OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Gov. Chris Gregoire delivered her State of the State address Tuesday to the Legislature, which has returned to the Capitol for the start of the 60-day legislative session.
The second-term Democrat has proposed spending cuts to help close an approximately $1 billion gap in the next two-year budget. Gregoire also has proposed a temporary half-cent sales tax increase.
State lawmakers gathered Monday for the new session that is expected to include a broad revamp of government spending and a close review of whether the state should legalize gay marriage.
Gregoire is also asking for billions of dollars in spending on roads, ferries and transit.
A spokesman told The Seattle Times that Gregoire would propose highway replacements and expansion projects go to voters in November, but road maintenance should be funded by the Legislature.
According to The Connecting Washington Task Force, charged by the governor to develop a financially sustainable 10-year funding strategy for the state's transportation system, funding is insufficient over the long term and without new revenue state and local roads will deteriorate. The task force identifies about $21 billion dollars in improvement projects statewide.
Gregoire says transportation improvement projects are job creators and necessary for the health and growth of the economy.
In December, Gregoire proposed spending cuts that included a shortened school year, the elimination of social services for thousands of low-income residents and the early release of some prisoners.
House Republican Leader Richard DeBolt of Chehalis said that tax proposal would simply be a Band-Aid on a severed arm and that his party wants to reshape and refocus government.