Locke says times changed, he's the same
P. VOGEL; The News Tribune
Olympia, WA - Gov. Gary Locke, criticized in the past for not showing
leadership, has won accolades this year for facing down several potential
But the two-term governor said Tuesday he hasn't altered his style
as he approaches a self-imposed summer deadline for declaring whether
he'll seek a rare third term.
"I think I'm the same," Locke told The News Tribune's editorial
board after touting his performance during the double-overtime legislative
session that ended last week. "These are different circumstances,"
he added, referring to the state's budget deficit, which some fear
could reach $3 billion, and Boeing's announcement last month that
it will ask states to compete for the right to assemble the company's
new passenger jet, the 7E7.
The Legislature this month passed a $25 billion no-new taxes operating
budget for 2003-2005 that is similar to a plan Locke proposed last
December. Locke also played a key role in pushing through the Legislature
a number of measures intended to improve the state's oft-criticized
business climate, generally, and to entice Boeing to locate the 7E7
assembly work here:
•A $4.2 billion package of transportation improvement projects.
•A $2.6 billion construction budget.
•A 20-year $3.2 billion tax break for Boeing and its suppliers, if
the state lands the 7E7 work.
•Unemployment insurance reforms requested by Boeing.
"He hadn't shown this kind of leadership before with key issues,"
said state Sen. Dino Rossi (R-Sammamish), who worked with Locke to
craft the budget.
Rossi, who's been mentioned as a possible candidate for governor,
conceded that Locke displayed backbone by standing up to the traditionally
Democratic labor unions that opposed the unemployment insurance reforms.
"We'll see what happens next year," Rossi said, asserting
the state has a ways to go before it emerges from its economic slump.
"Is he going to buckle under the pressure of the labor unions?"
Though Locke said state revenue forecasts show that "we pretty
much have bottomed out," he warned of a dire domino effect if
Boeing picks another state in which to assemble the 7E7.
Arizona, California, Kansas, Texas and other states are expected to
submit bids for the work this month. And Locke said that if Boeing
picks one of them, "there's a strong probability that - depending
on which state it is - that the successor of the 747 will be built
in state X," he said, adding that the same scenario could apply
to the 737, too.
Over time, that could mean a loss of as many as 150,000 direct and
indirect jobs, Locke said. "That's why we proposed such a large
incentive for Boeing," he said.
If Boeing does choose another state, though, and Locke decides to
run for re-election, he said he hopes voters wouldn't hold it against
him "since we've given it everything we can."
Don't count on it, said Rossi, pointing out that Boeing relocated
its corporate headquarters from Washington to Chicago "on his
Locke said his biggest disappointment of the legislative session was
lawmakers' failure to pass education reforms, including legislation
to create independent, publicly funded charter schools and to reform
the Washington Assessment of Student Learning tests.