Inslee, Oregon’s Brown discuss replacing I-5 Bridge

Sean McClain, founder and CEO of AbSci, left, guides Gov. Jay Inslee through the biotechnology company's new Vancouver headquarters on Monday. AbSci is moving its headquarters from Portland to the new Hudson Building in downtown Vancouver. (Photos by Ariane Kunze/The Columbian)

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee discussed replacing the Interstate 5 Bridge connecting Portland and Vancouver with Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Monday.

“I wanted to reaffirm her commitment to this project moving forward, to get a solution to this,” Inslee said of the controversial project. “We both share an intense commitment to ultimately get this bridge done.”

Inslee said both he and his counterpart across the river believe it’s a critical project.

“We need a consensus on both sides of the river, and it’s critical that, first, frankly, for Clark County to reach a consensus and have its legislators get on the same page about what the parameter of the next iteration of this might be,” Inslee said during a stop in Vancouver on Monday.

Longtime state Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, who was crucial in killing the infrastructure project, is not seeking re-election. Inslee said Benton, along with other Senate Republicans, such as Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, are to blame for destroying the project.

Both Benton and Rivers were against the light-rail component of the now-defunct Columbia River Crossing.

“You can’t ignore the fact that this is a rapidly growing community. You have to plan for growth. … That does mean you have to plan for public transportation. That’s a reality,” Inslee said.

He didn’t say whether that meant light rail, but noted that several of the high-profile opponents to light rail would no longer be in office after the election.

Both Inslee and Brown are seeking re-election.

Inslee in Vancouver

Inslee made several stops while in Vancouver on Monday, including: a ribbon-cutting at Clark College, a campaign stop promoting a biotechnology company and a conversation with The Columbian’s Editorial Board.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Editorial Board, Inslee said he’s confident that the Legislature is poised to fulfill its constitutional duty to adequately fund the state’s public school system.

“We have put $5.5 billion of new money into the education of our children,” Inslee said, calling it the largest investment the state has made and the reason he’s confident that the state will finish the job in 2017.

The governor said he hopes the state can solve the underfunding with an increase in revenue, but said it will depend on the state of the economy.

Inslee, whose moniker is the green governor, said he wants to ensure oil trains are traveling through the state safely, and that we’re protecting the environment.

“This is the most beautiful state in the country, and we want to leave it that way for our kids,” he said.

But he’s not supportive of Initiative 732, the carbon emission tax that will be on the November ballot. Instead, he mentioned the recently adopted rule by the state, which he championed, to cap emissions from the state’s largest polluters.

Business growth

Inslee also stopped at AbSci, a biotechnology company that is moving its headquarters from Portland to the new Hudson Building in downtown Vancouver. The company has 14 full-time employees and plans to add another 20 to 30 jobs. The company decided to relocate in large part because of a $200,000 commitment from Inslee’s strategic reserve fund, which helped build out AbSci’s new lab.

Inslee said the state of Washington likes to partner with genius.

“I wasn’t there when Bill Boeing did his seaplane or when Bill Gates was coming up with software programs. But I’m here,” Inslee told Sean McClain, founder and CEO of AbSci, on Monday.

AbSci developed a protein manufacturing platform that substantially reduces the production costs of therapeutic proteins and antibodies used in a wide range of medical treatments, including those for cancer, diabetes and autoimmune disorders, as well as hormone therapies.

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