Gov. Jay Inslee sits down for a Q&A ahead of a potential presidential campaign and Washington's 2019 legislative session.
OLYMPIA — Speeches, traveling, policy proposals: Gov. Jay Inslee’s itinerary has been a flurry of activity lately as he raises his profile ahead of a potential presidential campaign and prepares for Washington’s 2019 legislative session.
Before the Legislature convenes Monday, Inslee sat down for an interview, which has been edited and condensed for space.
But some Democrats are cool to your proposed $3.7 billion revenue package, which includes a new capital-gains tax, and a hike in the B&O (business and occupation) taxes on some services. How are you going to convince people to support those?
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A: I think that, yes, those are big numbers when you first see them. But reality intrudes, meaning if you want to do those things, which I believe a majority of the legislators want to do, that’s the way the numbers add up.
We haven’t proposed some massive new entitlement of enormous dimensions. They’re things that both parties at least rhetorically are for, which is fund McCleary (K-12 state education spending), do more mental health, do something on homelessness. I think most people believe we should respond to the orca crisis. I think most people believe that we have to respond to the [fish culvert court decision]. And then you just have to figure out a way to pay for them.
And fundamentally, I’m not going to be convincing people. The people of the state of Washington are going to convince people that we want to have better mental health, we want to do something about homelessness and we want to pay for the education of our kids. And I believe the vast majority of Washingtonians believe that.
Q: In hindsight, do you regret pursuing your big carbon-pricing plans over the past few legislative sessions, which were ultimately unsuccessful? Would it have been more effective to pursue your strategy this year of pushing several smaller carbon-reduction bills?
A: The scope of our proposal this year is roughly equivalent of what we’ve done in the past, as far as the amount of carbon reduction that we proposed.
(As for having a different strategy in the past), probably not, because we may not have been able to get them. We had a Republican Senate, who was remarkably resistant to any good ideas on this. Until last session, and then we (Democrats) had only a one-seat majority.
The way this has worked out, we advanced the argument, we socialized people to the idea. We went out and won 10 new seats of climate champions [in the Legislature] who want to do something about it. And that puts us in a position to do this right now.
Q: Since you’re exploring a 2020 presidential bid, how often do you plan to be in Olympia during this year’s 105-day legislative session? And how often will you be in the room with lawmakers working on some of these issues?
A: Whenever my presence is useful, you can be assured I will be here.
Q: [All but one of our presidents have been white males.] In a time of growing awareness about opening up the hallways of power to people who haven’t traditionally occupied them, why should the Democratic Party nominate another white male for president?
A: First off, I’m not saying they should, that’s a decision for the party. I’m not saying that should be the preference or priority. Look, I approach this kind of question with humility, and I think that’s really important. I have never had an experience where someone followed me around a store because I was a minority youth, because they didn’t trust me. I have never had an experience I thought where my résumé didn’t get looked at because I had a name that sounded African American. I’ve never felt talked over in a meeting because I was female. I have not personally experienced a lot of the barriers that people, because of race and ethnicity and gender and disability, experience.
And because of that, I have always felt that I have an added responsibility to have a doubly intense commitment to increasing diversity in our positions. To removing barriers to employment and education. And look for every way I can to help the American experiment and the arc of the moral universe move forward. And I think I’ve got a record that can stand up to almost anybody that I can think of at the moment in those efforts.
We take great effort having a diverse workforce. We look for ways to improve our state’s ability to move forward, and that’s why I’m a proud supporter of Initiative 1000 [an initiative to the Legislature that would re-legalize affirmative action in Washington].
I’ve appointed 3,000 people during my term in office [to judicial positions] boards, commissions, staff. And it’s 49 percent female and 51 percent male. Twenty-six percent people of ethnicity.
And we’re not done, we’re still working on this. The long and short, I believe that I’ve done all I can to advance this cause of both equity and opportunity.
I’m willing to stand up for justice, in all its dimensions, and I’ve done it time and time again, without worrying about my political hide. And if people want somebody like that, they might have an opportunity. We’ll see.
Q: The state Supreme Court is expected to rule on a lawsuit that found lawmakers in violation of Washington’s Public Records Act after they withheld records under their long-claimed exemption. That lawsuit came from news organizations, including The Seattle Times.
If legislators pass another records bill, what has to be in there for you to sign or veto it?
A: I believe, and I’ve expressed this, that the legislators can find a way to fulfill their responsibilities, and still have openness like we do in my office, like we do in city council offices. It does take energy, it does take resources, it does take attention, but I think you can do it. I’ve been a legislator, I know what their life is like, and I believe they can accomplish the same thing. So, I would look for legislation that is true to that general precept.