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Inslee: Coal port study must include routes through state

OLYMPIA -- Gov. Jay Inslee answers questions Thursday during his first press conference since taking the oath of office on Wednesday. 
 (Jim Camden)
OLYMPIA -- Gov. Jay Inslee answers questions Thursday during his first press conference since taking the oath of office on Wednesday. (Jim Camden)

Jay Inslee takes questions during his first press conference as governor.

OLYMPIA -- State and federal agencies studying potential impacts of a new coal terminals near Bellingham must consider the effects of increased train traffic on Spokane and other cities around the state, Gov. Jay Inslee said today.

At his first press 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 would consider extending temporary taxes set 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 was "absolutely clear" on one point: "We've got to have a complete, consistent, reliable evaluation of all of the impacts directly in the state of Washington, which certainly includes transportation impacts."

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"We really do have to have a full assessment of the transportation impacts of the coal trains on the many towns they will pass through. One way or another, we're going to do that."

That's broader than some supporters of the new coal terminal want; they want the environmental impact statement to take a narrower view of the local effects in and around Bellingham. Inslee 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 transported 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 any authority to do that.

"It is clear that there are ramifications if we burn the enormous amounts of Powder River Basin coal that are exported through our ports," he said. "The challenge is to figure out from a policy standpoint, where you draw the line.

Inslee said he wanted a "cool, calm, common-sense discussion" with legislators over a comprehensive package that would 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. The cosmetics definitions, really, are less important as to what's an assault weapon."

On taxes, Inslee said he would consider extending taxes that are 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.

I don't want to foreclose the possibility of those being on the table for discussion. I'm not proposing it right now."

Republican leaders said Wednesday they would 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 it would be considered a tax increase because they are scheduled to expire and as such are not part of the projected revenue the state is expected to have when the new biennium starts on July 1.

It would also bring into question the value of a promise from state officials on a "temporary tax," Mercier said.

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981. He is currently the political reporter and state government reporter in the newspaper's Olympia bureau office.

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