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Inslee calls for education funding, ‘living’ wage in State of the State address
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee gave his first State of the State Address on Jan. 14, using the platform to call on Olympia for at least an additional $200 million for education funding, the completion of a much wrangled over statewide transportation package, and asked lawmakers to begin considering raising the state’s minimum wage.
With the state Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn having fired off a stern message to lawmakers in Olympia with a draft bill in recent weeks, Inslee followed suit, saying it’s time for the Legislature to abide by the State Supreme Court’s education funding decision.
“Promises don’t educate our children. Promises don’t build our economy and promises don’t satisfy our constitutional and moral obligations,” he said in his address to a joint session of the state Legislature. “We need to stop downplaying the significance of this court action. Education is the one paramount duty inscribed in our (state) constitution.”
During last year’s battles with the Legislature, Dorn’s go-to strategy to fix the education funding shortfall was to end a number of what he perceives as tax breaks for a variety of businesses and interests. The governor hopes legislators will agree “on closing enough tax breaks this year to increase funding for school operations and fund the voter-approved teacher COLAs (cost-of-living adjustments) that have been suspended for six years.”
As King County sets to have residents vote on the creation of a new taxing authority entity to help fund King County Metro bus service, Inslee again made the push for a workable transportation package that will benefit the whole state.
“I’ve been pushing the Legislature to do something about this since my first day in office,” the governor said. “The next logical step is for the Senate to produce a package of transportation improvements that has 25 votes. If this happens, I’m confident we can find agreement before this session ends. The goal cannot be for everyone to get everything they want. Instead, we must get agreement on what our state needs.”
Inslee, following the lead of SeaTac and socialist Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant, along with national leaders, also made a call to raise the state’s minimum wage. Washington state already has the highest state-level minimum wage rate in the country at $9.32 per hour, and Inslee’s first volley in this new fight is to raise it somewhere between $1.50 to $2.50 an hour.
“There are thousands of working moms and dads with full-time jobs - sometimes two or three jobs - who some days cannot afford to put adequate food on the table,” Inslee said. “That’s why today I’m calling for a statewide increase in the minimum wage. In every community there are people who don’t share in our state’s prosperity and we need to do something about that.”
The governor also outlined initiatives to reduce business and occupation taxes for small businesses, health care initiatives, and efforts to meet the state’s carbon emission targets.
“Rebuilding our economy after the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression isn’t easy,” Inslee concluded. “But we are doing it. I know Washingtonians, and I know what we are capable of doing when we work together. That’s why I won’t give up, and neither should you. We have 59 days to do hard things in this session. Let’s get to work.”
Outsiders view of the state
On Jan. 17, the Mercatus Center at George Mason University released a report on the 50 states’ financial health. Washington state was ranked 23rd in “fiscal condition.” For that metric of the study, Alaska was the top-ranked state, along with the plains states that have been experiencing recent oil and energy booms. New Jersey was ranked 50th for its fiscal condition.
Washington’s rankings were not as moderate in some of the study’s other metrics, most notably “long-term solvency.” The state only made it to 41st in that ranking. For more on the study, visit www.mercatus.org.