Education funding is top priority for Inslee: Washington Governor visits Bellevue Reporter offices for discussion on legislative session, priorities for the state

Governor Jay Inslee visited the Bellevue Reporter office Friday for a frank discussion with Sound Publishing editors and reporters on the new legislative session, and on his priorities for this term. Matt Phelps Photo

On Inauguration Day for the nation’s new president, recently re-elected Washington Gov. Jay Inslee talked with Sound Publishing reporters and editors from the Snoqualmie Valley Record, and the Reporter papers of Mercer Island, Bellevue, Issaquah, Bothell and Kirkland about challenges facing the state in a long Legislative session, and under the new federal regime.

Inslee, who released a budget proposal in December that would raise $5 billion in new taxes to fund education, said that fulfilling the state’s constitutional obligation to its students and satisfying the Supreme Court’s 2012 McCleary decision would be his top priority. He also said that the state would use all of its resources “to protect who we are and what our values are.”

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.”

“We know we can do great things for our kids if we put the resources that are adequate into it,” he said. “I believe this is a historic opportunity.”

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.

As far as environmental protection and clean energy policies go, Washington will have to “stand on our own feet” under President Donald Trump and his cabinet, Inslee said.

“It’s necessary that we deal with climate change, and from all signs, we’re going to get no help from the federal government in the next several years,” he said.

He called the anti-science bent of the incoming administration “extremely disturbing” when asked about some of the statements questioning the safety of vaccinations and validity of climate science.

“We’ve heard of fake news, and the only thing worse is fake science,” Inslee said.

Washington is one of the most scientifically literate states in the country, Inslee said, in areas from aerospace engineering to cloud computing. He also said that some of the nation’s top climate scientists are at the University of Washington, and that the state needs to protect them.

Inslee said that Trump should listen to his generals on the danger of climate change and carbon pollution, as they deem it one of the greatest long-term threats to national security due to its potential to cause mass migrations and refugee situations.

He also said that he would speak with incoming Energy Secretary Rick Perry, if confirmed, about cleaning up the Hanford nuclear site on the Columbia River “early in his term.”

Inslee was critical of Trump’s “tweet-based” policies, especially regarding the deficit and trade. Inslee has helped foster close trading relationships in Asian markets, and said he wouldn’t want to see the president “start a trade war, accidentally.”

“I hope to encourage the administration to think before they tweet,” he said.

Still, he said that “we’ve got to be hopeful” about the incoming president, and that there are many opportunities for bipartisanship, especially in Olympia. The transportation package passed two years ago was a great example of the two parties working together, he said. Washington’s Legislature is split, with a Democrat-controlled House and a Republican-controlled Senate. Both have yet to come forward with complete education funding proposals, and task force Inslee helped form did not come back with any agreed-upon recommendations.

While Washington tends to be blue west of the mountains and red to the east, Inslee said that his plan is “geographically non-discriminatory,” unlike the “levy swap” proposal touted by some Republicans that would redistribute taxes from wealthier areas, like Bellevue and Issaquah, to more rural parts of the state. He said that people in King County “should be worried about this,” but that he doesn’t find it “fair, or politically tenable.”

Inslee also discussed transportation, including his support for light rail and the Interstate 405 tolling experiment, his desire to abolish the death penalty, which he called “inequitable” and “extremely expensive,” the challenge of supporting small businesses across the state and his discussions with the governors of Oregon and California about their shared concerns, including fighting climate change and protecting programs like the “Dreamers.”

For more on the governor’s office, see www.governor.wa.gov.

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