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    McKenna vs. Inslee: A debate with a few twists

    News analysis: The Republican candidate for governor scores some hits in the Yakima debate. But he leaves himself open on one big issue.
    Jay Inslee, left, and Rob McKenna at a debate.

    Jay Inslee, left, and Rob McKenna at a debate. State of Reform

    There’s no question Republican Rob McKenna was more focused and aggressive than Democrat Jay Inslee in their third gubernatorial debate, which took place Tuesday night in Yakima. But McKenna made at least one statement that could cause him problems — a new proposal for driver’s “permits” to replace drivers’ licenses for illegal immigrants.

    Unfortunately, unlike in the first gubernatorial debate, moderated superbly by Northwest Public Radio’s Austin Jenkins, the format in this debate apparently did not allow the moderator to ask follow-up questions to probe weaknesses in the candidates’ statements.

    Suggesting he knows he’s behind in the polls, McKenna, the state attorney general, repeatedly jabbed Inslee. He accused the former congressman of dodging questions, making false accusations, lacking credibility, and not knowing what he was talking about. Inslee did not respond in kind, maintaining a genial tone throughout the hour-long exchange, moderated by KCTS-TV’s Enrique Cerna.

    McKenna particularly scored points against Inslee in touting his focus on tax and regulatory reform to boost business hiring, while Inslee kept referring vaguely to his 75-point plan to jump-start the economy. My wife rolled her eyes when Inslee mentioned his 75-point plan for the third or fourth time during the debate. Both men dodged the elephant in the room — the likely need to raise taxes to adequately fund public education.

    But Inslee had the edge in an extended discussion of the federal health care reform law’s extension of Medicaid to hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians with incomes below 138 percent of the poverty level. That said, Inslee failed to fully capitalize on holes in McKenna’s argument.

    McKenna indicated his opposition to the Medicaid expansion, which the U.S. Supreme Court in its landmark June decision made optional. He said it would be better to provide health coverage for low-income and uninsured residents through private insurance. But McKenna did not say how he would achieve or pay for that. Indeed, the Affordable Care Act was passed precisely because 50 million Americans lack coverage, many because their employers don’t offer it and they can’t afford it on their own.

    Inslee argued that it’s unacceptable to leave all those Washingtonians uninsured. He contended that turning down the federal Medicaid expansion, which will pay 100 percent of the cost for the expanded population for the first two years and 90 percent in subsequent years, makes no sense because Washington taxpayers will pay for the Medicaid expansion in other states. In addition, he said, the lack of coverage exposes insured Washingtonians to a “hidden tax” of $1,000 per family to pay for health care for the uninsured.

    The biggest surprise for me came when the candidates were questioned about a proposal to change Washington’s current law that allows the state to issue driver’s licenses without proof of legal residence in the U.S. Inslee argued that the state should begin requiring proof of residence within Washington but should continue issuing standard driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants living here. He said it’s counterproductive, for instance, to make it difficult for undocumented students to drive to school.

    In contrast, McKenna argued the state should begin requiring proof of U.S. legal status for driver’s licenses. While agreeing that illegal immigrants shouldn’t be denied the legal opportunity to drive, he proposed that the state issue them merely a “driver’s permit” that could not be used as standard identification the way a driver’s license is used.

    Unfortunately, Inslee and moderator Cerna failed to point out the obvious problems with McKenna’s proposal. How many undocumented people with any sense would go to a state office and say, “I’m an illegal immigrant, I have no papers, and I need a driver’s permit”? And if they’re stopped by a cop for a traffic ticket, how many would want to present red-letter proof that they are in the country illegally?

    Few if any would apply for such a permit. That almost certainly would mean many more people in Washington would be driving without a license, which would jeopardize public safety.

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    Posted Wed, Oct 3, 4:11 p.m. Inappropriate

    What is the source for the "50 million Americans lack[ing] coverage" claim? I recall that even during the debate over Obamacare, the Democrats' most expansive number was about 35 million, and if you factor out the people who can afford and choose not to buy health insurance, the number drops down to something more like 15 million. 50 million is, literally, news to me.


    Posted Wed, Oct 3, 4:52 p.m. Inappropriate

    U.S. Census Bureau and many other sources. Here are the Census Bureau's numbers for 2010 -- 17.4 percent of the total U.S. population of 305 million uninsured, meaning about 53 million uninsured. Of the under 65 population, 19.8 percent are uninsured.
    See Table 4.
    Many studies have shown that most of the uninsured are people in families headed by workers in working-poor families. There is a huge scholarly literature on this if you do a little research.

    Posted Wed, Oct 3, 10:01 p.m. Inappropriate

    I was self employed and had to buy my own medical insurance. It was something I could not quite afford except for my need to have it so I did it but if I had a family or some other disaster it would have been unaffordable. It was the only good thing about turning 65 and getting on Medicare. Now I am retired and live on a fairly small income comfortably but my total medical insurance bill is still running a few dollars less than $4,000 a year. Is that cheap? I am not so sure as I pay all of it now. Don't let the Republicans tell you the seniors are getting some sort of government largesse

    Posted Thu, Oct 4, 1:21 p.m. Inappropriate

    Perhaps the author will finally acknowledge that the State of Washington has in the past and is currently, illegally dispensing Medicare and Medicaid funds and benefits to Illegal Aliens, also described as undocumented people as well as finacially ineligible people. Millions of dollars a year. Jay Inslee has never experessed any outrage over this. Neither has Governor Gregoire, despite numerous findings by the State Auditor. Ask yourself, who is more likely to address this abuse of public funds. Jay Inslee, who wants a massive expansion of Medicaid without concern for who actually gets the benefits. Or Rob McKenna, who actually cares about how public money is spent and wants to ensure those who are entitled to receieve benefits get them.


    Posted Thu, Oct 4, 1:37 p.m. Inappropriate

    I know you have been made aware of the State Auditors findings, why hasn't the Governor or her hand-picked indicated how they will correct the situation? Or will they simply continue to misspend the Taxpayers money?

    http://www.sao.wa.gov/findings/6396.pdf finding 03-02 Page 9


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