OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee proposed a series of new programs he wants and state residents might like, but didn’t explain how to pay for them, Republican leaders said after Tuesday’s State of the State address.
At times, it seemed geared to voters in states with early primary or caucus votes for the 2020 presidential nomination, they said.
“The speech, I think, was very presidential,” said Senate Minority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, with programs that would play well in Iowa and New Hampshire. “Free stuff is very popular in those early primaries.”
Rep. Jacquelin Maycumber, of Republic, who was chosen to give the televised GOP response to Inslee, said the governor seemed to forget people who have to work hard for the money they pay in taxes: “We need to make sure he doesn’t forget those of us working in this Washington in his desire to go back to the other Washington.”
Legislative Republicans agreed on some of the problems Inslee mentioned in his speech, but disagreed with approaches to fix them.
All areas of the state have a problem with homelessness, Maycumber said. The Legislature should find ways to make life more affordable and resist ideas that create extra economic burdens.
“Let’s work together to prevent new tax increases on families, individuals and employers,” she said.
The state needs to improve its mental health system but has spent millions in recent years and still has problems at Western State Hospital, Republican leaders said. But Inslee is proposing the state work with the University of Washington to create a new psychiatric teaching hospital, which they could resist.
“Why build a third hospital when he can’t manage the first two?” said Rep. Drew Stokesbary, R-Auburn, referring to Western and Eastern state hospitals.
They support a plan by Sen. John Braun, the Republican budget leader, to send a $500 million bond issue for construction of mental health facilities to voters in the fall, and have members working on bipartisan plans to reduce teen suicide and ensure workplace safety.
House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, accused Inslee of trying to divide lawmakers a day after House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, called for the parties to work together for some of the same problems Inslee urged them to address.
But they were asked at a post-speech news conference if they weren’t also being divisive. Maycumber likened Inslee to a child making up a Christmas wish list, and Wilcox compared him to a “time-share salesman’ who talks up benefits but doesn’t mention costs.
Wilcox denied they were being divisive, insisting he was just providing a “fairly accurate description.”