Jay Inslee is sticking to his guns — new taxes won't be needed to fix Washington's budget woes.
At a Wednesday press conference in Seattle, three reporters challenged Inslee on that plank of his candidacy for governor. Each time, he cited his campaign promise that the Legislature can raise money to meet a Washington Supreme Court mandate to increase school funding by creating enough new jobs to generate more state revenue — and without raising taxes.
"I think economic growth is the best way forward," Inslee said.
Outgoing Gov.Chris Gregoire has said that meeting the Supreme Court's requirement without raising taxes is impossible.
Inslee has met briefly with Gregoire so far but plans to discuss the transition more extensively with her next week. Inslee and Gregoire will likely collaborate on the governor's biennial budget proposal to be unveiled in a few weeks. Preliminary estimates are that the Legislature will have to find an extra $2.1 billion to meet the Supreme Court mandate in 2013-2015, plus another roughly $900 million to meet other expected budget shortfalls.
Inslee acknowledged that an economic growth solution will take a long time. "When you climb a mountain, you take one step at a time," he said.
His top priority for the upcoming legislative session, he said, will be job creation.
His plans call for reforms in taxes, especially business and occupation taxes, plus tax breaks for fledgling companies; health care reforms; and cutting some regulations. Inslee would split some duties away from the state commerce department to create small agencies to concentrate on recruiting and training for life sciences, maritime, aerospace and military jobs and businesses. His plans are mum on unemployment insurance and worker compensation reforms.
Inslee wants to expand state support activities for companies seeking military-related work. He would provide more help to research institutions for spinning off new technologies into new businesses. He also seeks some regulatory reforms.
The purpose of Inslee's press conference was to introduce the people in charge of his transition team for the next two months. They are:
- Transition director Brian Bonlender. He was Inslee's congressional chief of staff and a senior advisor for his gubernatorial campaign.
- Transition committee co-chairwoman Mary Alice Heuschel, superintendent of the Renton school district. Inslee noted her district has a 90 percent graduation rate.
- Transition committee co-chairman Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel and executive vice president for legal and corporate affairs. He " is from a culture of innovation," Inslee said.
- Transition committee co-chairman Elson Floyd, president of Washington State University. "He has an ability to reach out to the underserved populations in this state," Inslee said.