Jay Inslee and Rob McKenna clashed Thursday night over same-sex marriage, Medicaid and the best way to get more money to the state’s public schools.
Each accused the other of ignoring the “will of the voters” when it was convenient. Each claimed the ability to forge bipartisan consensus while contending the other was tainted by their recent government service.
But neither broke new ground in a televised gubernatorial debate in Seattle sponsored by most of the city’s television stations.
Inslee, a former Democratic congressman, continued to call a possible property tax shift to rearrange funding for public schools a gimmick. Legislative budget leaders of both parties have suggested the state assume more of the property taxes now collected by school districts.
“It’s a classic maneuver by politicians in Olympia,” Inslee said.
Unlike McKenna, he hasn’t been in Olympia the past seven years, he added.
“The reason he hasn’t been in Olympia the last seven years is because he’s been in Washington, D.C., the last 15 years,” McKenna shot back, adding Inslee could bring the national level of gridlock and partisanship to the state capital. While McKenna has worked with members of both parties to pass key legislation during his two terms as attorney general, he said, Inslee has a reputation for strong partisanship on his legislation.
Not always, Inslee countered, noting he worked with a Kansas Republican in the fight to help Boeing get into a position to win an Air Force contract to build the next generation of refueling tankers.
Much of the debate was spent restating long-standing positions about jobs, the economy and the state’s budget. Inslee plugged better management techniques, lower health care costs and support for key industries that will bring out the “secret sauce” of Washington ingenuity.
McKenna advocated across-the-board help to small businesses, less government regulation and lower costs for workers’ compensation. He said the state sales tax needs to be extended to online purchases to help “brick-and-mortar” storefronts.
Neither candidate would support extending the sales tax to certain services like hair and nail salons or professional offices.
Inslee said he supported the referendum supporting same-sex marriage; McKenna said he supported the current state law, which allows everything but marriage through civil unions, but would honor the will of the voters if Referendum 74 passes.
Inslee has problems respecting the voters’ will on supermajority requirements for taxes, said McKenna, who supports those provisions and has defended them for the state in court.
McKenna has problems respecting the will of the voters on not changing the state’s workers’ compensation system, Inslee countered. Voters have turned down changes to that system that are similar to what McKenna proposes on several occasions.
The candidates both oppose a ballot measure legalizing adult marijuana use in Washington, but Inslee said he’d respect the will of the voters if it passes and fight any attempt by the Legislature to restrict or modify the law.
McKenna said he thinks passing the initiative would jeopardize the state’s medical marijuana system by inviting federal prosecutions, so he wouldn’t rule out legislative action in response.