He couldn't achieve the tax reform he repeatedly sought, despite offering to lower the state sales tax and make other changes in exchange for an income tax.
He saw mixed results on K-12 education.
He butted heads with the teachers' union but started a program that became a national model. Labeled "Schools for the 21st Century," it allowed 33 pilot projects to experiment with changes in, for example, length of the school year and administrative requirements.
And Gardner convened a commission that proposed a major package of education reform, which didn't pass as House Bill 1209 until after he left office. Among other changes, it led to creation of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning tests.
On another major priority, he pushed for and won a cigarette tax to fund cleanup of the Puget Sound. Early steps toward making preschool and health insurance available to the poor were taken on his watch.
"Booth's imprint on our state will long be seen in our classrooms and the many open spaces he fought to protect," U.S. Sen. Patty Murray said Saturday.
He signed the Growth Management Act, regulating land use, and the law making Washington the first state in the nation to lock up violent sex offenders who had served their prison sentences. They would be confined at the Special Commitment Center, later to find a home on McNeil Island.
Gardner reached landmark agreements with the federal government to clean up nuclear waste at Hanford, with Indian tribes to set up a framework for negotiating key issues rather than going to court, and with state workers complaining of pay discrimination.
That last deal boosted pay for thousands of mostly female employees, and it wasn't the only way Gardner promoted diversity in the state workforce. He also named the first ethnic minority to the state Supreme Court, Charles Z. Smith, and issued an order banning discrimination against gays in state employment.
Another of his hires was Chris Gregoire, then an assistant attorney general who he named as head of the Department of Ecology. Gregoire, who left the Governor's Mansion herself in January, said he was "a progressive visionary ahead of his time."
"He also leaves a lasting legacy of nurturing a generation of leaders, including me," former Gov. Gregoire said in a Gardner family obituary released Saturday.
Assessments of his administration at the time tended to focus on the personal.
"He humanized government," then-Secretary of State Ralph Munro said as Gardner's second term winded down. Heck said at the time: "The secret to Booth Gardner's popularity was that there were 15,000 people in the state, each of whom thought they had a personal relationship with Booth. ... and they were right."
In addition to his two children, Gardner is survived by eight grandchildren, and two half-brothers, Bill Clapp and Steve Clapp. The family requests that memorial donations be made to the Northwest Parkinson's Foundation.
Staff writer Peter Callaghan contributed to this report.
Jordan Schrader: 360-786-1826 firstname.lastname@example.org @Jordan_Schrader
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