Being local newspapers for Marysville and Arlington, we don’t get a chance often to deal with state politics.
But since I’m a board member now with the Washington Newspapers Publishers Association, I was recently asked to attend Legislative Day at the state Capitol.
The highlight was meeting Gov. Jay Inslee, the first presidential candidate from Washington state since Henry “Scoop” Jackson in 1972 and 1976.
He said he decided to run because, “Trudy and I want to say we did all we could for climate change.” He said he wants to leave his grandkids a habitable planet.
Inslee said he is not a one-issue candidate because the environment affects economic, security and many other issues.
“It’s driving mass migration,” he said, along with costs associated with forest fires, flooding, etc.
“What will the costs be if we do nothing?” he asked, adding there needs to be honest discussion about the issue, not lies.
He said while The New Green Deal is getting all the headlines right now, “I wrote the book on this eleven years ago.”
He said pollution is an issue of equity, as the poor live in the worst areas to breathe.
Asked how he thinks he will do in Red states, Inslee said he grew up in Eastern Washington, he knows agriculture, and he has won Red areas before.
On the campaign trail, he said people are interested and committed to his cause.
“There’s a lack of hope,” he said. “The nation needs a spark of life. “
He gave me some hope when he said, “They have not given up on Democracy.” I’ve been concerned about all the talk of socialism in the Democratic party.
Whether he wins or someone else, Inslee said, “Our highest priority is to defeat Donald Trump.”
In introducing Inslee, Rowland Thompson of Allied Daily Newspapers thanked him for his veto last year of a law that would have added a level of secrecy to the legislative process.
The governor also was appreciative toward the press. “There’s nothing more vital to democracy,” he said.
Inslee said he’s sorry about attacks on the media coming from Washington, D.C. “You’re the glue that holds it together,” he said.
He added there is a lack of community in the country because of the internet and social media. “It’s hard for people to relate to one another,” he said, adding the media can help with that.
The media also heard from various heads of state departments.
•John Batiste: The State Patrol chief said the crime lab is way behind in getting results from sexual assault kits that could prevent more victims. He said DUIs and fatals are down, but problems with people using cell phones while driving can be seen left and right. He said more troopers are being recruited as 85 each year are eligible to retire. “The average age is dropping, and that means fresh blood, but we lose experience.”
•WSDOT: Projects are 86 percent on time and 91 percent on budget. About $550 million a year is spent on preservation, but it should be more than double that, especially to fix bridges. The ferry and rail systems need major overhauls. A court injunction is requiring 415 culverts for fish passage to be replaced by 2030. For all projects, the more they are kicked down the road the more it will cost.
•Pat McCarthy: The state auditor talked mostly about their new user-friendly website. People can check audits of local governments and find out where their money comes from and where it goes.
•Bob Ferguson: The attorney general said he’s filed 34 lawsuits against Trump and so far has a 17-0 record. He said he’s not worried about lawsuits filed by county sheriff’s against his office for the gun law 1639. He said there are some things they must do, and other parts of the law are discretionary.
•Hilary Franz: The public lands commissioner said wildfires, 95 percent of which are human-caused, are not just in Eastern Washington anymore. She said there have been improvements in the way such fires are fought; so much so that even though there were more fires reported, fewer acres were burned. She said the state would be smart to spend more money on prevention; that would provide jobs and diminish degradation.
We also heard from a number of state lawmakers from both parties. Some on both sides questioned Inslee’s carbon tax.
One said it was a mistake for Inslee to sign into law moving up the Presidential Primary. Having to identify as a Republican or Democrat will upset the 30 percent of voters in the state who are Independent.
There is concern about energy taxes for small businesses and the average taxpayer. There is a lobbyist for every energy company, but none for ratepayers.
Another said the carbon tax is regressive and affects those who can least afford it – the poor. People don’t choose to make long commutes; it is done out of necessity.
Some are upset about the increase in gas taxes. There’s growing support for electric cars and charging stations, and even hydrogen as a power source. Future ferries need to be hybrids of gas and either electric or hydrogen. Traffic congestion needs to be addressed, including the use of road shoulders.
Rising health care costs are a concern and making others pay for it only shifts the problem and doesn’t solve it. Work on the rising costs instead.
There is a disconnect between the state legislature and school districts. The legislature brought down levies too much. The Supreme Court McCleary decision said nothing about local levies, which are important because “basic education” standards are minimal.
Districts were too generous in handing out teacher raises. They can’t fund those contracts over time. There’s been a lot of discussion about a temporary raise on the amount on local levies.
There is too much focus on kids going to college. There is talk of having the last 12 credits for a student in high school to be focused on career.
It was an interesting day. I especially appreciated the talk of bipartisanship, especially considering there is none of that at the federal level.
Steve Powell is managing editor of The Marysville Globe-The Arlington Times. His Backseat Coach column runs as the need arises.