The likely Democratic nominee for Washington governor spent much of a campaign speech Monday unveiling his job creation plan calling for a “culture change” in Olympia.
Jay Inslee, a Democratic congressman from Bainbridge Island, said he would focus the state’s job creation efforts on six “key industry clusters” – aerospace, life sciences, military, agriculture, information technology and clean-energy technology.
“It’s going to take some fundamental reforms in the way Olympia has been working for decades,” he said in a 25-minute speech at an airplane parts repair business near Spokane International Airport. “We’re going to need a different approach amongst economic development agencies and the governor’s office. The most important change is to start with a culture change in Olympia.”
In a brief interview after his speech, Inslee said his call for change isn’t about the Democratic Party, which controls the governor’s office and state House and Senate.
“I’m not running against the last 22 governors. I’m running against the attorney general,” he said. “He’s been part of the culture the last seven years.”
State Attorney General Rob McKenna, who unveiled his jobs plan late last year, is the expected Republican nominee for governor.
“I have yet to hear him explain how his administration would be any different,” said McKenna spokesman Charles McCray.
After pointing to the success Washington has had in fields such as aerospace, Inslee promised to help lead “another technology revolution when I’m governor, in clean-energy technology.”
“This is an industry that can truly unite both sides of the Cascade Mountains, where farmers in Colfax and welders in the south Seattle region are equal partners,” Inslee said. “It is not a question of whether those jobs will be created. It is only a question of where they will be created.”
He called for the state to join California in creating a “low-carbon fuel standard.”
“We want those clean-car jobs in our state, not just in California,” said Inslee, who co-authored a book about clean energy.
Low-carbon fuel standards were supposed to go into effect in California last year. The regulations, which have been put on hold because of a court challenge, would encourage the use of fuels that have less impact on climate change.
He also promised to offer state assistance to help finance startup businesses focused on clean technology and businesses that want to upgrade to save energy.
Inslee said universities should prioritize science, math and technology degrees and said he would “restore our state’s commitment to higher education,” as one of several handouts on his job plan explained.
Too many open jobs in Washington that demand computer science training are going to people from outside Washington because state universities aren’t training enough people, he said.
“That means we’re hiring thousands of out-of-state workers when we could instead be training and hiring our own children for those jobs.”
He said he would pay for new programs, in part, by closing tax loopholes that he says don’t benefit workers. State leaders, including Gov. Chris Gregoire, have suggested that they may place a sales tax plan on a ballot this year to help balance the budget and prevent deep cuts to education programs. Inslee said he has not taken a stance on a sales tax at this point.
Inslee spoke at Absolute Aviation Services, which repairs plane parts and employs 34 full-time workers, said Chad Anderson, chief inspector at the company, which is located near the Spokane International Airport.
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