Jay Inslee News Feed http://www.jayinslee.com/news/rss Jay Inslee News Feed Mon, 12 Sept 2011 05:00:00 +0000 AMPS en hourly 1 Inslee signs $5.1B transportation bill, touts Cheney rail project http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/inslee-signs-transportation-bill-touts-cheney-rail-project Fri, 12 Jun 2015 14:00:00 -0500 http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/inslee-signs-transportation-bill-touts-cheney-rail-project Washington Gov. Jay Inslee visited an old cow pasture near Four Lakes on Thursday to sign the state’s $5.1 billion transportation budget for the next two years.

The budget calls for spending $2.3 million to upgrade a section of aging rail between Cheney and Geiger Junction to serve a new $30 million grain loading facility under construction along Craig Road.

Inslee said the project is creating jobs and ensuring that grain shipments from the Upper Columbia Basin can continue to move by rail rather than on state highways.

Like other elements of the transportation budget, the grain facility is part of the state’s effort to build the economy, he said.

“It reminds me of how integral rail transit is,” Inslee told a gathering at the construction site.

HighLine Grain LLC, a consortium of five grain cooperatives across the Upper Columbia Basin, is building the facility to assemble 110-car trains for shipment on BNSF Railway main lines.

The cooperatives are making the investment to preserve their favorable bulk rates at a time when the BNSF line is increasingly relying on trains for grain, oil and coal.

Shipping by rail uses less energy and reduces wear and tear on state highways. In addition, it leaves highways less congested, Inslee said.

He said a single train ships the equivalent of 280 truck loads.

“They are green machines,” Inslee said of the grain trains.

In addition to the $2.3 million in track repair approved for the coming biennium, the budget calls for the state to spend a total of $7.4 million over the coming decade to bring the spur line up to Class 2 rail standards.

Elsewhere, the state budget provides $8.7 million for a West Plains Transit Center and $2.2 million for a Central City Line for public transit. Both of those projects were part of a failed ballot measure in April. Spokane Transit Authority is revising the plan and may send it back to voters for another try.

On the state highway side, the budget calls for spending $4.4 million to repave Division and Ruby streets from Interstate 90 to Euclid Avenue, among other regional highway maintenance projects.

During Thursday’s budget signing, Kevin Whitehall, the CEO of HighLine, gave Inslee a gift – a small section of original rail with a date stamp of 1889, the year the track was laid and Washington became a state.

In 2004, the state purchased 108 miles of historic rail serving Medical Lake, Reardan, Davenport, Creston, Wilbur, Almira, Hartline and Coulee City to preserve rail connections on the Palouse River & Coulee City Railroad. Companion lines run south of Cheney.

In January, a slow-moving freight train derailed at a curve just north of Cheney-Spokane Road in Cheney, sending cars off the rails and blocking the crossing.

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Inslee uses Puyallup bridge visit to highlight state infrastructure needs http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/inslee-uses-puyallup-bridge-visit-to-highlight-state-infrastructure-needs Wed, 27 May 2015 14:00:00 -0500 http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/inslee-uses-puyallup-bridge-visit-to-highlight-state-infrastructure-needs Gov. Jay Inslee got a glimpse of the state Route 167 Puyallup River Bridge replacement project Wednesday and delivered a clear, familiar message: It’s time to fix the state’s aging infrastructure.

Following a tour of the construction site for the state Department of Transportation project, Inslee said the Legislature needs to pass a transportation-improvement package to fund repairs of severely outdated bridges like the historic structure in Pierce County’s third-largest city.

“We’ve got a lot of old bridges to be put out to pasture,” he said.

The governor and other state and local officials also used Wednesday’s tour to highlight the need for extending SR 167, a long-awaited effort to finish the highway through the Port of Tacoma.

“The Washington economy struggles when there are roads to nowhere and people stuck in congestion,” said Puyallup City Manager Kevin Yamamoto. “We need that done, and we need that done this go-around.”

Ahead of Inslee’s appearance, lawmakers approved a compromise $7.6 billion transportation budget that will keep state ferries moving, the State Patrol on the road and continue road- and bridge-repair projects into the next fiscal year.

But a transportation package for new projects won’t be voted on before the special session ends Thursday, despite proposals by both the House and the Senate.

The $31.2 million replacement project in Puyallup is scheduled for completion this fall.

The bridge carries an average of about 18,000 vehicles daily, 10 percent of which are trucks, said DOT spokeswoman Claudia Bingham Baker. It is the main link between North Meridian, River Road and SR 167.

The old steel-truss bridge was built in 1925 and is classified as functionally obsolete and structurally deficient, meaning its design is outdated and it is below the state's desired rating for replacement of some or all of the structure. It is also deemed fracture-critical, meaning a major structural failure could cause the entire span to collapse.

The bridge, which carries a sufficiency rating of 2 out of 100, will be replaced with steel-plate girder structure with a concrete deck. No new lanes are planned, but future expansion is possible if funds become available.

The bridge will have wider lanes and shoulders, as well as an 8-foot sidewalk for safer bicycle and pedestrian access.

At the project’s completion, northbound traffic will be permanently rerouted to the new structure, and southbound traffic will use the existing concrete bridge, which runs parallel and currently carries vehicles south.

During construction, road closures mostly have been avoided. One weekend closure is planned for August, once the new structure opens to traffic in early July, so crews can move the old span off the job site.

The old bridge will be temporarily stored in nearby forest area. Bingham Baker said the hope is to repurpose it, but an agency has yet to step forward to coordinate and pay for that.

“It’s going to be expensive to rehabilitate and reuse,” she said.

Project planning started in spring 2013, well before the collapse of the Interstate 5 Skagit River bridge near Mount Vernon heightened awareness of low-rated bridges statewide.

The state secured federal funding for the Puyallup project after a 2011 inspection revealed diminished conditions on the already low-rated structure. The state threshold for priority replacement is a rating of 50 or lower.

Prior to that, heavy truck traffic was already limited.

Those restrictions will be lifted upon completion of the new bridge, Bingham Baker said.

Inslee said he admires the creativity of Atkinson Construction and others on the Puyallup project, and even quipped about workers’ expertise at moving the old span.

“They’re so good at moving that bridge I might hire them to move the Legislature,” he said, laughing. 

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Gov. Inslee donating raise to school fundraising site http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/gov-inslee-donating-raise-to-school-fundraising-site Tue, 19 May 2015 14:00:00 -0500 http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/gov-inslee-donating-raise-to-school-fundraising-site OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - Gov. Jay Inslee says that he’s donating his pay raise to a fundraising site that helps with school expenses.

Inslee said Friday that he’s already given money to programs at three Washington schools through DonorsChoose.org, a website that lets donors give money directly to classroom projects at specific schools.

Last week, a state salary-setting board voted Wednesday to give Washington lawmakers a raise along with the governor and several other state officials...

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Inslee signs tougher oil-train law, calls on feds to act http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/inslee-signs-tougher-oil-train-law-calls-on-feds-to-act Thu, 14 May 2015 14:00:00 -0500 http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/inslee-signs-tougher-oil-train-law-calls-on-feds-to-act OLYMPIA — Washington will hire more rail inspectors and let fire departments know ahead of time when train shipments of crude oil are coming though town under a new law signed Thursday.

It also calls for more training of emergency responders, new analyses of risks posed by shipping oil on the Columbia River and additional contingency plans from railroads in the event of a spill.

But while those changes mark progress in making the transport of oil safer in Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee said the federal government must do more to prevent catastrophic accidents involving oil trains, like those seen in the past few years.

Federal authorities must require immediate replacement of older-model tank cars used to transport crude from the Bakken region of North Dakota, the governor said. And it must act to lower the speeds trains can travel through Washington.

“I have to be honest with people that while this (new law) is a step forward, we still have an unsafe situation in our state. It demands federal action,” Inslee said after signing House Bill 1449. “These trains are a mile long, with very volatile material, they’re rolling though our neighborhood and they are not safe today.”

The impetus for the new law is an explosive increase in oil shipments by train.

As recently as 2011, no oil trains traveled through Snohomish County or the rest of the state. Oil arrived only in pipelines and by marine tanker. In 2013, 700 million gallons moved on rails through the state, Inslee said.

That’s a result of the shale-oil boom in North Dakota. Washington attracts so many shipments because it is the fifth-largest refining state in the U.S.

In a typical week, a dozen trains each carrying at least 1 million gallons of Bakken crude travel through Snohomish County to refineries in Skagit and Whatcom counties.

spate of fiery and deadly oil train accidents the past two years has fueled lawmaker concerns about the ability of railroads to safely transport the material and the capability of communities to respond to an incident.

State lawmakers couldn’t pass a bill in 2014 but did pay for an exhaustive review of the safety of oil transportation in Washington.

That study, completed in March, concluded that the state isn’t prepared for a major accident. It made 43 recommendations, and several are embodied in the new law.

One is a requirement for refineries to give the state Department of Ecology seven-day advance notice of planned oil deliveries by rail. Those notices must include the day as well as the amount and type of oil to be shipped.

The state intends to pass the information to fire departments and other emergency responders so they can be prepared for a derailment, spill or other type of accident.

The notice requirement is separate from a federal one for BNSF Railway and other firms to disclose the number of trains carrying Bakken crude that will travel through the state each week.

The new state law enables the Utilities and Transportation Commission to hire eight additional inspectors and empowers them to conduct hazardous materials inspections on private property.

Another change is that railroads will now have to submit documents showing they can pay to clean up a bad oil spill. And the state will begin collecting a barrel tax on shipments of oil by train in addition to marine tankers.

“While there is more work to be done, we have made progress today,” Inslee said.

The issue is getting attention in Washington, D.C.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Transportation ordered a phase-out of older model tankers known as DOT-111, which have been shown to be at high risk of puncture and fire in derailments. Other changes would force oil shippers to slow down trains in urban areas and use better braking systems.

Federal lawmakers are pushing for faster action.

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., introduced a bill in March to immediately stop the use of DOT-111 tank cars and replace them with newer models built with thicker shells, thermal protection, pressure-relief valves and other measures to lessen the chances of an explosion.

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Gov. Inslee signs health care information sharing measure http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/gov-inslee-signs-health-care-information-sharing-measure Thu, 14 May 2015 14:00:00 -0500 http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/gov-inslee-signs-health-care-information-sharing-measure OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) – Gov. Jay Inslee has signed a bill that will give consumers, employers, doctors and others more information about the cost and quality of health care providers and services.

The governor has been working on this idea for a health care claims database for two years.

The measure, House Bill 5084, will allow consumers to compare the costs of procedures and medical providers. Twenty other states have similar databases.

Inslee says better information will lead to better health care.

The Legislature passed a related bill in 2014 to create a more limited database that did not require every insurance company to submit their claims information.

The governor’s office worked with insurance companies, doctors and policy makers to address their privacy concerns and come up with the idea behind this new measure.

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Gov. Jay Inslee, thousands of teachers rally at Capitol http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/gov-jay-inslee-thousands-of-teachers-rally-at-capitol Sat, 25 Apr 2015 14:00:00 -0500 http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/gov-jay-inslee-thousands-of-teachers-rally-at-capitol OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - Thousands of teachers and their supporters crowded the steps of the Washington state Capitol’s legislative building for a rally Saturday morning to call for teacher pay raises, smaller class sizes and less standardized testing.

More than 4,000 people attended the hour-long rally. Gov. Jay Inslee, House Speaker Frank Chopp and other politicians spoke about their efforts to improve Washington’s public education system, which Inslee called “the paramount duty of the state of Washington” in a speech that invoked his father’s career as a teacher. He decried the six-year period since teachers received a cost of living adjustment, or COLA, to raise their pay, and he cited a 12:30 a.m. email from his grandson’s kindergarten teacher as evidence of how hard teachers work...

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Governor signs bill to boost mapping of geologic hazards http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/governor-signs-bill-to-boost-mapping-of-geologic-hazards Sat, 18 Apr 2015 14:00:00 -0500 http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/governor-signs-bill-to-boost-mapping-of-geologic-hazards OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Gov. Jay Inslee has signed a bill that will allow Washington to have more information than ever about geologic hazards that threaten communities and citizens.

Senate Bill 5088 requires an expansion of LiDAR mapping of geologic hazards and a thorough dissemination of that information. It’s the first major public policy initiative created in response to the Oso landslide.

The bill, requested by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, passed on a 97-0 vote in the House earlier this month. The Senate approved the measure 48-0 in February.

Inslee said the Oso tragedy highlighted the need for the bill.

Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark said the bill will help save lives and property from disasters similar to what happened in Oso.

“We live in an age in which we have unprecedented access to technologies that can tell us more than we ever imagined about the natural forces that shape our world,” Goldmark said. “Using the best technology available to identify these dangers before they cause major harm and destruction is smart government and the right thing to do for the people of Washington.”

DNR, home of the Washington Geological Survey, is responsible for surveying and mapping the state’s geologic hazards. Expanding the database of LiDAR maps of hazards was one of the agency’s top priorities during the legislative session.

LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) uses lasers mounted on aircraft to scope topography by measuring reflected light. Those light beams penetrate forest canopy, ground cover and human development to allow mappers and scientists to see the topography of landforms below with pinpoint accuracy.

Lawmakers must make a budget appropriation in order for DNR to implement the program in a meaningful way, Goldmark said.

The program is estimated to cost $6.6 million. DNR would use that funding to hire 10 geologists and four employees to provide technical support.


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Governor, Tri-Citians celebrate Port of Kennewick’s 100 years http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/governor-tri-citians-celebrate-port-of-kennewicks-100-years Tue, 14 Apr 2015 14:00:00 -0500 http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/governor-tri-citians-celebrate-port-of-kennewicks-100-years About 200 Tri-Citians and Gov. Jay Inslee raised glasses of champagne and cider Tuesday to celebrate the Port of Kennewick’s 100th birthday.

While Tri-City leaders highlighted parts of the port’s past, they also emphasized the importance of current port projects to the region’s future.

“It is my hope that the work we are doing now will leave a solid foundation for prosperity to come,” said port Commission President Don Barnes.

So many people packed into the Tri-Cities Business & Visitor Center that some had to stand in the entryway and couldn’t make it into the conference room for the event.

The Port of Kennewick was created March 6, 1915, when 282 out of 379 voters cast their ballots in favor of creating a 5-square-mile port district that included all of the city and a mile in each direction. The port is the state’s fifth-oldest and the first in Eastern Washington.

In 1915, Seattle had about 240,000 residents, near today’s population of the Tri-Cities, Barnes said. Kennewick had about 500.

The early mission focused on river-based transportation, but that has evolved into a multifaceted economic development mission, he said.

Like the mission, the port’s boundaries also expanded to cover 485 square miles in eastern Benton County including Kennewick, Finley, West Richland, south Richland and Benton City.

Numerous port projects and partnerships during the last 100 years have contributed to the economic success of the Tri-Cities, said Kennewick Mayor Steve Young. Most recently, the port and city have seen the commercial and residential development of Southridge take off.

“Our success continues to attract attention from around the state,” Young said.

The port helped bring Pacific Rim Winemakers to West Richland’s Red Mountain Center, said West Richland Mayor Brent Gerry. And the redevelopment of the former Tri-City Raceway into a wine-related development will help West Richland draw in more needed commercial development to better diversify the bedroom community.

Other past successes include bringing fertilizer companies to what became known as Chemical Row in Finley and providing incubator space for businesses in the port’s Oak Street Industrial Park.

Clover Island, Southridge and Richland’s Spaulding Business Park likely would look much different if the port had not bought property and reserved it for development, said Carl Adrian, Tri-City Development Council president and CEO.

Gary Burke, chairman of Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation board, congratulated the port on 100 years of community service with particular pride, because the lands included in the port’s boundaries are part of the historic homeland of the tribes.

The port and tribes have worked during the last decade to build a working relationship to benefit the interests of both parties, Burke said. The port and the tribes also have a formal agreement.

Gov. Jay Inslee said the work the port is doing with Clover Island, Spaulding Business Park and Vista Field shows what local communities can do through port districts.

Inslee optimistically spoke about the possibility of a funded transportation package during this legislative session. He emphasized how important it is for continued economic development to see money for projects such as a Highway 395 intersection at Ridgeline Drive, the proposed Duportail Street bridge, the Lewis Street overpass and a Red Mountain interchange on Interstate 82.

Also in town from Olympia for the anniversary celebration was Hank Thietje, the port’s second manager, who started out assisting John Neuman, the port’s first manager, before filling his position when Neuman retired.

When Thietje came from Olympia to work for the port in December 1972, Benton County as a whole was trying to figure out what to do with the state’s newly approved Shoreline Management Act. The port, county and other local agencies worked together to come up with a comprehensive plan for shoreline management. It was the first approved by the state and was one that other counties used as a model, Thietje said.

The shoreline is something the port continues to focus on now, working with the Army Corps of Engineers on a plan to improve Clover Island’s shoreline for fish habitat and recreation.

Adrian said the port is in the early stages of a number of projects that could have a profound impact on the Tri-Cities, including the redevelopment of the former Tri-City Raceway, creating a boutique wine village on Columbia Drive and redeveloping the former Vista Field Airport.

“I believe this celebration is really about the next 100 years at the port,” he said.

As for the vibrant, mixed-use town center envisioned for Vista Field, Adrian said, “I think the entire Tri-City community believes the port's vision can’t happen quickly enough.”

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Washington Governor Puts Focus on Climate Goals, and Less on Debate http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/washington-governor-puts-focus-on-climate-goals-and-less-on-debate Sat, 04 Apr 2015 14:00:00 -0500 http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/washington-governor-puts-focus-on-climate-goals-and-less-on-debate OLYMPIA, Wash. — In his office, Gov. Jay Inslee keeps a framed image of a stand of magenta paintbrush, an alpine meadow flower and a signature species in Washington, that he photographed while hiking with his wife in Olympic National Park. The magenta paintbrush is threatened by global warming, and the photograph is a reminder, Mr. Inslee said, of all the things that are at risk.

But then he paused and said, no, a beautiful blossom was not the point: The deeper reason he is pushing for tough new air-quality policies is to combat worsening health problems, like asthma in children, that are caused by pollution.

"It's not the flowers," he said. "It's kids' lungs."

The line encapsulates Mr. Inslee's practical approach to advancing one of the most ambitious environmental programs in the country. He has proposed collecting a new charge on emissions from oil refineries, power plants and other industries that would reap an estimated $1.3 billion in the first year. But in contrast to similar systems in California and the Northeast, energy experts said, Mr. Inslee's plan would use most of the new revenue for education and transportation rather than on climate or energy projects.

By linking the money to broadly popular bread-and-butter programs, he hopes to build support for an antipollution policy that faces stiff opposition from Republicans and some industry groups. He is also trying to solve two problems with one policy. Washington has been cited for contempt by the state's highest court, which said the government violated the State Constitution by underfunding schools by billions of dollars.

"You don't even have to allude to climate change," Mr. Inslee, a first-term Democrat, said in an interview. "One can support this simply on the fact that you want to support the education of your children."

Though the fate of the plan is unclear — the Republicans who control the State Senate have vowed to fight it, and Democrats, a majority in the House, have not pledged an all-out defense — it underscores how Mr. Inslee operates. He is less interested in winning the debate over climate change than in achieving his goals.

"It's really unfortunate that it came to be seen, by some people at least, through a partisan political lens," Mr. Inslee said of the climate debate. "But I do think the ice is breaking."

Critics are not so sure. "Governor Inslee wants to try to drive this global warming agenda in a state where you can really say we are already leading the way," said State Senator Doug Ericksen, a Republican and chairman of the chamber's Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee. Adding carbon charges now, he said, would hurt the economy and kill jobs.

But to environmentalists — who have occasionally complained that Mr. Inslee is too cautious — the carbon plan is groundbreaking, making him a national leader of what they say is a quiet movement to find practical solutions to daunting environmental problems without regard to politics.

For instance, former Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, a Republican, backed a big wind-power transmission project in his state, even while saying climate science was unsettled. Georgia reduced carbon emissions from electricity production by 35 percent from 2005 to 2012, more than twice the national average, and its Republican-controlled legislature recently passed a bill expanding incentives for homeowners to install rooftop solar panels.

"There are just more concrete steps being taken," said Keya Chatterjee, the executive director of the U.S. Climate Action Network, a nonprofit advocacy group. "We're affected — what are we going to do about it," she said of the new efforts.

Shooting for results, even if sometimes incremental, was a hallmark of Mr. Inslee's 15 years in Congress. He favored greater wilderness protections on federal land, but when that was not politically feasible, he shifted to the middle ground, defending rules that discouraged development of roads in forests and on other lands. Those rules were ultimately left intact by the Supreme Court in a 2012 ruling.

In a debate over water quality as governor, he supported what he called a balanced plan — tightening some pollution rules while leaving others alone.

"Jay has always had a clear eye on the bull's-eye, the goal he's trying to achieve, and also an understanding of what he has to do to get there," said Bill Arthur, who has watched Mr. Inslee for 30 years at the Sierra Club, where he is the deputy Western campaign director for the Beyond Coal campaign. "He's smart and savvy enough to know, 'I've also got to speak in a language and speak in terms that can resonate with a larger contingent of people.' "

Mr. Inslee, 64, a fifth-generation Washingtonian who grew up in the Seattle area, said he owed part of his appreciation of the natural world to his father, Frank. Frank Inslee, a high school science teacher, often led the family on volunteer expeditions to replant alpine meadows on the slopes of Mount Rainier, the glacier-clad volcano south of Seattle.

But money for education, a key to Mr. Inslee's carbon plan, was also the starting place for his political career in the 1980s, when he was working as a lawyer in a small town in central Washington that needed to build a new high school. The fight over the school's funding led him to run for his first public office, in the legislature. He jokes that now, in trying to link emissions to education, he is back where he started.

His plan is also a kind of throwback, environmental researchers said, to familiar — and politically popular — taxes long applied to alcohol or tobacco.

"We're starting as a society to see carbon emissions as a bad, and by framing it the way he has, he brings it into the sin-tax way of seeing things," said Mark Stephan, an associate professor of political science at Washington State University who studies environmental politics. "Inslee is packaging the policy in a way that makes it more politically palatable."

Mr. Inslee's opponents, especially in the State Senate, remain unconvinced. Washington, they said, already is an environmental leader; the percentage of its power that comes from renewable energy is among the highest in the nation. Hydroelectricity generated by dams on the Columbia River and its tributaries dominates the power grid of Washington and the Northwest.

And long before Mr. Inslee was elected in 2012, they said, the state was reducing its dependence on carbon-based energy. Washington had the biggest percentage reduction in carbon dioxide emission from power generation of any state between 2005 and 2012, according to the Georgetown Climate Center, a research arm of Georgetown University Law School.

In March, the Senate passed a transportation-funding bill of its own, with a phased-in, 11-cent-per-gallon increase in the gasoline tax. The House passed its own plan — different from the Senate's vision but similar in leaving out any mention of Mr. Inslee's carbon proposal as a funding mechanism.

A spokesman for the governor, David Postman, said that the means to pay for the Legislature's commitments had not been determined, and that Mr. Inslee would continue to promote the carbon bill as an answer. "There are apparently a handful of members who need to be convinced, and the governor will certainly be talking with those folks," Mr. Postman said in an email.

Under Mr. Inslee's program, the state would set an overall cap on carbon emissions and require the state's biggest polluters to pay for each metric ton of pollution emitted. The price would be set at an auction, and buyers of emission allowances could sell the amounts they did not need.

The governor's allies on environmental issues are already talking about taking his ideas directly to voters in a referendum, perhaps in 2016, if the Legislature does not pass them. Mr. Inslee, in the interview, declined to say what his next steps might be — or his strategy in the final weeks of the legislative session, which ends in late April. He said only that he remained deeply optimistic.

As a case in point, he cited a recent discussion in Seattle with several dozen college students from schools around the state. The group was chatting about everything from tuition to the arts, when Mr. Inslee lobbed a question from left field: How many of them believed that humans were significantly contributing to global climate change?

Everyone raised a hand.

"Unanimity is pretty amazing," he said, shaking his head.

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Inslee to protest Indiana law with travel ban http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/inslee-to-protest-indiana-law-with-travel-ban Mon, 30 Mar 2015 14:00:00 -0500 http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/inslee-to-protest-indiana-law-with-travel-ban Washington Gov. Jay Inslee plans to issue an executive order banning state-paid travel to Indiana, joining a growing wave of protest against that state’s new law allowing businesses to refuse service to gays and lesbians for religious reasons.

“We in Washington stand for equality,” Inslee, a Democrat, said in a statement Monday evening. The governor’s counsel was still reviewing the language of the executive order, which is expected to be signed later this week.

Inslee’s move may be largely symbolic. David Postman, the governor’s communications director, said he was not aware of any state-agency travel plans that would be affected.

“I don’t suspect that there would be a large number of state employees with plans to go to Indiana,” Postman said.

But Postman said Inslee believes it was important to “speak out” against the law, which has stirred criticism across the country since Indiana’s Republican Gov. Mike Pence signed it last week.

Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act prohibits state and governments there from imposing a “substantially burden” on businesses, persons, religious institutions or associations for following their religious beliefs.

Pence has denied the law’s purpose is to enable discrimination, arguing in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that it has been “grossly misconstrued.”

The law has prompted nationwide protests and calls for boycotts against Indiana. Angie’s List, the popular business-review site, announced it would halt a planned $40 million headquarters expansion in the state.

Earlier Monday, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy made his state the first to announce a ban on state-worker travel to Indiana. Seattle Mayor Ed Murrayannounced a similar travel ban for city employees over the weekend.

Nineteen other states, including Idaho, have similar laws protecting religious freedoms, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. However, some critics of Indiana’s law say it stands out by enabling businesses to legally shun customers in private transactions.

In his statement, Inslee said Indiana’s law “appears to legalize private discrimination.”

He noted Washington has taken the opposite approach — fighting to enforce its nondiscrimination law with recent action by Attorney General Bob Ferguson against a Richland florist who refused to sell wedding flowers to a gay couple. On Friday, the owner of Arlene’s Flowers and Gifts was fined $1,000 and levied $1 for court costs and fees in that case.

Inslee on Monday also invited organizations shunning Indiana to consider moving to Washington.

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Inslee in Yakima calls for investment in early learning http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/inslee-in-yakima-calls-for-investment-in-early-learning Thu, 05 Mar 2015 14:00:00 -0500 http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/inslee-in-yakima-calls-for-investment-in-early-learning Greater investments in early childhood programs now would have across-the-board benefits in the future, Gov. Jay Inslee told local officials at a Yakima early education roundtable Wednesday.

The Democratic governor - and a former Yakima Valley legislator - urged attendees to lobby lawmakers, who are pondering how to expand funding in education in light of Inslee's proposals and a key decision by the state Supreme Court.

That ruling, known as McCleary decision, mandates that the Legislature fully fund basic education. The court also ordered lawmakers to make significant progress toward that goal this session.

Yakima was the first stop on Inslee's daylong trip to Central Washington. He toured a licensed family home child care provider, spoke at the OIC of Washington's Excel High School and attended a brown-bag luncheon at the nonprofit social service agency's facility.

He concluded the trip at Central Washington University to attend another roundtable exclusively with CWU students.

At the Yakima roundtable, he reiterated his intentions to bump up the budget for early childhood education. Late last year, Inslee proposed $156 million for early learning programs, an amount he has repeatedly called the largest investment ever for education at these grade levels.

He told local officials including Yakima police Chief Dominic Rizzi, Sheriff Brian Winter and Prosecuting Attorney Joe Brusic that the transition from preschool and early childhood programs to kindergarten is as momentous as other grade school milestones.

The "first rung" in a child's schooling can have long-lasting effects down the road, Inslee said.

"When I ask (lower-grade) teachers where the first investments ought to be, they usually say in early childhood - not even in their classrooms," he said. "That's pretty amazing."

Winter agreed with the governor. By targeting children early with necessary resources, society lessens the risk that youngsters will succumb to gang violence, drop out of school and so forth, he said.

"The earlier and the more often we as a community can engage with those kids," the less likely he, Rizzi or Brusic is to interact with them in the future as a result of criminal activity, Winter said.

After the meeting, Inslee spoke with reporters about how close the state is to meeting the obligations imposed by the McCleary decision. Although he didn't go into specifics, he said both chambers have progressed.

"I'm hearing good things from leadership from both parties," he said. "The good news is I think both parties are coming to understand why this is a great investment."

However, Inslee restated that lawmakers will have to find new revenue sources to make his or anyone else's proposals a reality. He's been saying that since his budget proposal first made waves last year.

"There is no free lunch, no pot of gold in Olympia," he said.

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Inslee condemns vandalism against Hindu temples http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/inslee-condemns-vandalism-against-hindu-temples Thu, 05 Mar 2015 14:00:00 -0500 http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/inslee-condemns-vandalism-against-hindu-temples OLYMPIA -- Recent vandalism against Hindu temples in the metropolitan Puget Sound  was condemned today by Gov. Jay Inslee as "acts of intolerance, intimidation and violence." 

Inslee, who was joined by Hindu and Muslim community leaders at his weekly press conference, said the vandalism against the temples in Bothell and Kent, plus some anti-Muslim graffiti sprayed on a Bothell junior high, was disturbing.

"Who you pray to, and whether you pray, doesn't determine whether you're an American," Inslee said. "Hindus and Muslims are clearly part and parcel of the state of Washington."

A swastika and the words "Get Out" were sprayed on a Hindu temple in Bothell last month, and "Muslims get out" was sprayed on a nearby junior high school. Broken windows and graffiti was found at a Hindu temple in Kent last weekend.

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Inslee visits Hopelink in Kirkland to discuss unemployment http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/inslee-visits-hopelink-in-kirkland-to-discuss-unemployment Wed, 28 Jan 2015 14:00:00 -0500 http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/inslee-visits-hopelink-in-kirkland-to-discuss-unemployment During a roundtable discussion at Hopelink in Kirkland, Gov. Jay Inslee met with job seekers and various organizations to determine ways to reduce long-term unemployment in King County. Among the main points raised were hiring practices by employers and the negative effects of I-1163 that one employer said has created a shortage of home care providers.

While Inslee and others expressed their belief the economy had improved, among whom included Kirkland Deputy Mayor Penny Sweet, they admitted layoffs were still occurring and a significant percentage of people were having trouble finding work.

According to Marlena Session, CEO of Workforce Development Council of Seattle King County, there are approximately 30,000 people in the county who have been unemployed for more than six months and no longer show up in unemployment figures.

One problem is that King County is known for its affluent communities, particularly on the Eastside where poverty isn’t considered an issue, according to Lauren Thomas, chief executive officer for Hopelink, who said there are 36,000 people living in poverty and 17,000 kids who qualify for free and reduced cost lunches at school.

King County is the most populous in the state and 86th highest-income county in the country. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, between 2009-2013 11.5 percent of people in the county were living under the poverty line, compared to 13.4 percent overall for the state.

The consequences of prolonged unemployment can self-perpetuate, Thomas said, as workers lose their jobs, they find “survivor” jobs to pay the bills, and then get laid off. She also said it is creating a generation of workers who have never had a successful job.

Inslee expressed his support for retraining programs, saying the state had allocated $10 million in the last budget to fund such programs. These programs, he said, would allow unemployed workers to gain the skills necessary to get jobs in an increasingly tech-focused economy.

“It’s just not acceptable,” he said of the unemployment figures. “You can look at this as a fairness issue and helping people, but it’s also an economic issue.”

When Inslee asked for feedback on what can be done to improve the situation, Esther Cooper, a director at CareForce Inc., said Initiative 1163, passed in 2011, has created a shortage of home care providers by adding onerous regulations.

I-1163 requires 75 hours of paid training for long-term care workers, more than twice as many as the previous 35 hours.

She said that the regulations put in place have made it difficult to attract new workers, as they often do not have the money to afford the training in places like Shoreline, all of which are private institutions.

“The problem is the talent is not out there for home care,” she said. “There are no caregivers out there…1163 stopped that. It’s not as easy to join… There’s not the facility to get talent in or more to step into it. The training is costing the state a lot of money.”

The roundtable later included testimonies from job seekers who had suffered from prolonged unemployment. One of them, Brent Bartlett, said he discovered the state’s Commissioner Approved Training/Training Benefits (CAT/TB), which allows unemployed workers to put off their job search while they get an education without losing their unemployment benefits. However, he said he didn’t learn about it until four months after he had lost his job. According to the website, there is a 90 day window to apply for the training benefits and a 120 day window to enroll in the approved training program.

Organizations like Hopelink helped him out while he was unemployed by making their food bank available, as he received too much money in unemployment benefits to qualify for government food stamps.

Another job seeker, who was unemployed for a year, discussed his inability to get a job interview, which finally led him to go to Worksource in Redmond. He eventually got a job as a customer service representative while taking retraining programs. Right now, he is taking computer classes at the Lake Washington Institute of Technology.

Job seekers and county officials said they wish to see a change in the hiring practices by employers. One of the job seekers told the panel that the biggest problems he’s faced is being considered too old or overqualified for a job, even after landing an interview.

Sessions said employers can either unwittingly or knowingly rule out older applicants during the initial screening process for resumes, which can often lead them to remove high school and college graduation dates.

At the same time, she said when they’ve met with the business community and discussed it with them they are eager to change their methods, as they often have worker shortages.

At the end of the discussion Inslee noted that prolonged unemployment is a problem everywhere else in the state.

“This is universal,” he said. “People don’t understand that. You have good people with good backgrounds relying on food stamps.”

“The most demanding job is getting a job,” he also said.

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Inslee says fund education, transportation, clean energy http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/inslee-says-fund-education-transportation-clean-energy Tue, 13 Jan 2015 14:00:00 -0500 http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/inslee-says-fund-education-transportation-clean-energy OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee says Washington state has a moral obligation to address carbon pollution and used his State of the State address Tuesday to tout his recent proposal for a cap-and-trade program that requires the largest industrial polluters to pay for every ton of carbon they release.

“We face many challenges, but it is the growing threat of carbon pollution that can permanently change the nature of Washington as we know,” Inslee said in prepared remarks.

Inslee said the state must meet a 2008 legislative mandate to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming. The requirement sets an overall limit on heat-trapping gases similar to a program that California launched nearly three years ago.

Inslee, who has made tackling climate change a key issue since taking office two years ago, has said the plan would raise nearly $1 billion in its first year to help pay for transportation projects and for education-funding requirements imposed by the state Supreme Court.

“For all we do here together in the next few months, for all our fiscal woes, for all our short-term demands, we know that the most enduring legacy we can leave is a healthy, clean, beautiful Evergreen State,” he said.

Other issues Inslee mentioned in his address included:

TAXES: Inslee touted his proposals to eliminate a handful of tax exemptions and to raise some taxes for the upcoming two-year budget. He said he looked for revenue proposals that would address what he said was the “nation’s most unfair tax system.”

Inslee presented his budget plan last month that proposed a 7 percent capital gains tax on earnings from the sale of stocks, bonds and other assets above $25,000 for individuals and $50,000 for joint filers. He also has proposed a cap-and-trade levy on carbon polluters, a 50-cent per pack cigarette tax and a tax on e-cigarettes and vapor products.

He also has proposed eliminating several tax exemptions, including tax breaks on royalties, another for oil refineries and one on sales tax on bottled water.

TRANSPORTATION: Inslee says lawmakers must take action on a transportation revenue package.

Inslee warned that if no action is taken, dozens of bridges “will become structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.”

“The tragic and catastrophic landslide in Snohomish County last year reminds us that entire communities are cut off from the rest of the state when we lose transportation infrastructure,” he said in his prepared remarks.

Lawmakers have struggled the past few years to reach agreement, with negotiations between House Democrats and Senate Republicans stalling. This year, lawmakers from both parties have said a gas tax is needed, but Republicans are also pushing for overhauls within the transportation system.

In his speech, Inslee said that he welcomed suggestions for improvement but that “the state cannot accept a continued failure to move on transportation.”
Without action, he says, commute times will continue to rise and the state’s ability to move goods will be affected.

EDUCATION: Inslee said that early learning opportunities for children are an important investment. He said his recent education proposals translate to thousands more low-income children attending high-quality preschools.

Citing his proposals made last month, Inslee notes that he’s seeking to fully fund class-size reductions from kindergarten through third grade and also pay for all-day kindergarten across the state.

He also said that the hours spent by children outside of the classroom are just as important as those spent in it — and said nutritious food at home, safe transportation to school and a place to sleep each night are essential.

“The budget we agree on should nurture all our students, in and out of the classroom, because we know how hard it is to educate a homeless, hungry, sick child,” he said.

The state Supreme Court has held the Legislature in contempt for its lack of progress to fix the way it pays for education funding in the state, and has given lawmakers until the end of session to comply or else face sanctions.

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Inslee's pollution solution: tackle water toxics at source http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/inslees-pollution-solution-tackle-water-toxics-at-source Wed, 07 Jan 2015 14:00:00 -0500 http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/inslees-pollution-solution-tackle-water-toxics-at-source SEATTLE (AP) - Gov. Jay Inslee is proposing legislation to protect state waters by tackling pollution at its source and giving a state agency the authority to potentially ban the worst chemicals in products before they get into the environment.

The state is under pressure by the Environmental Protection Agency to update water quality standards that are partly tied to how much fish people eat.

The state's draft rule is expected this month. But the governor has said revising that rule alone won't get at major sources of toxic chemicals that are found in everyday products, or that come from sources not currently covered by the federal Clean Water Act.

As part of his plan, he's also pushing a toxics reduction bill this legislative session that would give the Department of Ecology new authority to identify chemicals that are most problematic and ban their use if safer alternatives are found. The 105-day session begins Monday.

Rob Duff, a senior policy adviser for the governor, said Wednesday that the state is on target to complete the clean-water rule, but "to just do that really won't be effective."

This would "go after the source, so we don't have to dig and permit our way out of the pollution," he said, adding that it doesn't make sense to ask dischargers to remove contaminants that they're not responsible for.

Under the measure, Ecology would come up with a list of up to 150 "priority chemicals," or ones that raise concerns, according a draft bill released this week.

The agency would then narrow that list down to about 20 of the most problematic and, with public input, create plans on how to reduce their use, ranging from education to potentially a ban. The chemicals must be shown to harm the environment and human health.

If a safer alternative exists, Ecology could prohibit specific uses of the chemical or ban the sale or distribution of products containing that chemical.

The American Chemistry Council said it believes the best approach to strengthening chemical regulation is to reform the federal Toxic Substances Control Act. That would allow businesses to operate under a clear set of regulations, "instead of having to deal with a confusing and sometimes contradictory patchwork of state rules," the group said in a statement.

The EPA, which must approve the state's plan, is watching closely what the state does. The federal agency says it plans to come up with rules for Washington state in case the state fails to act this year.

The governor has said the state plan won't be finalized until he seeks legislative approval for his toxics reduction package.

Inslee is also proposing $12 million in the next two-year budget to help communities reduce the use of toxic chemicals, help businesses develop safer chemicals and monitor residents' exposure to chemicals.

Last July, following over two years of heated debate, the governor proposed a clean-water rule that dramatically raises the fish consumption rate to 175 grams a day to protect people who eat about a serving of fish a day. The state's current standard assumes people only eat about 6.5 grams of fish a day, or roughly one fillet a month.

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Inslee seeks tax rebate for low-income families http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/inslee-seeks-tax-rebate-for-low-income-families Thu, 01 Jan 2015 14:00:00 -0500 http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/inslee-seeks-tax-rebate-for-low-income-families Most of the headlines surrounding Gov. Jay Inslee’s recent budget rollout focused on his plan to raise more than $1.4 billion in new revenue through tax increases and charges on carbon pollution.

But a less-publicized piece of Inslee’s proposal would offer tax-rebate checks to more than 450,000 low-income Washington families. 

Inslee wants to resurrect the “Working Families Tax Rebate” — a tax break approved by the Legislature in 2008 but never funded. The program would give rebates averaging $223 a year to families who qualify for the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

Supporters argue it’s one way to lighten the burden of the state’s tax code on the poor. Washington’s tax code repeatedly has been ranked as the most regressive in the nation due to its reliance on a retail sales tax and no income tax.

At his budget news conference last month, Inslee said the rebate, combined with a proposed capital-gains tax on the wealthy, “will help make Washington’s tax system a little fairer to low- and middle-income residents.”

But the Democratic governor’s ideas are sure to face a chilly reception in the Republican-controlled state Senate — especially since Inslee wants to pay for the $108 million-a-year rebate program with new charges on carbon pollution.

Critics say Inslee’s controversial cap-and-trade proposal, aimed at combating global climate change, would only boost costs at the gasoline pump and elsewhere.

State Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, called Inslee’s rebate plan “an admission that the carbon tax, or cap-and-trade, is going to be unusually hard on working families.”

Braun, the Senate’s deputy majority leader, said rather than a new government- rebate program, “The best thing we can do for working families is to improve our job situation.”

Both the Republican-controlled state Senate and Democratic-controlled state House will lay out their own budget plans early this year. The Legislature convenes Jan. 12 to grapple with a budget shortfall and a state Supreme Court order demanding billions in additional spending on K-12 education.

State Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, chairman of the House Finance Committee, said it’s too early to say whether the rebate as envisioned by Inslee would be included in the House Democrats’ budget. But he said there is general agreement among Democrats on the principle behind the rebate. “There is no question that our system is totally upside down and backward,” he said.

Republicans opposed the rebate in 2008 when it was passed by big Democratic legislative majorities and signed into law by then-Gov. Chris Gregoire.

The Association of Washington Business also raised concerns at the time, arguing there are better ways to give low-income people tax breaks — such as sales-tax holidays or exemptions on children’s clothing — that wouldn’t require creation of an expensive new bureaucracy.

There would be administrative costs because the state would have to process applications for the tax rebate from thousands of taxpayers. The state Department of Revenue estimates the program would provide nearly $102 million in rebate payments during the 2015-17 budget cycle. Inslee’s budget requests more than $6 million on top of that to implement the program.

The proposed rebate would give families 10 percent of the amount they claim under the federal EITC — or up to about $600 a year for a family with three or more children.

Half the states in the U.S. have some state version of the EITC, according to the Internal Revenue Service. Unlike Washington, those states all have state income taxes that already require annual filings by taxpayers.

Supporters praised Inslee for linking the rebate to his climate agenda.

“When we’re thinking about the dual challenges of income inequality and global warming, this is a perfect tool to address the connection between the two,” said Remy Trupin, executive director of the liberal Washington State Budget & Policy Center, which helped develop the rebate plan.

Trupin’s group is urging lawmakers to fund the rebate and eventually raise the credit to 30 percent of the federal EITC.

But Braun predicated the state Senate will look elsewhere to help working families.

“I would suggest the Senate is focused more on a long-term sustainable budget and the jobs climate,” he said. “That would be much more valuable to families in the state of Washington.”

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Report: Government efficiencies saved $5.92 million, biggest gain in avoided costs http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/report-government-efficiencies-saved-millions-biggest-gain-in-avoided-costs Fri, 26 Dec 2014 14:00:00 -0500 http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/report-government-efficiencies-saved-millions-biggest-gain-in-avoided-costs Washington state agencies have trimmed $5.92 million in spending and avoided another $27.4 million in future costs by letting workers find efficiencies in the workplace, according to a new agency report on the use of “Lean” management to streamline operations.

Among gains identified are faster tax assessments, shorter lines in licensing bureaus and much less paper shuffling.

“Across state government, employees are helping state agencies find efficiencies, save time and supplies, and manage growing workloads within existing resources,” says Wendy Korthuis-Smith, director of Results Washington, in a letter sent this week to top budget writers in the Legislature. “These efforts are real and growing, as employees adopt principles and tools that help streamline their work and improve services for the public.’’

Gov. Jay Inslee campaigned in 2012 on expanding Lean above efforts by his Democratic predecessor, Chris Gregoire. He’d claimed he could boost K-12 school funding without raising taxes by eliminating wasteful tax breaks, growing the economy and using Lean to lower costs.

But the first-term Democrat introduced a budget this month that calls for more than $1.4 billion in new revenues including a capital-gains tax. Although his spending plans books modest savings from Lean, it saves $200 million principally through smaller, traditional budget cuts.

Inslee and members of his Results Washington agency, say a great value of Lean is in improving performance, reducing waiting times, and avoiding costs. But they don’t see it primarily as a budget or staff-cutting tool.

Because many lawmakers handling budget issues next year were away during the holidays, there has been little reaction from the Legislature.

Rep. Bruce Chandler, the Republican from Granger who is ranking minority member of the House Appropriations Committee, said he thinks the public wants to see savings from this kind of effort.

“I haven’t had a chance to delve into it,” Chandler said of the report, which was produced in response to a legislative request in the 2014 supplemental budget. “I do think the public’s expectation ... when they hear about Lean management, they expect it to save money. Doing the job better and saving money.”

“I would hope we are all looking for that,” Chandler said.

Results Washington spokesman Rich Roesler said the report shows Lean — an efficiency movement begun by Toyota in the late 1980s to eliminate errors and wasteful steps in manufacturing — is generating good results for taxpayers. The report highlights 18 examples from 15 agencies that it says have already saved $5.92 million in costs and generated $3.16 million in new revenue. That compares to the $1.8 million cost for Results Washington.

It also notes there have been 600 Lean projects since 2012. Inslee established Results Washington by executive order in September 2013.

Examples of success cited in the report:

•  More than 1 million hours of time spent waiting at Department of Licensing lobbies was eliminated compared to 2012. This was done by increasing online and traditional mail to process licenses, tying staffing to data on traffic patterns at offices, and partnering with private driver-training schools.

• Chopping the time needed to fulfill public-disclosure requests at the Department of Transportation from 24 days to 10. “These changes eliminated the need to add four additional positions, at a total of $274,000 a year,” the report says.

• DOT avoided hiring four other staffers at a cost of $287,000 by streamlining the way crash report data were handled; this more than doubled the number of reports processed each day to 541 and ended an 8.5-month backlog, the report says.

• The Department of Labor and Industries saved 641 hours of staff time each month by ending the practice of printing and distributing 5,000 pages of monthly phone records so that managers and supervisors could review them. A $32,000 investment and creation of an electronic system freed 7,368 hours of staff time, worth an estimated $303,672 yearly, to put to such uses as customer service.

• The Department of Social and Health Services and the Employment Security Department improved the low rate of client participation in the WorkFirst program for welfare recipients, enough the state expects to avoid $20.8 million in federal penalties, the report says.

• The Department of Revenue shortened its process for assessing unpaid taxes by 45 days, a change that is producing $744,000 in interest for the state. It also lets Revenue re-direct about 1.5 full time positions to activities that generate revenue valued at about $750,000.

• Consolidated Technology Services, which operates the state’s data centers, moved the state off a 30-year-old SCAN system to a cheaper system. The switch, completed in July, saves the state $2 million in long-distance calling costs compared to fiscal year 2012, the report said.

The report recommends letting agencies keep at least a portion of their financial savings and to redirect saved staff time into other agency tasks.

“Allowing managers to redirect that saved staff time to other tasks helps agencies face increasing workloads with existing resources, helping avoid costs,” the report says.

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Inslee budget envisions a new world view http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/inslee-budget-envisions-a-new-world-view Sun, 21 Dec 2014 14:00:00 -0500 http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/inslee-budget-envisions-a-new-world-view The critics of Gov. Jay Inslee’s budget, which he rolled out in stages over several days this week, have already begun picking apart its minutiae. That’s typical. But this time, the critics are missing Inslee’s important vision for the 2015-2017 biennium and beyond.

This budget isn’t just about numbers. Inslee is proposing something much bigger than how much we should spend to satisfy McCleary, or what transportation projects deserve immediate funding.

The governor is trying to drag the state of Washington into the 21st Century. It’s a new world that doesn’t rely on fossil fuels, and a world where a fair tax system minimizes rather than exacerbates income inequality.

This budget acknowledges that the economy has fundamentally changed. The old rules and the old trends don’t apply any more. Since the Great Recession, we’ve had economic growth, but a greater increase in poverty. The demand for government services has never been greater.

Many consecutive years of spending cuts have resulted in severely mentally ill people being inhumanely strapped to beds in emergency room hallways, and low income single parents losing access to affordable childcare. Our roads and bridges have become unsafe, and no longer sufficient to move people to jobs or goods to market.

Because we’ve ignored our constitutional obligation to fully fund basic education -- and the Legislature’s own plan to do so – our educational system has fallen behind the rest of the world. We’re trying to build a first-class economy on a severely underfunded education system. That has forced growing Washington businesses to, as the governor says, “hire other people’s kids.”

And we’re now paying for those deep cuts with lawsuits. Courts have ordered state lawmakers to spend more on education and mental health, to remove culverts that block migrating salmon, and to stop holding mentally ill people for long periods in county jails without competency evaluations and treatment.

The list of inequalities we have created in this state is long, and we will not heal these wounds without diversifying our tax structure.

Washington has the most regressive tax structure in the United States. It’s most unfair to working people. The bottom income earners pay more than their fair share, while the top income earners pay the least.

And, according to recent reports by Standard and Poor, income inequality in sales tax-dependent states pulls the whole economy down, ultimately reducing the state’s ability to provide necessary services.

Expanding Washington’s tax code to include a tax on carbon emissions paid by polluters and capital gains paid by less than 2 percent of people will move us toward a new world economy that works for everyone, not just the most financially fortunate.

Gov. Inslee is facing these realities in his budget because he sees the bigger picture – that the world economy is changing. From a global perspective, Inslee proposals are just one step, but it’s a vital first step in a new direction that could get our state moving towards a more equitable, sustainable future.

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Washington Gov. Inslee’s budget proposal boosts school spending http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/washington-gov-inslees-budget-proposal-boosts-school-spending Fri, 19 Dec 2014 14:00:00 -0500 http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/washington-gov-inslees-budget-proposal-boosts-school-spending OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee unveiled a budget proposal that would spend $2.3 billion more for public schools, strengthen mental health and child welfare systems, boost parks and implement tougher environmental rules.

He’d pay for it with a string of new and increased taxes, along with cuts and savings in existing programs.

Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said Inslee was proposing a “massive tax increase” when he should make better education the priority and have the state live within its means for everything else.

“Tax increases should be the last resort, not the first response,” Hill said.

To make his 2015-17 operating budget balance, Inslee will propose a capital gains tax on individuals who receive more than $25,000 in those types of investment earnings, or couples with more than $50,000 in capital gains. It would exempt from those totals gains from the sale of a home, farm or forest land, or investment income from retirement accounts.

He also proposes collecting sales tax on bottled water, currently exempt because it is classified as food; an extra 50-cent tax on a pack of cigarettes; and collecting a “carbon tax” on industries that pollute. He would change the current sales tax exemption for some out-of-state shoppers to a refund that they would have to seek from the state.

The budget proposal also makes some cuts in current programs, but after years of budget cuts during the recession, Inslee said many state programs have been “cut beyond the bone” and new programs are needed to meet the needs of children, public schools and what he called the most vulnerable.

“It is time to reinvest in our state,” he said at a news conference to unveil details of the spending and tax plans.

Lawmakers are under orders from the state Supreme Court to improve public education, and voters last month passed a new law to further reduce class sizes. Many of Inslee’s education enhancements aim to address the court order. He’d reduce the number of students in kindergarten through third grade, pay for a cost-of-living increase for teachers and other school employees approved by voters but suspended since 2008, and spend more on early learning programs. He’d also continue the freeze on college tuition and increase the number of state-funded scholarships.

He’s asking for raises for state employees negotiated this year during contract talks with unions, saying they haven’t had a general increase since 2008. The state needs good people to run its programs, he said, and without better pay it risks losing them to jobs elsewhere.

Senate Republicans shot back that an Office of Financial Management study shows median wages for state workers increased last year, that turnover is low and more than half have worked for the state for at least 10 years.

House Democratic leaders didn’t commit to support any of Inslee’s proposals, but called it a good start for the upcoming session, which begins Jan. 12.

Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said he wanted to study the plan but was encouraged that it “recognizes the need for more revenue to respond to our education requirements.” Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, chairman of the Revenue Committee, said the plan would spark debate on a fairer tax system for the state instead of the current one, which he labeled “a Ford Pinto in a Tesla world.”

Inslee said he’d listen to anyone who had a better idea.

“We’re going to have a good debate. There might even be a few arguments,” he said. “This is the start of a conversation, not the finish of one. I am open to ideas from all corners of the Legislature.”

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Gov. Inslee wants capital gains tax, big boost in education spending http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/gov-inslee-wants-capital-gains-tax-big-boost-in-education-spending Thu, 18 Dec 2014 14:00:00 -0500 http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/gov-inslee-wants-capital-gains-tax-big-boost-in-education-spending Gov. Jay Inslee has unveiled a $39 billion, two-year budget that boosts spending by $5 billion over the current biennium, saying it is time to “reinvest in Washington” particularly in education and with the state’s largest-ever early learning investment.

The governor, who disclaimed the need for new taxes in 2012, called for a 7 percent tax on capital gains earnings above $25,000 for individuals and $50,000 for couples, saying that less than 1 percent of state taxpayers have an income above these thresholds.

Profits from home sales and retirement accounts would be exempt from the tax.

Inslee blamed the Legislature for failing to “muster the gusto” to close tax loopholes, saying he has “tried to avoid” tax hikes.

The key increases in spending are contained in a $2.3 billion education plan, which would cut kindergarten-through-third-grade class sizes to 17, and implement full-day kindergarten statewide.

The spending for public schools, less than 39 percent of the state’s General Fund in 2007, would rise to 47 percent under the governor’s plan.

Inslee is also proposing a boost in state social services. The state would hire 100 child protective and child welfare service workers to speed up investigations of abuse and neglect, and make sure that kids in foster care receive safe care.

The state would increase mental health treatment capacity by adding 145 beds to prevent boarding of psychiatric patients, plus another 35 beds designed to shrink wait times for those in jail waiting for evaluation and restoration services.

Inslee is also proposing to restore money for a popular but long-starved state program — the Washington State Parks system, much of which is forced to close for part of the year.

The Inslee budget would The Governor’s  proposal received an immediate, skeptical Republican response.  Rep. Bruce Chandler, R-Granger, the GOP’s ranking Appropriations Committee member, noted that state revenues are predicted to rise $3 billion in the coming biennium.

“If we can’t balance the books with an 8 percent increase in revenues, folks back home should be very concerned,” Chandler said in a statement.

House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, took a different perspective, noting pains inflicted by the Great Recession.

“It is clear that after seven years of program reductions and now a large budget shortfall that some, new targeted revenue will be needed, ” said Sullivan.  “It’s also clear that this shortfall we will be facing cannot be filled with cuts alone.”

The state’ depends on sales tax revenues.  Its voters have repeatedly rejected an income tax, even on millionaires.  Income from sales taxes goes down during recessions, at the very time more people need social services and retraining programs provided by community and vocational colleges.

“Washington’s tax structure is a Ford Pinto in a Tesla world,” said State Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, House Finance chair.  The tax system is “economically inefficient” for business as well as “patently unfair” to the middle class, said Carlyle.

The Legislature during the last biennium’s budget debate, staying in session almost until the beginning of summer before reaching bipartisan agreement on a plan.

Inslee has said he anticipates “storm and fury.” The governor is hoping that lawmakers will turn to his proposal to charge major polluters “allowances” for what they discharge into the atmosphere. The allowance levels would be gradually lowered.

Inslee has said the “Carbon Pollution Reduction and Accountability Act” would put $1 billion a year into state coffers, while providing Washington’s 6 million residents with cleaner air.

Of his capital gains tax proposal, Inslee said: “This is a fair way to raise needed revenue. It avoids an additional burden on the vast majority of Washington taxpayers. This is not intended to show a lack of respect for those who would pay. We honor success in Washington, but we also always strive for fairness.”

In briefing reporters, the governor said he had identified $400 million in possible cuts, but that some potential reductions would be “devastating.”

Inslee said those in the Legislature, the corridors of power and the ivory tower often cannot see and feel what cuts in social services do to ordinary people.

State Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, charged that Inslee is proposing “massive tax increases.”

“Instead of prioritizing spending and living within our means, the governor would rather rewrite the rules in order to increase state spending by more than $5 billion,” Hill said.

Hill is a possible Republican gubernatorial candidate in 2016. Inslee campaigned for his opponent in last fall’s election.

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Gov. Jay Inslee wants to charge polluters and cut pollution http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/gov-jay-inslee-wants-to-charge-polluters-and-cut-pollution Wed, 17 Dec 2014 14:00:00 -0500 http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/gov-jay-inslee-wants-to-charge-polluters-and-cut-pollution Expecting “several months of storm and fury” in Olympia, Gov. Jay Inslee is basing the state’s future on a bold proposition: Legislators will choose to tax polluters and pollution to meet Washington’s pressing public education and transportation needs.

The past week has been “All Inslee, All the time” as the governor has rolled out his program each day: The Carbon Pollution Accountability Act is its centerpiece.

“Write this down!” Both sides (Republicans and Democrats) will have to fund revenue for our children,” Inslee said at an unveiling at REI’s flagship Seattle store. “Would you rather tax polluters than voters? Would you rather tax polluters than drivers?”

As to the benefits of reducing pollutants going into the atmosphere, Inslee declared: “We are going to do more than fix potholes; we are going to fix kids’ lungs.”

The Governor’s program goes before a divided Legislature, with a rural Republican leadership running the Washington State Senate.

The state’s past environmental strides have been bipartisan, with Republican Gov. Dan Evans making common cause with Democratic lawmakers in the 1970s, and Democratic Gov. Booth Gardner crafting the Growth Management Act with aid from Republican Senate Majority Leader Jeanette Hayner.

But Republicans have been taking shots at Inslee’s carbon-reduction proposals before he even unveiled them, claiming that governor is scheming to raise gasoline by $1 a gallon.

A relentlessly negative website called Shift Washington, the product of Rob McKenna campaign alumni who’ve never really conceded the 2012 election, cut loose at Inslee in classic partisan boilerplate:

“Jay Inslee already made his desire to reward his millionaire friends at the expense of working families known when he declared his wish to extend a tax loophole for electric vehicles and explore giving solo electric vehicle drivers access to carpool lanes.”

But the American Lung Association applauded Inslee’s proposals. “We need to clean up the burden on air quality from our transportation system with cleaner vehicles and fuels: This will bring us one step closer to a clean-air future for our children,” said Renee Klein, president/CEO for the Pacific West region.

The governor’s proposal creates a program to cut emissions and raise money.

The state would set an annual limit on the total amount of carbon pollution that emitters can release into the air. Major polluters would need to buy “allowances” for the pollutants that they emit. Each year, the amount of available allowances will go down, requiring that pollution is reduced.

The schedule will, Inslee argued, give polluting industries time and choices about whether and when to invest in clean-energy technologies, and how to deal with declining allowances.

It will allow emitters to work with each other “instead of some bureaucrats deciding who gets the allowances — I shouldn’t say ‘bureaucrat,’ I should say ‘public servants,'” joked Inslee, a politician prone to hyperbole.

The governor estimated that the allowance system will yield about $1 billion annually, money to be divided among education, transportation and helping the state’s disadvantaged communities.

The Inslee program contains incentives for individuals to stop polluting.

The governor would extending existing incentives, exempting sales tax from the first $60,000 of the purchase price of electric, natural gas, propane and hydrogen vehicles.

Inslee is asking the Department of Ecology to prepare a draft rule on a clean-fuel standard for Washington. The process will involve extensive feedback from legislators and the public. Such a standard would require a transition to cleaner fuels over time, giving the state cleaner air.

Inslee is giving a hard nudge to the state’s private electrical utilities — without naming names — to reduce and eventually eliminate use of coal to generate electricity.

The state’s one coal-burning power plant, at Centralia, is being phased out in a process that will last into the next decade.

However, Puget Sound Energy still gets power from aging, polluting power plants at Colstrip in Montana. The Colstrip 1 and 2 plants, about 100 miles east of Billings, are nearly 40 years old and in need of major pollution abatement.

Washington has become a leader in clean energy, witness the windmill “farms” along Interstate 90 around Ellensburg and the big Stateline wind project on the Washington-Oregon border near Walla Walla. The utility consortium that once launched the ill-fatted WPPSS nuclear program is now into wind energy.

Inslee described Washington residents as a “special tribe” that pioneered commercial jet aviation, helped create the technology economy and now is forging ahead with creative solutions to climate change.

“I do believe it is Washington’s destiny to lead the nation and the world in clean energy,” said Inslee.

The governor was almost Pollyanna-ish, saying, “All of the Republican and Democratic legislators are potential allies in this effort.” He said the era of looking at climate through “ideological lenses” is “past.”

Wishful thinking, perhaps.

As Inslee has unveiled his program for this Washington, incoming GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has defined the agenda he’ll be tabling in Washington, D.C.

The first agenda item is forcing through approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport crude oil from the Alberta tar sands project — a massive source of air pollution — to the Gulf Coast for export overseas.

The carbon economy remains a major power in American life.


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Inslee: SR 167 a top priority http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/inslee-sr-167-a-top-priority Wed, 17 Dec 2014 14:00:00 -0500 http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/inslee-sr-167-a-top-priority A new leg of state Route 167 in Pierce County might open to drivers between 2025 and 2027 if Gov. Jay Inslee’s transportation proposal wins approval.

Inslee’s office said funding in his plan would go first to extending SR 167 to the Port of Tacoma and finishing state Route 520 on the Seattle side of Lake Washington.

“They are the very first dollars spent, 520 because it’s a seismic issue and 167 because it’s an economic issue,” said Charles Knutson, a policy adviser to the Democratic governor.

The Port of Tacoma contends a faster connection to inland markets is crucial for it to compete with rival ports.

A 2013 Department of Transportation conception of the new highway described opening it to traffic as early as 2021 if the Legislature passed funding in 2014.

Now, targeting funding in 2015, officials want to start construction in the budget period from mid-2017 to mid-2019 and finish in the period from mid-2025 to mid-2027. That timeline is the result of updated assumptions and the goal of building two priority highways at the same time, they said.

“As projects go, this is about as aggressive and accelerated as you can do,” Knutson said.

Unlike in previous plans, Inslee would not directly raise the gas tax. A new charge on large sources of greenhouse gases would raise about $1 billion a year for a host of state programs, including maintenance and operations of highways now paid for with gas taxes. That would allow borrowing against existing gas tax revenue for bonds to build new highway projects like SR 167.

At $856 million, SR 167 is a bit more expensive than in previous plans because of inflation, according to Inslee’s office.

That price tag includes one lane in each direction from where the highway now ends in Puyallup to where it crosses Valley Avenue in Fife, and two lanes in each direction from there to the port.

The chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, Yakima Republican Curtis King, wants to build those two extra lanes over the entire six-mile stretch, at an extra cost estimated at about $64 million.

King has called for adding 11-1/2 cents to the state’s current 37-1/2 cents-a-gallon gas tax, similar to what other legislators have pursued. His plan would devote $350 million to widening Interstate 5 alongside Joint Base Lewis-McChord, which would get $278 million under Inslee’s plan.

“He’s taking care of King County,” said King, noting what he said appeared to be full funding for projects on SR 520, Interstate 405 from Renton to Bellevue and state Route 509 near SeaTac. “It didn’t appear to me that he fully funded JBLM or 167, and he definitely didn’t fully fund (an I-90 project on) Snoqualmie Pass or (Spokane’s) North South Freeway.”

Inslee’s and King’s plans both include tolling SR 167, but neither would put toll lanes on I-5 between Seattle and Tacoma.

Toll lanes on I-5 were a key part of a previous conception of the SR 167 project by the state Department of Transportation that was endorsed by the state House. They would have raised money by letting drivers buy their way into I-5 carpool lanes, like they can do on SR 167 from Auburn to Renton and starting next year on I-405 from Lynnwood to Bellevue.

House Transportation Committee Chairwoman Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, said I-5 toll lanes are not off the table for the future, but the I-405 lanes will help show how they perform as a source of revenue.

No plan, either in the Legislature or governor’s office, would complete the full SR 167 as envisioned by DOT, including a full connection to I-5.

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Inslee: Make big polluters pay for transportation projects http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/inslee-make-big-polluters-pay-for-transportation-projects Tue, 16 Dec 2014 14:00:00 -0500 http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/inslee-make-big-polluters-pay-for-transportation-projects After two years of watching gas-tax increases tank in the Legislature, Gov. Jay Inslee proposed Tuesday to take a new approach: Charge major polluters for the right to emit carbon.

Inslee’s plan, featuring a “cap-and-trade” system, would generate $400 million a year, he said, to cover nearly 40 percent of his $12 billion, 12-year transportation improvement plan. The remainder would come from bond debt, existing gas taxes, tolls and an assortment of vehicle fees.

The new six-lane Highway 520 bridge would be completed all the way to Interstate 5, using $1.4 billion, while the state would abandon the idea of tolling the I-90 Mercer Island floating bridge. An additional $1.3 billion would widen Interstate 405 from Bellevue to Renton.

Several projects have been on the drawing board for years, and even failed in a regional ballot in 2007.

Ferry riders would see a two-year freeze in fares, while a fourth ferry would be built to join the new Tokitae and two others under construction.

“We can clean our air and water at the same time we are fixing our air and our roads,” Inslee said in Medina, overlooking the 520 construction site. “It is indeed a twofer.”

Inslee, who is spending the week rolling out his budget wish list, is expected to announce further details about his Carbon Pollution Accountability Act, with his full budget proposal to come Thursday.

What the Democratic governor did make clear Tuesday is that in the face of Republican gains in the Legislature, he is holding fast to his idea that climate-change legislation can pay for much of government’s costs.

The governor said he aims to reach across the so-called Cascade Curtain and connect all of Washington through a “bipartisan spirit” that aims to “reduce the hours we spend on the roads away from our families.”

Rep. Ed Orcutt of Kalama, ranking Republican in the House Transportation Committee, scoffed at the notion that Inslee could raise nearly $5 billion in 12 years from polluters.

“It is difficult to comment on a proposal as lacking in details and verifiable facts as the governor’s,” he said in a statement.

Inslee seeks what his aides call a “market-based” program, in which the state sets a hard cap on total carbon pollution, then charges fees for permits that authorize the release of emissions that contribute to climate change.

Motor vehicles in Washington cause roughly half of global-warming emissions, yet individual drivers would be spared the usual burden of higher fuel taxes, at least directly.

Sen. Curtis King, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, predicts petroleum companies will pass their cap-and-trade costs to consumers.

“It’s going to raise the price of a gallon of gas,” said King, R-Yakima. That would mean higher costs for Yakima Valley fruit shippers, he said.

The current state gas tax is 37.5 cents a gallon.

Instead, King said, the state should offer incentives to reduce carbon. For instance, give tax breaks to trucking companies that undergo costly conversions from diesel to cleaner liquefied natural gas, he said — much like Inslee seeks to invest in slashing ferry emissions with LNG.

Charles Knutson, the governor’s policy adviser for transportation, said petroleum companies, which rank among the largest carbon emitters, have a choice to make refineries cleaner or pay. “We don’t anticipate they’ll pass all of it on [at the pump],” Knutson said.

Environmentalists may ask what’s the point of collecting carbon fees and then spending those on highway projects?

Inslee’s aides reply there’s a separation in the plan: The cap-and-trade income would go only toward green uses, such as transit grants or incentives for electric vehicles, and to maintain existing roads. The highway megaprojects would be funded through gas taxes and motorist fees, such as licensing and weight charges for cars and trucks.

King warns there’s a financial risk in paying for maintenance with carbon fees, instead of covering it through gas taxes. Normally, part of the gas tax would be set aside for maintenance — money that’s also an emergency cushion to pay debt, if need be. But Inslee’s plan means the gas tax would need to be 100 percent pledged to repay construction bonds, said King.

If revenues plunge, the state might wind up delaying projects, or in a worst case, tapping the general fund, King said. “It places the state in a precarious position.”

Nonetheless, King praised the governor for offering a plan ahead of the January session, to get the talks moving early.

Regarding I-90 tolls that Inslee decided against, House Transportation Committee Chairwoman Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, said the Washington State Department of Transportation asked legislative leaders to let it stop spending time and money on public process — pending another attempt to get the Highway 520 bridge fully funded. Mercer Island residents have fiercely objected to paying I-90 tolls to finish the 520 bridge, which doesn’t serve the island.

“I think you lose votes in the Senate, and you lose my vote, because there’s no way I can vote for it,” Clibborn acknowledged.

Bill Mundy, a Montlake-area neighborhood advocate, called the $12 billion proposal “pie-in-the-sky” and likely to fail, taking the Highway 520 money down with it.

Mundy urges the state to promptly retrofit and repave the four-lane Portage Bay section of 520, which has hollow columns vulnerable to earthquake. “We don’t need six lanes anyway,” he said, because tolls of up to $3.80 have caused traffic to decrease.

Several local-option taxes, mostly for transit, made it into Inslee’s plan.

Sound Transit would be allowed to send new local property, sales and car-tab taxes to the ballot for “ST3” projects. Community Transit could enact a sales-tax increase with voter approval.

King County Metro could reimpose its unique $20 car-tab fee with County Council approval.

Local passenger-ferry districts could be formed with voter approval. Cities or counties could hike car-tab fees from $20 to $40 without a ballot measure.

And the state would provide $1.1 billion in grants over 12 years to communities for transit, bicycling and walking.

Inslee wants safety projects, including adding rumble strips, guardrails, improved signals, a landslide-warning system, and funds for the State Patrol.

Besides carbon fees, the biggest difference from past years is the governor omitted the I-5 Columbia River Crossing, where local opposition to proposed bridge tolls, and a light-rail line across the river, helped defeat last year’s packages.

“A bow to political reality,” said Steve Mullin, president of the business group Washington Roundtable. He said the new plan has much to offer, especially a $1 billion highway-preservation fund.

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Inslee backs smaller class sizes for grades K-3, teacher raises http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/inslee-backs-smaller-class-sizes-for-grades-k-3-teacher-raises Mon, 15 Dec 2014 14:00:00 -0500 http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/inslee-backs-smaller-class-sizes-for-grades-k-3-teacher-raises Gov. Jay Inslee rolled out highlights of his education budget Monday, saying he wants to reduce average class sizes in kindergarten through third grade, pay for all-day public kindergarten and reinstate cost-of-living raises for teachers that the voters approved years ago.

But he does not propose shrinking average class sizes in fourth grade and beyond, as voters endorsed a month ago.

His proposal for the 2015-17 biennium also puts a freeze on in-state college tuition for two more years at the state’s six four-year colleges and 34 community and technical colleges.

The two-year proposal would boost early childhood and K-12 funding by $2.3 billion over the biennium, and Inslee says it would go a long way toward meeting the state Supreme Court order known as the McCleary decision, and fulfill parts of it by 2017, a year earlier than required. McCleary mandates that lawmakers fully fund what the Legislature has defined as “basic education.”

Inslee would not say on Monday how he would pay for all of the above. He is unveiling his budget over four days, starting with education Monday, then transportation on Tuesday and climate Wednesday.

On Thursday, he is supposed to detail his plan for raising more than $1 billion in taxes and other new revenue.

The governor laid out his education-budget highlights Monday night during a town-hall-style meeting before an audience of about 70 people at Newport High School in Bellevue. Participants in Spokane, Moses Lake and Tacoma participated via a videoconference link.

Inslee called the budget “the biggest increase in basic education in a quarter-century.”

A viewer in Tacoma, noting that her son is at Tacoma’s Stadium High School, wanted to know whether the governor supports lowering class sizes in high schools as well.

Inslee said he would continue to work on lowering class sizes — something mandated in Initiative 1351, the measure approved by voters in November. However, he did not say when that might happen.

“I do not support repealing it,” he said, referring to 1351. 

The governor’s proposals are just the start of the budget debates in Olympia. The House and Senate will craft their own budget proposals during the upcoming session, which starts in January.

Teachers-union leaders were dismayed that Inslee does not want to fund Initiative 1351, which passed in November and requires lawmakers to pay for an estimated 25,000 new employees to work in K-12 public schools across the state, in part to reduce class sizes.

In Inslee’s proposal, there is no money to lower the number of students per class from fourth grade through high school.

“It’s the law — he can’t propose not to fund it,” said Jonathan Knapp, president of the Seattle Education Association, a major supporter of the initiative.

Under state law, it takes a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to suspend a voter-approved initiative in the first two years after it passes.

Kim Mead, president of the Washington Education Association, said reducing class sizes in all grades is part of funding basic education, and the Legislature needs to do so to fulfill the court’s McCleary decision. 

In a conference call Monday, David Schumacher, executive director of the Office of Financial Management, said there is not enough revenue to fully fund the initiative, “so we’ve chosen to fully fund the K-3 portion of that in this first biennium.”

Some Republicans took issue with the governor’s proposal to raise taxes to fund education, or through a climate initiative that he is scheduled to unveil Wednesday.

“Making it contingent upon a tax increase at all, be it a carbon-tax increase or any other tax increase, is fundamentally flawed,” said Sen. Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup, one of the spokesmen for the Senate’s Republican caucus.

Dammeier also said reductions in class sizes from kindergarten through third grade should be phased in more slowly than Inslee has proposed.

The governor also wants to add $156 million to the state’s preschool programs, in part to add more than 6,000 spaces for low-income children.

Educators would get a combined cost-of-living raise and a pay increase totaling 3 percent in 2015-16, and 1.8 percent in 2015-16. They have not received a voter-mandated cost-of-living adjustment since 2008.

Inslee’s budget also includes $156 million for higher-education funding, and proposes freezing tuition for the next two school years at Washington public schools.

Inslee wants to put more money into a popular college-scholarship program, the Opportunity Scholarship program, that rewards students from low- and middle-class families who go into high-demand fields in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) and health care.

He also wants to add dollars to the College Bound program, aimed at encouraging young students to aim at going to college by promising them financial aid if they meet requirements, including graduating from high school with at least a C average.

But his proposal puts no new money toward an expansion of college financial aid under the State Need Grant program, which funds only about 70 percent of the students who are eligible.

A state policy group, the Washington Student Achievement Council, has recommended $25 million in new money for College Bound, which is included in Inslee’s budget, and $48 million to serve more students through the State Need Grant, which is not.

The budget does not include any money for a new Washington State University-run medical school in Spokane.

Staffers said Inslee is not yet ready to take a side on the issue.

While WSU wants to start its own medical school, the University of Washington wants to expand a program it already operates in Spokane.

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Inslee: Spend on early education, full-time kindergarten, freeze college tuition http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/inslee-spend-on-early-education-full-time-kindergarten-freeze-college-tuition Mon, 15 Dec 2014 14:00:00 -0500 http://www.jayinslee.com/news/articles/inslee-spend-on-early-education-full-time-kindergarten-freeze-college-tuition Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has unveiled a sweeping education upgrade for the state, ranging from expanded preschool for poor kids to full-day kindergarten to hiring 7,000 more teachers to reduce class size in the first three grades of elementary school.

The plan would offer relief to hard-pressed students at the state’s public colleges, with a tuition freeze over the 2015-17 biennium. It would spend more money on Opportunity Scholarships money for those in “high-demand” health, science and engineering fields, and boost the College Bound and State Need Grant programs.

The program even provides an early commitment of financial aid to low-income 7th and 8th graders who pledge to attend college.

The state’s teachers even get more money — a $235.5 million salary increase under the state’s voter-passed, often-set-aside Initiative 732. The governor would then provide $150.1 million to cover a 3 percent salary increase for 2015-16 followed by 1.8 percent for the 2016-17 school year.

Inslee plans to explain Thursday how he will pay for what is essentially a remedial plan to make up for ravages of the Great Recession on public education in Washington.

The recession hit deeply. Between 2008 and 2012, average in-state undergraduate tuition soared by 73 percent at Washington’s research universities, 56 percent at regional universities and 42 percent at community colleges.

But the universities have been hit by declining state support.

“The tuition freeze has to come with additional state funding for colleges: Otherwise it will cost students in the long run as they would have to spend an additional $15-20,000 for a fifth year to complete their degrees,” said Patrick Stickney, director of Western Advocates, an alumni advocacy group for Western Washington University.

Inslee is filling in specifics, after talking of education largely in general terms and glowing anecdotes about programs he has recently visited.

He is thinking big.

The governor’s budget will provide for the largest-ever investment in early learning, with $79.8 million provided for 6,358 new preschool spaces, bringing to a total of 16,449 children from low-income Washington families who will have access to preschool.

In support of intervention services through the Early Support for Infants and Toddlers program, the state will provide $4 million to help 1,500 more children with special needs.

The Governor’s budget would spent $107.6 million to implement full-day kindergarten statewide in the 2016-17 school year.

Responding to narrowly enacted Initiative 1351 — which prescribed for lower class sizes, but provided no way to pay for them — Inslee is proposing to reduce class sizes to 17 for kindergarten through third grade in the 2016-17 school year. Elementary school classes are as high as 25 in some schools, and 20-24 students in schools with large numbers of low-income students.

The state will spend more on supplies and materials, boost the number of guidance counselors at high-poverty middle schools, and award grants to elementary schools to implement breakfast-after-the-bell programs “so nearly 30,000 students start the day well fed and ready to learn.”

Inslee has waxed eloquent about his own childhood outdoor learning experiences, thanks to a father who taught biology at Garfield High School, and how his grandchildren — and all grandchildren — should get to know the outdoor Washington.

The governor’s budget contains $1 million to increase outdoor learning opportunities for 5,000 fourth- and fifth-graders to “connect with nature and get an appreciation of the environment.”

The state’s recent political campaigns have been filled with talk of how Washington’s technology, clean energy and aerospace-based economy is creating jobs, while the state’s public schools and universities are not delivering graduates to fill them.

The Inslee budget goes after the problem in a variety of fields.

It expands the Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement program (MESA) at community and technical colleges by 600 slots to boost support for students in high-demand fields.

The governor would expand advance computer science and engineering programs at the University of Washington and Washington State University to keep up with job demands. “A total of 225 high-demand slots will be added,” said a briefing paper from the Governor’s office.

The budget will grow support of registered aerospace and advanced manufacturing apprenticeship programs at 20 colleges across the state.

The governor’s proposal, using inelegant language, “increases long-term production of math and science graduates” by a combined 400 graduates at Western, Central and Eastern Washington Universities and The Evergreen State College.

Inslee is even using education to cement his reputation as America’s most “green” governor.

He wants permanent funding of $1.4 million to support the Washington Ocean Acidification Center at the University of Washington to research and monitor increasingly acidic waters of the world’s oceans. Inslee has dwelt at length on the threat to Washington’s $300 million shellfish industry.

The governor’s budget adds money for the Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington, including providing technical assistance on impacts to Washington communities, businesses and governments.

And Inslee would expand voluntary energy and engineering audit programs at Washington State University’s Extension-Energy Program.

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