On Inauguration Day for the nation’s new president, recently re-elected Washington Gov. Jay Inslee talked with Sound Publishing reporters and editors from Kirkland, Bothell, Mercer Island, Bellevue, Issaquah and the Snoqualmie Valley about challenges facing the state in a long Legislative session, and under the new federal regime.
Inslee’s top priority, as is the case for most state legislators, is fully funding K-12 education. Last month, Inslee released a proposed budget that includes fully funding public schools and freezing college tuition.
“We know we can do great things for our kids if the resources are available,” Inslee said last week. “This has been near and dear to my heart for a long time.”
The 2012 Washington Supreme Court ruling popularly known as the McCleary decision calls for the state Legislature to adequately fund K-12 education by 2018, meaning much of the current Legislative session will be dedicated to finding the money to do so.
The governor said he knows his education funding proposal is a “really big lift,” but that he is “committed to getting this job done,” and that it can’t be “solved by smoke and mirrors or nips and tucks in the budget.”
Inslee’s $46.7 billion budget proposal, which covers two years of spending starting July 1, relies on $5.2 billion from new and higher taxes. About half of the proposed budget is spent on education.
Inslee said that the revenue sources for his plan are “as fair as I can fashion,” and include a carbon tax, a capital gains tax and a revision to the B&O tax. He said he would also reduce property taxes for 75 percent of the state’s homeowners and business owners.
He said that his proposal is different from the voter-rejected Initiative 732 because it puts money into education, while the initiative would have taken funds from schools.
Transportation is an issue of importance for the governor as well, and he shared his pride about Sound Transit 3 being approved by voters in November.
For northeast King County, Inslee said he is happy to see the project which allows the shoulder to be opened up to traffic on northbound Interstate 405 between Bothell and Lynnwood moving forward.
“We have to be able to move more people for each mile,” Inslee said.
He also defended the tolls on I-405, saying “people value the system and are using it.”
“(Traffic) would be markedly worse without the tolls,” he added.
Legislators have said they won’t take any action on the tolls in this year’s legislative session, as it is meant to be a two-year test run, ending this fall.
“We will still continue to evaluate this,” Inslee said.
Inslee also addressed concerns about how the new federal administration and the more conservative Congress would affect Washington state.
“We’re going to protect who we are and what our values are as the State of Washington,” Inslee said. “I hope the president will not want to be on the wrong side of history.”
He added that the state would have to continue to move forward on issues such as climate change no matter what the federal government decides to do.
“We’re the players on the field right now,” Inslee said. “The federal government is not going to come out of the locker room.”
He also said Washington state is collaborating with Oregon and California on issues including clean energy and climate change. Inslee called the anti-science bend of the incoming administration “extremely disturbing” when asked about some of the statements questioning the safety of vaccinations and the validity of climate science.
“We’ve heard of fake news, and the only thing worse is fake science,” he said.
Inslee also discussed his desire to abolish the death penalty, which he called “inequitable” and “extremely expensive,” and the challenge of supporting small businesses across the state.