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Inslee seeks votes for his key bills

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says time is running short on this legislative session to get bills passed. (File)
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says time is running short on this legislative session to get bills passed. (File)

OLYMPIA – With time running out in the legislative session, Gov. Jay Inslee acknowledged “something’s got to break very very soon” to pass a package that would pay for major transportation improvements through higher gas taxes.

That something, however, is not going to be a promise from him not to impose low carbon fuel standards by executive order. There’s no plan to do that, Inslee said Thursday, and any standards would only come after extensive study, conversations with interest groups and public hearings.

The governor also called on legislators to approve a bill in the next week that requires statewide tests for students in an effort to keep federal funding for local schools.

“The votes for a bipartisan agreement should exist,” he said.

A multibillion-dollar transportation package – which would pay for major projects, maintenance and mass transit with a hike in the gasoline tax – has been a priority for Inslee since he took office. Discussions with lawmakers take place almost daily, he said, and both Republicans and Democrats have moved closer to the middle on a transportation package. But there’s no agreement.

Republicans said Wednesday some of their members are balking at voting for a gas tax increase because they fear Inslee would impose carbon fuel standards by executive order after the session ended, pushing gas prices higher.

Inslee countered Thursday that Republicans were using the carbon fuel standards as an excuse for inaction. As Inslee spoke at the news conference, teachers opposed to testing requirements were filling the halls outside the legislative chambers. He said he does not “have the luxury” of getting into a philosophical discussion about the value of standardized testing.

To have any chance to keep federal money from the No Child Left Behind program, he said, the state should pass a law that requires that by the 2017-18 school year students’ scores on statewide tests are used in teacher evaluations.

A bill to require testing died recently in the Senate when most Democrats joined with the chamber’s more conservative Republicans to kill it. Opponents said they had heard from educators and school boards in their districts concerned about the time and expense of additional testing on top of new evaluation procedures.

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