasize our opportunity of imports and exports and the results have been amazing,” Gregoire said, adding that the goal has been to create twenty-first century, green-collar jobs to try to take on some of the pressing issues.

During her term in office, she said more than 200,000 new jobs have been put in place and the state has doubled its exports. Forbes magazine recently named Washington one of the top five states to do business.

Today, the largest solar manufacturer in the country is located in Moses Lake and the largest bio-fuels refinery manufacturer is located in Hoquiam. The wine country in eastern Washington, another example Gregoire used to point out Washington’s economic growth, has gone from 30 to 50 wineries a few years ago to the 550 wineries that exist today.

The other component is education, she said, calling it the key to the success of the workforce for today and for the future of the state.

“In our state, we have been doing our best to try and isolate ourselves from what is happening at the national level and we have done this with a lot of success,” Gregoire explained.

Looking towards the future, Gregoire spoke on health insurance for small business owners.

“Our goal is to look at health care in a more global way to drive up quality and drive down cost,” Gregoire said.

She outlined a pilot program that is in the works that would entail a non-profit or a non-state-run organization to go out and negotiate and offer a list of various health-care options to the employer and employee.

“Our goal is to implement that next year. To start it small so we can get it going smoothly and make it available for all the small businesses who want to be a part of it,” Gregoire explained.

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