Gov. Jay Inslee and challenger Bill Bryant made competing accusations during their debate Wednesday. We checked the accuracy of some of those claims.
Gov. Jay Inslee and challenger Bill Bryant made competing accusations during their debate on issues from the minimum wage to a state prisoner-release scandal.
Here’s a check on the accuracy of some of those exchanges.
Early prison releases
In his opening statement, Bryant attacked Inslee for the early freeing of thousands of prison inmates due to mistakes in how the state Department of Corrections (DOC) calculated their sentences.
Bryant said Inslee’s “mismanagement” of DOC was “so severe” it resulted in the deaths of two people.
It is true that two deaths last year have been linked to the early release of prisoners. One inmate released early was charged with killing a teenager during a botched robbery attempt in Spokane. A second offender released early was charged with vehicular homicide after crashing his car in Bellevue, killing a female passenger.
Tying the mismanagement directly to Inslee is trickier. The sentencing-calculation errors were traced back to wrongly programmed software dating back to 2002. DOC personnel learned of the problem in 2012 but did not fix it.
Inslee, who took office in 2013, learned of the long-running errors last December and went public at a news conference, calling the situation “totally unacceptable.” Several state employees have been fired or resigned in the wake of the scandal.
In one of the testiest exchanges of the debate, Inslee accused Bryant of opposing an increase in the statewide minimum wage.
The back-and-forth came after a question about Initiative 1433, a measure on the November ballot that would raise the minimum wage from the current $9.47 an hour to $13.50 by 2020.
Inslee supports the initiative and even gathered signatures for it. Bryant opposes it and favors a regional approach, saying wages should be higher in Seattle than in less-wealthy parts of the state.
Inslee said Bryant “fundamentally … doesn’t believe in the minimum wage,” pointing to previous statements and to actions Bryant took while a Port of Seattle commissioner. Bryant said that was a distortion, though he repeatedly has questioned whether a uniform statewide minimum wage makes sense.
At the Port, Bryant supported legislation in 2014 to raise the minimum wage for some Sea-Tac International Airport workers, but that fell short of the $15-an-hour minimum wage for all transportation and hospitality workers called for under Proposition 1, the measure approved by voters in the city of SeaTac in 2013.
A King County judge initially blocked Prop. 1 from applying to the airport. Bryant and fellow port commissioners supported the legal challenge to Prop. 1, filed by Alaska Airlines and others, which contended the city measure didn’t have jurisdiction over the airport; the state Supreme Court ultimately ruled it did.
Bryant said Washington has “one of the highest unemployment rates in America.”
That’s true. Washington’s statewide unemployment rate in July remained at 5.8 percent, the same as the previous six months, according to figures released Wednesday.
That’s about a full percentage point above the national average, and up slightly from the 5.6 percent rate in June of last year. Washington’s rate was tied for 40th among the states as of June, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Despite those unemployment figures, Inslee was correct when he boasted the online news site Business Insider had named Washington’s economy as the best in the nation in January.
The ranking cited the state’s “stunning” economic growth rate and increase in average wages.
Washington also was rated the number two state economy by Forbes in June.