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January 17, 2017

Gov. Inslee shares his vision for Washington at AWB Legislative Day

By: Bobbi Cussins   Comments: 0
Gov. Jay Inslee speaking at AWB's Legislative Day and Hill Climb Jan. 17. Photo: Brian Mittge/AWB
"I come to you as an optimist," Gov. Jay Inslee said today at the start of  AWB's annual Legislative Day and Hill Climb.

Inslee kicked off the sold-out event by sharing his plans for the 2017-19 state budget, which includes advocating for new and higher taxes, and taking questions from AWB members.

He led his talk by listing some of the many things Washington has to celebrate, namely the robust economy, at least in some parts of the state.

"I realize economic growth is not uniform throughout the state," Inslee said, "but there is single-digit unemployment in every county in the state."

But, that's not satisfactory, he said, pointing out that more work must be done. That's why his budget includes reinstatement of the research and development tax incentive that expired in 2015.

The revived incentive would help early-stage industries and grow the economy throughout the state, he said.

Regarding education funding, Inslee focused on the state Supreme Court's McCleary ruling. The final piece of the ruling is levy reform, which will ensure the state is picking up the full cost of basic education, including teacher and administrator salaries which are now subsidized with local levy dollars.

Inslee said his plan would lower most homeowners' property taxes. That's partially due to the $4.4 billion tax proposal included in his spending plan released last month. 

"I've asked the Legislature to finish education funding and I know it's a big lift," Inslee said. "But you can't do big things by doing small things."

Inslee framed K-12 education funding as an economic issue, saying it's the No. 1 priority for economic growth. "We're in the business of providing intellectual talent," he said. 

Inslee also said that the new dollars would go into programs that work, like teacher mentoring and career and technical education that lead kids to jobs in the state.

"My budget emphasizes that not every student needs a four-year college degree to be successful," Inslee said of his focus on trades and technical pathways.

On higher education, Inslee said his budget freezes college tuition again, though it was slated to go up 2 percent. Also funded are 14,000 additional slots for Student Need Grants.

Finally, the governor told the group that another urgent issue - a potential crisis - is the possibility that Congress will repeal the Affordable Care Act without having a plan to replace it. Such a move, he said, would impact 750,000 Washingtonians.