An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Inslee Talks of Creating Legacies in State of the State Address

Doug Nadvornick/SPR/TVW

It’s back to work for Washington and Idaho legislators, who this week began their off-year sessions. Legislators have begun holding hearings on bills. But part of the tradition is to gather and listen to their respective governors recite their accomplishments and agendas.

“It is my high honor and distinct privilege to stand before you today to deliver my 12th and my final State of the State budget address,” said Idaho Gov. Butch Otter.

“I am honored to stand before you once again to report on the state of Washington,” said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

And, as usual, each governor, Butch Otter and Jay Inslee, reported that the state of their states was strong.

We’ll hear a bit from each this hour and reactions from some who usually differ philosophically from their chief executives.

In Olympia, Jay Inslee’s message was all about doing things for future generations.

“We cannot focus just on the length of this session, which is short. We have to focus on our legacy, which can be long," Inslee said.

"Several opportunities are in front of us to forge a prosperous path for the next generation. Access to democracy is a cornerstone to the enduring health of our nation and our state. So let’s leave a legacy of a stronger democracy by increasing voter participation and equitable representation. It is time to pass the Washington Voting Rights Act, automatic voter registration and Election Day registration," he said. "And speaking of a stronger democracy, let’s leave a legacy that supports our modern democracy and our modern economy by ensuring equal access to the Internet for all Washingtonians. We must protect ‘Net neutrality for our people, for our businesses and for the virtues of free speech.”

The economy is strong, Inslee said, the unemployment rate is low and the future is unlimited.

The governor praised the legislature for developing and funding a basic education plan that has finally satisfied the state Supreme Court.

“But the Supreme Court has made it clear that the plan needs to start one year earlier. And fortunately, we have the reserves to be able to do that," Inslee said. "It is crucial that we implement the McCleary plan now because a child is only a third grader once and they don’t get that year back.”

Inslee touched on many other legacies, none more important, he said, than the battle against climate change.

“While this session is short, our legacy on climate change must be long and must be lasting. We have just 59 days to do our part to save our children from a certain endless cycle of crop killing droughts one year and rivers spilling over their banks the next. Save salmon from dying in ever-warming waters and our forests from being reduced to plumes of ash,” he said.

The governor proposed a tax on carbon emissions. Some of those proceeds would then replenish the state’s reserve fund.

After the governor’s address, Sen. Sharon Brown (R-Kennewick) offered the response from a party that no longer controls the agenda in either the legislative or executive branch.

“I want to implore Governor Inslee and the Democrats in both the Senate and the House to work with us in the coming session to do what’s best for the entire state, not just what’s good for the greater metropolitan Seattle area,” Brown said.

She says the state no longer has divided government that forced the two parties to compromise on bills and budgets.

“Under a Republican-led Senate, we passed the first-ever college tuition reduction, a $16 billion transportation package and a plan to fully-fund basic education. We are encouraged that, for the first time since taking office, Governor Inslee has proposed a budget that attempts to comply with our state’s four-year balanced budget law. This is something he has insisted in the past was not required of him,” Brown said.

Despite that, she says, Republicans still have serious disagreements they need to work out with Democrats.

“It is true that the Supreme Court is demanding that the legislature speed up the spending timetable for public school’s funding plan," Brown said. "But in spite of the Supreme Court’s demand, there is no need for economy-crippling new energy taxes or for exploiting the rainy day fund. Current revenue is enough to support education funding that the legislature, not the court, deems appropriate. Furthermore, the energy tax that the governor proposes would drive up the cost of motor fuel and electricity, imposing a huge burden on struggling families.”

The other big issue for Republicans is an attempt to reverse another Supreme Court decision, known as Hirst. That changed some of the procedure for determining whether wells could be dug for new construction, especially in rural areas. The GOP sees it as an assault on private property rights and rural economies. Hearings have begun on bills to address that issue, but it may be one of the tougher issues to solve during this 60-day session. Our thanks to TVW for the sound in this story.