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Inslee wants coal ports, trains studied

Fri., Jan. 18, 2013

Gov. Jay Inslee speaks to reporters during his first news conference as governor on Thursday in Olympia. (Associated Press)
Gov. Jay Inslee speaks to reporters during his first news conference as governor on Thursday in Olympia. (Associated Press)

He urges limit on guns, talk on temporary-tax extension

OLYMPIA – State and federal agencies studying potential impacts of a new coal terminal near Bellingham must consider the increased train traffic in Spokane and other cities around the state, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Thursday.

At his first news conference after being sworn in as governor, Inslee also said he supports restrictions on high-capacity magazines as part of comprehensive package to address gun violence, and he’d consider extending temporary taxes due to expire this year as part of a plan to close the state’s projected budget shortfall and increase money for public schools.

On coal ports and the trains that will feed them, Inslee said he wanted a “complete, consistent, reliable evaluation” of all impacts in the state, which would include the towns that trains pass through.

Some supporters of the new coal terminal want the environmental impact statement to take a narrower view of just the local effects in and around Bellingham.

Inslee, who talked about global climate change during Wednesday’s inaugural address and at the start of his press conference, said the world needs to reduce carbon emissions, no matter where they originate. Opponents of the terminal contend its environmental statement should consider the effects burning that coal in China will have on the global climate.

That’s a more challenging question, Inslee said, and he needs to talk with legal advisers to see whether the state has the authority to do that.

Inslee said he wanted a “cool, calm, common-sense discussion” with legislators over a comprehensive package to address gun-related violence. As a member of Congress, he voted for the federal ban on military-style semi-automatic rifles in 1994 and said he continues to support efforts to keep felons from buying guns and to restrict the number of rounds a magazine can hold.

“It’s the capacity of the ammunition that really makes the difference,” he said.

On taxes, Inslee said he would consider extending taxes due to expire at the end of June if that’s part of a plan the Legislature passes to balance the budget. An increase on the business and occupation tax on some service industries, as well as a higher tax on some beers, were approved as temporary taxes in 2010 with an expiration date of June 30, 2013.

“I do not believe we would be increasing taxes if we extended the existing tax rates,” he said. “We would not be increasing taxes for consumers in that regard.

He wouldn’t refuse to discuss it, but “I’m not proposing it right now.”

Republican leaders said Wednesday they consider extending those rates a tax increase and vowed to “hold the line on every tax.” Jason Mercier of the Center for Government Reform said under law that would be considered a tax increase because they are scheduled to expire and are not part of the projected revenue the state is expected to have when the new biennium starts on July 1.

It also would cause voters to question the value of a promise from state officials on a “temporary tax,” Mercier said.

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