Gov. Jay Inslee has a sunny re-election pitch: Economy has rebounded; big investments in education and transportation; definitive action on climate change. And while much of that occurred while he was governor, it’s a stretch to say he led the charge on any of those issues except for climate change, where he imposed carbon caps on certain industries after the Legislature failed to act.
The economic revival is driven by the Seattle boom. The economy looks far different elsewhere. Inslee stumped for a transportation revenue package, but the heavy lifting was done at the legislative level.
The state has spent a great deal more on schools, but much of that was compelled by the Supreme Court’s order to fully fund basic education. In fact, Inslee boxed himself in during the 2012 campaign when he called a bipartisan “levy swap” plan a gimmick and said he wouldn’t raise taxes. Taking those options off the table has made it more difficult to reach a solution on the hardest aspects of this problem: funding teacher pay equitably and ending the over-reliance on local levies. Four years ago, Inslee said funding would come from economic growth and closing tax loopholes, but that won’t be enough. He says he will release a plan after the election. That’s not leadership.
A mental-health-care crisis arose during Inslee’s term, but, again, action had to be compelled by a court order. A federal judge said the state had to stop warehousing people in need of evaluations and treatment. Western State Hospital has been plagued by poor administration and lax security.
Inslee granted the Spokane Tribe’s application for a casino, a move that could threaten the future of Fairchild Air Force Base. Spokane’s school district has embraced charter schools, and they’ve demonstrated positive outcomes in closing the achievement gap. Inslee opposes them.
Bill Bryant, Inslee’s Republican opponent, supports charter schools and other innovations aimed at better outcomes. He sees the McCleary decision as an opportunity to improve schools. He wants the last two years of high school to focus on specific pathways for graduates, whether that’s higher education or learning high-demand skills. He also doesn’t have a specific education funding plan, but supports equity and uniformity. We believe he’d be more engaged in forging a compromise.
On mental health, Bryant says the state needs to take the pressure off the two state hospitals and support more community-centered treatment to head off problems.
Bryant is a former Seattle port commissioner and a businessman with a private-sector perspective. He supports a minimum wage with regional variations – like Oregon’s and unlike Initiative 1433. He is not a social-issues conservative, and wants to avoid those divisive distractions.
The state needs a fresh leader who can actively engage the Legislature on the tough issues ahead. We think Bryant has the energy, the intelligence and the right priorities.
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