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New Adventures of Bold Christine 

by INLANDER STAFF & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & W & lt;/span & ith the year's legislative session now over, Washington Governor Chris Gregoire is traveling the state, signing legislators' work into law; she held a bill-signing ceremony in Spokane last Thursday. Before jetting back to Olympia, the governor met with Inlander staff members for a 30-minute, no-holds-barred interview on topics of our choosing. Her answers ranged from optimistic (regarding the state economy) to inspired (Obama's appeal) to fiery (Dino Rossi).





& lt;a href= "#full " & CLICK HERE & lt;/a & for the full, unedited transcript of the interview.





Economically, how's the state doing and what's being done to prepare for a possible recession?


We're 49th in terms of foreclosures. Our export industry is probably what's the cushion for us right now. We're up $17 billion from last year. We're up 100 percent since 2005 -- $67 billion in exports. Commodities in Eastern Washington are a perfect example -- wheat has gone from three bucks to $12 and more. Boeing's sitting on $255 billion in orders. Microsoft is expanding ... [But] we're not an island. ... We're trying to be smart. The rainy day fund we got through, I think, is smart. If you talk to Arizona, that governor says, 'Thank goodness we have a rainy day fund.' Arnold Schwarzenegger is trying to get a rainy day fund in California. So, we've got it and it's got about $450 million in it. So, we're trying to be smart about where we spend our money, smart about reserves, trying to tackle the housing problem.





But I'll tell you what I've proposed to Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi and to Majority Leader [Harry] Reid with some of my fellow Democrat governors, which is: We need a real stimulus program in America. Not a one-time check, but jobs. So we've proposed that they put forward a good stimulus package as Round Two for ready-to-go infrastructure projects. Those are jobs. And they have to be ready to go in 90 days. So they've got their permits, their [Environmental Impact Statement], whatever they need.





Would that include projects like the North-South freeway?


It would have to have everything ready to go [but] just lacks the money. So, all permits, all EIS, all everything ... No more than 90 days. If that's true with North-South, it would qualify. I don't think it is, to be honest with you.





This year, a lot of our legislators came to you talking about low-income housing. What were they asking for? What was the conversation?


Well, it wasn't just here. It was everywhere. If we can't find people affordable housing, they're either on the streets, or they're having to go long distances -- which is becoming a more pressing problem throughout the state -- to get to their jobs. So then we're gumming up the roads. So, how do we put more money into low-income housing? That's the [state housing] trust fund -- $70 million. How do we increase the debt limit? We did that. We've done a lot of work on manufactured homes, mobile homes, to [incentivize] to make sure people can get into those and not get thrown out.





Washington and Idaho are working together to divvy up the water in the Spokane Valley Rathdrum Prairie aquifer. How are those talks going?


First of all, I think we're working better together than ever in history. And we all understand the aquifer doesn't have an artificial line that says here's the border and so here's your share and here's our share. We're in the process of moving out to public comment in April to get a feel for what the public is going to say about it, but I want to applaud Idaho and their work with us, and our folks are working well with them.





Last month, you endorsed Barack Obama. What do you think of the future of the Democratic Party nationwide -- in the middle of a contentious race -- and here in Washington?


I'm very encouraged by both Democratic candidates. It was not an easy decision for me to make. But, ultimately, they're very close on policy. So what turned me is who is the person who can inspire this nation? Who is the person who can really get the job done? Washington, D.C., has almost, in my opinion, ground to a halt. So it doesn't matter what your policy is if you can't get them to work together. ...


So I think he's the guy who can bring us together, get [it] done. ... You gotta remember my age. The reason I dedicated my life to public service was the calling by John F. Kennedy. I have never regretted, never doubted the call to public service, and he was my inspiration, as well as Bobby Kennedy. What I see in Barack Obama is he's doing the exact same thing to a new generation.





Is there something to the argument that he's not as prepared as Hillary Clinton is to be president?


I mean, nothing prepares you to be a governor, or a president, I've come to believe in my mind. But if you have the smarts that this man has, and he does; if you have the judgment that this man has, and he does; if you've got the ability to inspire hope, and so on -- I'll take that over somebody who's sat in Washington, D.C., for 20 years any day of the week.





Do you worry about the party being dragged down as the nomination process is dragged out?


Oh, yeah. I think [Obama] comes out of all of this ahead with regard to delegate count. So the only way I think he loses is the superdelegates. If he loses by that means, all of those who've been inspired will be turned off completely by the system. So, that's what I worry about, candidly.





What about in Washington? Do you predict a backlash against 2006's big Democratic victory and your narrowly won election? Are you expecting a fight with Dino Rossi?


He's in a fight with someone right now, because he's about as negative as he can get. Which is interesting. I would never have predicted that. I like to talk about issues and policies. Because there's no doubt I've performed. I've taken on challenges and I've gotten results. And he can't speak to those. Things like calling me 'Benedict Gregoire' I don't think is productive or helpful. ... Four years ago, he said we were the worst state to do business. Well, Forbes has ranked us the fifth best in the country.





The Sonics are the second-worst team in basketball, but still ... what's the solution to keeping them in town?


Well, I don't want to lose 'em. But I will tell you, it's a long story, because I've spent countless hours on this issue. [Sonics owner] Clay Bennett has been very honest with me in the last two weeks. His words, not mine: 'Unequivocally. Not. For. Sale.' I don't think he's posturing at all. And he's absolutely reinforced by the commissioner. Absolutely reinforced by the commissioner. So I think what we oughta be looking at is, OK, fine, we want an NBA team. So maybe it's not that set of players. We want an NBA team. And we want that team to be named the Sonics. And I think those are realistic goals that we could accomplish.





Governors have been making a lot of confessions lately. We were just wondering if you have anything you want to get off your chest right now?


[Laughs] I do. I do. I went in to my senior staff the other morning and I said, 'I don't know what you people are talking about in here, but I want you to know I have not, nor do I have any intention of having an affair.' [Laughs] Can you believe the news? I know Eliot [Spitzer, disgraced New York governor]. And I don't even remotely understand what he's doing.








& lt;a name= "full " & NOW READ THE FULL, UNEDITED TRANSCRIPT: & lt;/a &





FULL TRANSCRIPT (Bold comments are from Inlander staff)





I want to make sure you all got the news about Spokane's ranking. Not only Spokane. Spokane's ranked 9th. Olympia's ranked 8th. No other state has two in the top ten. Then if you add Seattle, which is ranked 20th, no other state has three in the top 20.





In Seattle, I'm sure they're like "Spokane!"


I love it. I love it. I was over here, when I met with the aerospace folks in January and got a real feel for how burgeoning that sector is and they brought forward some issues and concerns. We got the legislature to just... Those people are probably surprised that the system could work that quickly with the tax incentive package. What was more important to them, candidly, is they're saying they've got jobs and nobody to fill them. [This] is a three-million dollar apprenticeship program for aerospace job. [Through the community colleges.] Very exciting for them.





There's a lot of worry about the economic downturn right now. How is the state doing, and what is it doing to prepare?


We're 49th, in terms of foreclosures. Our export industry is probably what's the cushion for us right now. We're up $17 billion from last year. We're up 100 percent since 2005 -- $67 billion in exports. Commodities in Eastern Washington are a perfect example -- wheat has gone from three bucks to 12 and more. Boeing's sitting on $255 billion in orders. Microsoft is expanding as much as it did last year. The Economist magazine just had one of their writers come visit, forecasting what's happening with the national economy. It was ugly. To include a prediction, it could be a dollar that crashes. And then distinguished our state and said two reasons. One, you get globalization. You understand it, you're not fighting it, you're embracing it, and you're making it work for you -- the import/export example. And two, you've diversified your economy, and Spokane's an example of that. But we can't secede. We're not an island.





Couldn't we put three or four states together and secede?


There are some states by anybody's measure are in absolute recession. California, 14 percent of its entire budget is its deficit. Arizona, 16 percent of its entire budget. Five states that are 25 percent of the whole market -- the entire economy -- are in recession. And yet, we're doing fairly well. Now, having said that, anybody who's about to get kicked out of their home doesn't care we're 49th. So I put together a task force last fall. How do we get our arms around the industry? What we've done is passed every bit of recommendation that was made by them. How do we get help to folks, educate them, show them how they can refinance so they can stay in their home? Increased our investment in the housing trust fund, increased the debt limit to help in low-income loans. I mean, we've done every recommendation by that housing task force that they put forward.


At the same time, we're sitting arguing over how much should we have been saving. The legislature was proposing $750 [million]. I was not pleased with that. They got to $835 [million], which is the third highest reserve in a supplemental budget in history. So, I think they were responsible. At the same time, with them I don't believe we turn our back on fundamental things like education. For the last four years, half of everything we have spent new money on is education. I think that's this aerospace industry's future. We're trying to be very smart about our investment, from the day the child is born in early childhood education through apprenticeship, college, whatever the student chooses, to include additional workforce training. So this budget represents that. At the same time we did some other things like campus safety, community safety, patient safety, and so on. So we're trying to be smart. The rainy day fund we got through, I think, is smart. If you talk to Arizona, that governor says, "Thank goodness we have a rainy day fund." Arnold Schwarzenegger is trying to get a rainy day fund in California. So, we've got it and it's got about $450 million in it. So, we're trying to be smart about where we spend our money, smart about reserves, trying to tackle the housing problem.


But I'll tell you what I've proposed to Speaker Pelosi and to Majority Leader Reid with some of my fellow Democrat governors, which is: We need a real stimulus program in America. Not a one-time check, but jobs. So we've proposed that they put forward a good stimulus package as round two for ready-to-go infrastructure projects. Those are jobs. And they have to be ready to go in 90 days. So they've got their permits, their [Environmental Impact Statement], their whatever they need. Whether it's roads, bridges, water programs, septic, whatever it might be: infrastructure. So we can build some infrastructure in America, put people back to work. I think that's a better stimulus package than a one-time check.





Would that include projects like the north-south freeway?


It would have to have everything ready to go [but] just lacks the money. So, all permits, all EIS, all everything. [State Environmental Policy Act permits], [National Environmental Policy Act permits], everything would have to be done. We know that to invest in a capital investment doesn't help. I mean, that'll come to fruition a year from now. We're very lucky that we've put the nine-and-a-half cent [gas tax increase] in in 2005, because we're building all those projects [including the Alaskan Way viaduct) right now. We're keeping people working in our state. It's coming home at a time that's critical to us. So that's why we're saying "ready to go." No more than 90 days. If that's true with north-south, it would qualify. I don't think it is, to be honest with you.





This year, a lot of our legislators came to you talking about low-income housing. What were they asking for? Money? Incentives for developers? What was the conversation?


Well, it wasn't just here. It was everywhere. If we can't find people affordable housing, they're either on the streets, or they're having to go long distances -- which is becoming a more pressing problem throughout the state -- to get to their jobs. So then we're gumming up the roads. So, how do we put more money into low-income housing? That's the trust fund -- $70 million. How do we increase the debt limit? We did that. We've done a lot of work on manufactured homes, mobile homes, to [incentivize] to make sure people can get into those and not get thrown out. That they're not for development purposes shut down. There's just a ton of bills that may be small. Each one of them are large.





It's an issue of middle-income housing in Seattle, where everything's so expensive.


Absolutely, so when people get so frustrated about how congested it is on I-5 there, I keep reminding them it's because the only way they can get affordable housing is to drive far away. That is in the process of completely upsetting Snohomish County and US-2. That's become a critical highway. Congestion. Why? Because housing's affordable there. And they're working in Seattle. So we've got to find incentives to keep housing affordable in centrally located areas where people are working.





Washington and Idaho are working together to divvy up the water in the Spokane Valley Rathdrum Prairie aquifer. How are those talks going?


First of all, I think we're working better together than ever in history. And we all understand the aquifer doesn't have an artificial line that says here's the border and so here's your share and here's our share. We're in the process of moving out to public comment in April to get a feel for what the public is going to say about it, but I want to applaud Idaho and their work with us, and our folks are working well with them.





What about the phosphorus reduction process for the Spokane River? Will that continue to move forward?


We did that bill last year, remember? And we are about to go to EPA. It's been a long negotiation, and it's been very contentious. But the community has pretty well come together. We have a proposal to go to EPA. It's talking about those who are putting phosphorus and so on in, what they have to do, what actions they have to take. But I'll tell you why this is tough stuff. This isn't about one company, or half a dozen companies. This is bout every single person in this area understanding they're contributing to this problem and how they can help solve it. So we're going to EPA on April 17 to see if they'll approve what we have negotiated. And then the permits begin. Then everyone has to start complying, if [EPA] approve, with what we've set out as a goal and what everybody's contribution to the problem is and how they're going to take action.





There's been some gnashing of teeth about this bill that eliminated the phosphorus reduction programs in other counties and left Spokane to go it alone.


Well, that's the nitrogen depletion in the river. If those other communities are going to find the same thing, they're going to be subject to the same program. It's like a TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) process. EPA's not going to let us get by without that. We know what the problem is here. We know why we've got oxygen depletion. This is the way in which to solve it. If we find the same thing anywhere else, we've got to do the same thing. [And the ban will be statewide by 2010.]





Switching gears, let's talk about the national scene. You endorsed Barack Obama last month. What do you think of the future of the Democratic party nationwide -- in the middle of a contentious race -- and here in Washington?


I'm very encouraged by both Democratic candidates. It was not an easy decision for me to make. But, ultimately, they're very close on policy. So what turned me is who is the person who can inspire this nation? Who is the person who can really get the job done? Washington, D.C., has almost, in my opinion, ground to a halt. So it doesn't matter what your policy is if you can't get them to work together. If he's not able to get them to work together, then he'll inspire the nation to tell them to either get it done or get out. And I saw it in the caucuses that I went to and visited. Those people want the kind of change he's talking about, they want him to succeed, and they're not going to sit idly by and say it's OK for Washington, D.C., not to respond to his call.


So I think he's the guy who can bring us together, get [it] done. Around the world, when I travel, we're not held in the highest regard and yet I can tell you that they respect Hillary Clinton. But they have the same feelings [as I do] about him -- there's hope, there's an opportunity for a new day in America, a person who can be a world leader -- and I want us to return to our standing as an international leader. I think he offers the best opportunity. You gotta remember my age. The reason I dedicated my life to public service was the calling by John F. Kennedy. I have never regretted, never doubted the call to public service, and he was my inspiration, as well as Bobby Kennedy. What I see in Barack Obama is he's doing the exact same thing to a new generation. A generation that, without him, I think was turned off and tuned out. And he's got them inspired and ready to contribute to their communities and believe there's something they can do and accomplish. That's the kind of leadership I think America needs right now.





Is there something to the argument that he's not as prepared as she is to be president?


Let me tell ya. I was attorney general for three terms. I don't know how you can be better prepared to be governor, candidly, than being attorney general. There's nothing like OJT (on-the-job training). I mean, nothing prepares you to be a governor, or a president, I've come to believe in my mind. But if you have the smarts that this man has, and he does. If you have the judgment that this man has, and he does. If you've got the ability to inspire hope and so on, I'll take that over somebody who's sat in Washington, D.C., for 20 years any day of the week.





Do you worry about the party being dragged down as the race is dragged out?


Oh yeah. I think he comes out of all of this ahead with regard to delegate count. So the only way I think he loses is the superdelegates. If he loses by that means, all of those who've been inspired will be turned off completely by the system. So, that's what I worry about, candidly. I think Nancy Pelosi said it right the other day. She expressed the exact feeling that I had, which is there's something wrong if the superdelegates overturn the delegate vote. With that, I think he did a marvelous job taking the race issue on. And America should. And he is. And he did it eloquently, in my opinion. And I don't want more of the same, and that's, respectfully, what Senator McCain offers. I'm not interested in more of the same. I think going into November, Barack Obama is the biggest contrast to Senator McCain one can have. It's either status quo or even going backwards, or real hope, real change, real future. So I think he's got the best chance to win, too.





What about in Washington? Do you predict a backlash against 2006's big Democratic victory and your narrowly won election? Are you expecting a fight with Dino Rossi?


He's in a fight with someone right now, because he's about as negative as he can get. Which is interesting. I would never have predicted that. I like to talk about issues and policies. Because there's no doubt I've performed. I've taken on challenges and I've gotten results. And he can't speak to those. Things like calling me "Benedict Gregoire" I don't think is productive or helpful. I think we oughta keep it at a playing level that allows us to talk about issues and policies, and I'll proudly talk about that. Four years ago, he said we were the worst state to do business. Well, Forbes has ranked us the fifth best in the country. Spokane, you know how it's being ranked. Fortune has ranked us the fifth for small business. The Pew Institute just ranked us the top state with two others for best-managed in the country. The list goes on and on. So let's talk those issues. When he said, "Spent too much." Well, OK, where would you cut? I don't get the answer. Where has most of the money been spent? Fifty percent of every new dollar has gone into education -- would he cut that? I'd say so, because he did when I came into office. He left me with a $2.2 billion shortfall. I cleaned it up. So, I'll talk about how to do a budget in a compassionate, investing, business-friendly [way] any day of the week with him. I want to talk issues. I don't want to do labels. That's a waste of time, and that's politics as usual. I think what he talked about is turning the clock back, and I want to go forward.





What effect will the recent Supreme Court ruling have?


[Laughter] Well, remember I was attorney general when this all started. So I did some of the briefing and so on and so forth, and I reminded the parties, "You know, you got what you asked for. You may not like the results." Which is true in any litigation. And they're not happy. But, you know, Washingtonians are independent. I like the blanket primary, to be honest with you. I wished we still had it. I think Washingtonians oughta be able to go and vote for whoever they want to vote for. And this will allow them, I guess, to do as close to that as they can. I don't think the parties are going to do nothing, however. I think they're going to probably, I don't know, advocate something like a party nomination process. Something. I don't know what they'll do. But I don't think they're just going to allow it to be what they consider a free-for-all.





Talk a little about the effort to eliminate the statute of limitations on prosecuting sex abusers. We have a former prosecutor in Don Brockett who has been very eloquent on this, and yet he's not had much success with the legislature.


You know why he hasn't had success? Victims' advocates don't like it, prosecutors don't like it. So while you kinda sit there and you say, "Well, that makes sense. Isn't that the right thing to do?" Those in the know, those who do the prosecution, those who advocate for the victims, don't agree with him. The bill was introduced this year by Chris [Marr] and didn't go anywhere. It's been tried for two or three years now. And it doesn't go anywhere. So I'm not the most informed person on it. I'd like to study it more, but I would never sign a bill where you got your prosecutors and your victims' advocates both saying "no" to it. I need to understand why. I understand how passionate he feels about it, and I respect him as a prosecutor. So I need to get the two of them in the same room and say, "What is it here that we're not agreeing on? Can we do something that's in the spirit of what Don's trying to accomplish that maybe doesn't just completely blow out the entire statute of limitations?" There's gotta be a way, because I think his intention is absolutely correct. But they're objecting to something there. We need to sort that piece out.





The Sonics are the second-worst team in basketball, but still... What's the solution to keeping them in town?


Well, I don't want to lose 'em. But I will tell you, it's a long story, because I've spent countless hours on this issue. Clay Bennett has been very honest with me in the last two weeks. His words, not mine: "Unequivocally. Not. For. Sale." I don't think he's posturing at all. And he's absolutely reinforced by the commissioner. Absolutely reinforced by the commissioner. So I think what we oughta be looking at is, OK, fine, we want an NBA team. So maybe it's not that set of players. We want an NBA team. And we want that team to be named the Sonics. And I think those are realistic goals that we could accomplish. Great set of purchasers that have come forward, [who] understand the community. Came forward one week before the end of the legislative session. [Chuckles.] That's difficult under any circumstance, no matter what you come forward with.


And there are a lot of issues with respect to that source of revenue. Most importantly I will tell you the county exec is not asking for it. Because it's there's to vote on -- it's not ours, we just authorize them to vote on it. The only call I have from a county council member is, "We want money for the arts." People are now coming in and saying, "We want it for Husky Stadium. We want it for the arts. We want it for low-income housing. We want it for this. We want it for that." So that legislature, in literally one week, when they are finishing 330 bills and three budgets, had taken this issue on. It would have been a food fight beyond anybody's comprehension. I, on the last day of the session, went in to Lisa [Brown] and I said I want [to do] a vote count. I'm tired of everybody saying "If you'd just put it up for vote, you'd get it." She did a vote count. It was miserable. And she did it with [Senate Minority Leader Mike] Hewitt, so it was the entire senate, and it was well below 50 percent. And it wasn't about saying "no" ultimately. It was "no" now. Come back next year. Let us work through. Should we spend some of the money on the arts? Should some be spent on Husky Stadium? How would we sort that all out in a rational way, and is there a team to be bought, or not? So, come with a real plan. In the meantime, the city of Seattle can do bridge funding and assure them that the $75 million is there, under any circumstance. They got a letter from the speaker, majority leader and myself, which says: "We are confident." Those are not words used in Olympia by legislative leaders unless they really mean they're willing to do it. But not now, under these circumstances. The votes aren't there.





Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer offered to pay $150 million toward the purchase by April 10. The state's going to let that expire, then?


That was there, one week before sine die (adjournment). That was what came forward: Here's the plans for Key Arena, here's $150 million from the potential buyer, here are the terrific buyers, the city will put up $75 million, we want you the state to put up $75 million. It was literally the Thursday before the Thursday of sine die. The votes weren't there. I'm told by the speaker they were not there in the House. I know for a fact they weren't there in the senate. But again, you're gonna have them take a vote. If you have them take a vote "no," then they are positioned next year to follow that "no" vote. Why would we do that if we really want success in the end? Why would we have them take a "no" vote so that when they go in April to talk about the Sonics and so on, they have this terrible vote out of the Washington State legislature? That would be the worst ammunition they could have.


So, I know Sonics fans are frustrated. I understand that. But you don't force a legislative institution to do something that makes it such that you can't get anything. Let them do their process. [Look at the] Fox Theater. The legislature didn't give the Fox Theater ... you don't own anything, but we've got an idea, give us some money. It isn't going to work. We're not the first dollar in, we're the last dollar in. It's after you've got a plan you can show us, you've got the money, you've got a team to buy. The legislators are saying, "What team are they going to buy?"


So, those are the unanswered questions that lead them to: We're not going to vote on this now. But I don't think there's any grounds to be discouraged. To the contrary. Great potential buyers. I think we can get an NBA team. I think we can get the name of the Sonics. Those are exactly where we ought to be headed. And I think that's achievable. The city has to find some bridge funding.





Last question: Governors have been making a lot of confessions lately. We were just wondering if there was anything you wanted to get off your chest right now.


[Laughs] I do. I do. I went in to my senior staff the other morning and I said, "I don't know what you people are talking about in here, but I want you to know I have not nor do I have any intention of having an affair." [Laughs] Can you believe the news? I know Eliot. And I don't even remotely understand what he's doing.

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