January 23, 2014

Inslee administration wants to build better relationships

By: Jason Hagey   Comments: 8
Ted Sturdevant, executive director of the governor's Legislative & Policy office, speaks Thursday at AWB's Lobby Lunch meeting. Photo: Dan Brunell/AWB
Relationships are everything in Olympia, Joby Shimomura, Gov. Jay Inslee's chief of staff said Thursday at AWB's first Lobby Lunch meeting of 2014.

"I think we were slow to get that," Shimomura confessed to a room full of business leaders. "It's important for us to do a better job of working with you all."

Low-carbon fuel standards and increased water quality regulations are a couple of the issues that are currently straining relations between Inslee's administration and parts of the state's business community, and Ted Sturdevant, executive director of the governor's Legislative & Policy Office, addressed both of them during the hour-long gathering.

It's no secret that Inslee wants Washington to do more to with regard to climate change generally, but it's too early to know how a low-carbon fuel standard might fit into that, what it might look like and how it might affect business, Sturdevant said. 

Some reports have suggested that adopting a low-carbon fuel standard -- which would require increased use of ethanol in gasoline -- could add $1 or more per gallon to the price of gas, a claim that Inslee disputes.

The governor's goal would be to find a solution that has the minimum negative effect on the economy and the maximum benefit for the environment, Sturdevant said.

One thing that Sturdevant said is known about a potential low-carbon fuel standard for Washington: It would not duplicate the standard that California has adopted.

"We get that the concern is very real, the fear is very real and that even the slightest increase would be very detrimental to some Washington businesses," he said, adding "We think there is a way to do this."

Sturdevant's message for employers regarding water quality standards -- a debate that often goes by the shorthand "fish consumption" -- was similar: The business community's concerns are legitimate, and the governor believes there's a solution that works for all parties.

AWB, the Association of Washington Cities and the Washington State Association of Counties commissioned a study that showed it would cost employers and municipal governments billions to try to meet a new standard under consideration by the Department of Ecology, and yet even the most advanced technology available today could not meet it.

Sturdevant praised the work of a recently formed group that Inslee convened to address the issue, saying it offered the best hope for finding a solution.

The group includes representatives from the business community, tribes, environmental community and local governments.

Regarding transportation, Sturdevant sought to reassure business leaders that the possibility of a revenue package is not dead this year.

"My sense is a lot of people are giving up hope in this town, and I really want to discourage that," he said. "There is a deal sitting out there waiting to be done, and could be done."

One reason Sturdevant said it's important to push for a deal this year: It would be harder to pass next year.

"To do a transportation package in the same year that we're going to have a heck of a fight over McCleary and education funding -- and to think in that same session we could take another run at this and be successful -- that's a tall order," he said.

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