Opinion

Gov. Gregoire: Something smells like a third-term run

LIKE IT IS

Has it occurred to you that Gov. Chris Gregoire’s foreswearing tax increases and handing legislators a budget that looks like the turkey carcass after Thanksgiving dinner hints of a run for a third term?

Why not? Dan Evans did it. She’s only 61 now.

Oh, sure, the teachers and state employees are ticked off at her because she suspended their raises, but they’ll get over it. In fact, they may still get their raises if President Obama comes in with more than the $1 billion in federal funds the governor is expecting.

Besides, there isn’t any Republican on the horizon at the moment to be a serious threat. Dino Rossi is old news. He got cheated out of it the first time, but he lost it the last time so I doubt he’ll still be hot to trot in 2012.

What Gregoire may have to worry about is a few of her own Democrats deciding she’s had her shot and it’s somebody else’s turn. They’re aging too, you know. I read where Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown of Spokane said she was interested.

Actually, I once myself promoted Gregoire for governor back, I think, when she was attorney general, but I got over it. She was riding a white horse for a long time when she got credit for negotiating a $206 billion settlement in 1998 between 46 states and the big tobacco companies. The story behind the story was different.

I heard it from her most persistent critic, Tom McCabe, executive vice president of the Building Industry Association of Washington, who wrote in the pages of the BIAW newsletter: “When the tobacco case came along, a South Carolina law firm contacted her and said, ‘This is going to cost your office legal time and staff resources to fight these companies. Let us do it. We’ll pay you (her office) $150,000 a month. In return, we’ll get the attorney fees in the case. You won’t have to do any work.’

“She did it (agreed to the deal). When she ran for re-election (as AG) in 2000, after the lawsuit had finalized, nearly 50 percent of her campaign funds came from South Carolina, all lawyers or secretaries or legal attorneys. Obviously, some partner shook everybody down for money. She gets the credit, they did all the work. They paid off in campaign contributions.”

As appointed head of the Department of Ecology (in 1998), McCabe said, “She went in with 779 employees and a $110 million biennial budget. By the time she left in 1992 to run for AG, DOE had grown to 1,629 employees and a $220 million budget.”

Under her reign there he said, “She set up the water rights system so it now takes eight to 10 years to get a permit. (It used to take a month). When state workers struck, everybody said it was illegal. (As AG) She did nothing. Remember the lady on the boat who was abused by her husband and kept with his dogs? Chris decided not to prosecute and it was two and a half years before anything was done. We ended paying an $8.8 million settlement. She made a $17.8 million mistake when she missed a deadline in a Social and Health Services case.”

Gregoire, McCabe said, “compiled a hopeless tangle of payoffs, illegalities and incompetence.”

How much of the current problem can be blamed on her, I don’t know although I read that she spent $3 billion more in her first term than the previous governor. She’s trying to give the impression now that her word is good on no new tax increases, which smells like a third term to me. We’ll know if the Legislature hands her a budget balanced with tax increases and she vetoes it.

Adele Ferguson can be reached at P.O. Box 69, Hansville, WA 98340.

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