Inslee focusing on education, job creation, budget as he enters first term as governor

OLYMPIA - Washington Governor-elect Jay Inslee addressed issues of job creation, the state budget, education funding and gun control as he outlined his policy goals for his first term, appearing at an Associated Press briefing session at the state capital yesterday morning (Thursday).

Inslee, a Democrat, takes office Monday, Jan. 14.

"My focus, first, is job creation in this legislative session," he said. New tax credits for entrepreneurs, said Inslee, can help new start-up companies get the resources they need to start hiring and making money.

The governor-elect said that clean energy could be an area where Washington can create jobs and boost its economy:

"Boeing is very interested in ways to develop biofuels to run our jets - something other than kerosene and Jet A. We can grow these products and fly the jets of tomorrow, built here," he explained.

Planned changes for the state's existing clean-energy tax credits will help consumers get financing to make their homes more energy efficient through Washington solar energy start-ups, Inslee said.

He said he intends to encourage schools to produce more graduates trained in science, technology, engineering and math to fill jobs in high-tech Washington companies, such as Boeing and Microsoft.

Innovation is the fundamental thing Washington state does, said Inslee.

The governor-elect also plans to help small businesses get contracts with the military, taking advantage of federal budget cuts to the Department of Defense. Washington is 12th in the nation in military activity, Inslee said, but 23rd in economic benefit from military activity in the state.

Education is a major focus for lawmakers this year in the wake of a state Supreme Court decision last year. The court's ruling was that state government has not adequately funded education to the extent required by the state Constitution.

"The state must amply provide for the education of all Washington children as the state's first and highest priority before any other state programs or operations," the court stated in the ruling.

Inslee estimated that complying with the court's decision could add an additional $1 billion to education's share of the state's already tight budget, and said that it isn't a problem that will be solved overnight.

The governor-elect suggested that Washington's marijuana initiative, which took effect in December, could be a possible source of education funding if it were amended. He advised caution before seeking to modify such a recent voter decision, but conceded that taxes on marijuana sales, which are expected to begin in early 2014, could generate a great deal of money for the state that could be used for other purposes.

On the issue of gun control and safety, Inslee stressed that multiple actions are needed to address the problem. "There is no panacea. There is no one solution to violence or gun violence," said Inslee.

Improving the state's mental-health care can help prevent shootings like the recent one in Seattle. He also reiterated his support for gun-control laws that prevent criminals from obtaining guns, and restricting access to high-capacity gun magazines.

The governor-elect urged cooperation concerning the contentious issue, saying that common-sense solutions are needed from all sides:

"This is a time for powerful listening," Inslee said.

- Zoey Palmer is a reporter for the WNPA Olympia News Bureau


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