Spin Control

Inslee keeping open mind on Med School control

OLYMPIA -- Gov. Jay Inslee at a press conference on Sept. 4, says he has no preconceived notions of who should run a new medical school in Spokane, steers clear of guessing what the state Supreme Court will do to the Legislature for ignoring orders on public schools and calls for an increase in the state minimum wage. (Jim Camden)
OLYMPIA -- Gov. Jay Inslee at a press conference on Sept. 4, says he has no preconceived notions of who should run a new medical school in Spokane, steers clear of guessing what the state Supreme Court will do to the Legislature for ignoring orders on public schools and calls for an increase in the state minimum wage. (Jim Camden)

OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee said he’s keeping an open mind about which state university should operate a medical school in Spokane, but he has no problem with the two school using state resources to make their case to the public.

Asked Thursday whether the University of Washington or Washington State University should run a new school to train physicians in Spokane, Inslee said other questions that are more important to answer first. Among them are the true need for additional doctors, the most cost-effective solution and the effects any new system would have on the current five-state consortium to train doctors that UW operates.

“I do not go into it with any preconceived notions,” Inslee said during a press conference that also discussed public school funding and the state’s economy. . . 

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. . . Both universities are lobbying legislators for control of a new medical school that would be based at Spokane’s Riverpoint Campus. UW wants the state to expand the current WWAMI program that trains doctors for Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho, adding as many as 320 graduate medical students by the end of this decade. WSU wants the state to approve a new medical school under its control, with an emphasis on recruiting and training physicians in Spokane and underserved rural areas.

The current WSU Spokane magazine lays out the reasons that university is studying a separate medical school in a four-page spread that’s the lead article of that edition. UW counters with a “Next Generation Medical Education” page on its main university website that offers a rebuttal to WSU in a section it calls “myths and facts.” It is also sponsoring internet ads supporting WWAMI in Spokane on local news sites.

Inslee said he’s not troubled by the way the two universities are making their case. “I think it’s important to get the right answers, and more information is better than less right now,” he said.

On other topics, Inslee steered clear of suggesting what the state Supreme Court should do to force the Legislature to comply with orders to spend more on public schools. Lawyers from the attorney general’s office were before the justices Wednesday arguing the Legislature should not be held in contempt for ignoring an order to come up with a plan earlier this year for paying for improved schools. The court is weighing its options, but no one should be surprised the justices are frustrated by the lack of a plan, he said.

“The court made it pretty clear that the Legislature shouldn’t keep kicking the can down the road,” he said. “If the court does find the Legislature in contempt, it should not take action that shuts down government.”

He believes the Legislature will have to find more money by closing some tax breaks that businesses receive, a course he’s advocated for the last two years without much success. There are many options for legislators to consider next year but “you can’t generate $5 billion out of thin air.”

Inslee will also repeat his call next year for the Legislature to raise the state’s minimum wage. Economic advisers recently told him the state is seeing increases in jobs and consumer confidence to pre-recession levels. But for workers in the lower fourth of the job market, wages aren’t keeping up with inflation, which means they are spending less, a problem for Washington’s consumer-based tax system. 




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Jim Camden
Jim Camden is the Olympia bureau chief, covering the Legislature and state government. He also is a political columnist and blogger for Spin Control.

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