We fact-check the third and final debate between Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and his GOP challenger, former Port of Seattle Commissioner Bill Bryant.
OLYMPIA — In their third and final debate Wednesday night, Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee and GOP challenger Bill Bryant each made their share of statements and accusations.
Here’s a fact-check on some of those claims.
What to do about homelessness
The candidates tussled over what to do about homelessness, an issue Bryant has been pushing in the campaign’s closing months.
Twice in the debate, Inslee made a point to link homelessness to economic issues and the need for a higher minimum wage.
“Every time rents go up $100, homelessness goes up 15 percent,” Inslee said at one point. “One of the things we can do about this is increase the minimum wage.”
That number appears to come from a study released by the Journal of Urban Affairs and pops up in conversations about homelessness in Seattle, where housing has become increasingly expensive.
But a solution for homelessness will be much more complex than just raising the minimum wage. Proposals to end homelessness in Seattle, for example, center on zoning laws and how to provide low-income housing.
Additionally, the state Legislature and governor can budget more money for, among other things, affordable housing. While Inslee touted funding increases to help with homelessness over the past four years, neither he nor Bryant committed to pursuing more funding.
Bryant, for his part, said local governments and the state don’t work together on homelessness.
“There is no coordination between the cities and the states, and that’s got to happen,” Bryant said during the debate.
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You can argue whether coordination between agencies has been effective — Seattle has seen its share of problems on this front when it comes to homeless sweeps. But there is coordination between state and local agencies on homelessness.
The Interagency Council on Homelessness was established more than a decade ago to make sure local and state governments were working together on the issue.
There’s also the State Advisory Council on Homelessness, which Inslee established by executive order in 2015. That council is made up of a variety of people, including representatives of local, state and federal government.
Also last year, lawmakers and the governor passed a bipartisan law creating an Office of Homeless Youth, which among other things is tasked with increasing coordination.
Graduation ratesat Pasco High
In his opening remarks, Inslee cited progress under his watch on transportation, education and the economy. He described economic expansions announced earlier this year by AutoZone and other companies in the Tri-Cities, where the debate was held.
The governor also touted the improved graduation rate for Pasco Senior High School.
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“The Pasco Bulldogs have increased their graduation rate by 25 percent in the last several years,” said Inslee.
It is true that Pasco Senior High School’s graduation rate has improved remarkably.
In the 2015 school year, the most recent state data available, the high school’s adjusted graduation rate was 84 percent. In 2013, the year Inslee took office, the high school’s adjusted graduation rate was 66.8 percent.
That represents a 25.7 percent jumpsince Inslee took office.
Transportation package in Legislature
During an exchange over toll lanes, Bryant accused Inslee of delaying the $16 billion transportation package that ultimately passed in 2015.
“Governor Inslee came into town and made transportation a partisan issue for the first time ever and blew it up, and it took many of us three years to put it back together again,” Bryant said.
But the story of the $16 billion transportation package that eventually passed in 2015 is much more complex.
News reports from 2013 show Republicans were still uncomfortable supporting the tax increases necessary to fund a statewide transportation package. Republicans withheld their support on a revenue package in June of that year, part of the reason it failed a vote in the state House.
And in November 2013, the leader of the GOP-dominated Majority Coalition Caucus in the state Senate stood next to Inslee while the governor announced a renewed push for a transportation package. But Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom acknowledged at the time that given the complexity of the transportation issues, “there is an understanding by all the parties” that a deal might not get done right away.
The economy and unemployment
We’ve fact-checked these two claims before. But they’re worth mentioning again, since the economy is important, and both campaigns use it as a centerpiece in their arguments.
Bryant said Wednesday that Washington ranks eighth-highest among the states for the unemployment rate. At 5.7 percent unemployment in August, Washington is tied for 42nd among the 50 states. Bryant’s point about high unemployment stands.
Inslee repeated Wednesday that Washington’s economy has been ranked as the best in the nation. That claim is also true. Business Insider gave Washington the top grade in a January ranking, and in June Forbes ranked the state second best in the nation.