Time to Get Real, Jay Inslee
You’re Going to Be the Governor, It Seems, so Here’s What We Need You to Do
Okay, Jay. You won. It’s a narrow victory—51 to 49 as of the latest tally—but reliable projections say you’re going to win, so congrats. Congrats on ruining Republican Rob McKenna’s master plan to rule the universe (really!), and good job proving that Seattle Times publisher Frank Blethen can shell out $80,000 for pro-McKenna ads in his own damn newspaper and still not throw a governor’s race. Hurrah! Now let’s talk about a few things.
Taxes and schools: You and that guy you just beat both spent the entire campaign season promising that you wouldn’t raise taxes as governor, and at the same time, that you would spend lots more money on education in order to comply with the Washington State Supreme Court’s McCleary decision (which says we’ve so underfunded our public schools that we’re now in violation of our constitutional duty to provide a basic education for all citizens).
The problem was that promises of no new taxes and better schools were bonkers, and flat-out mathematically impossible to keep. You can’t find enough additional money for schools and keep from slashing state services beyond the already unacceptable levels without raising taxes. You just can’t. Our state is more than $1 billion in the hole. Even outgoing governor Chris Gregoire, who meekly refused to get real with people about taxes for almost her entire eight years in office, now says: “I don’t know how you can meet your obligations for McCleary without new revenue.” There’s a lesson here, Governor-Elect Inslee, and it’s not just the obvious one. The real lesson in Gregoire’s statement is that it’s an incredible waste of time to spend years pretending problems that require new taxes can be solved without new taxes. Think of all the harm that was caused by Gregoire clinging to this politically helpful bit of illogic for eight fucking years. You’ve set yourself on a course for causing this same kind of harm by promising not to raise revenue on the campaign trail, and you know what: Better to break that promise right now, right off the bat, than tell us in eight years—à la Gregoire—that oops!, you were wrong.
Marijuana: In addition to being wrong on revenue the entire campaign season, you were wrong on marijuana. You said you didn’t want to back Initiative 502 because of the children or something. Um. In addition to being wrongheaded, this was politically stupid. McKenna spent the whole campaign killing you among independent voters, and you know how you could have gotten a lot more independents and a larger margin of victory? You could have said you agreed with the 60 percent of independents—60 percent!—who backed legalizing marijuana because it makes good sense for the state coffers and individual liberty and (last but not least) social justice. But you didn’t do that, and now you need to not just respect “the will of the people” on pot legalization, as you’ve already said you will, you need to admit you were wrong and then become a strong defender of our state’s groundbreaking new law. “What we want the governor to do is to help Washington State have a constructive dialogue with the federal government,” says Alison Holcomb, who ran the I-502 campaign. “Let us proceed with this demonstration project and help us measure it.” Handle this one right, governor, and the independents will no doubt remember in four years—and reward you.
Transportation and the environment: You just stepped on a guy who was one of the last people in Washington State to buy into Kemper Freeman’s anti-light-rail mania. Now crush that backward line of thinking for good. Use your power to push for mass transit that makes sense in the biggest county in the state—King County. It happens to be the county that just elected you, and it also happens to be the place where you can make a significant contribution to your real passion: environmental stewardship. Boost Olympia’s funding for transit in King County, and you will do a lot over the long term to help the environment of the entire state (and, because every time a butterfly flaps its wings and all that, the whole damn world). In addition, step away from your hedged position on those mile-long, toxic-dust-spewing coal trains from Montana that Big Coal wants to run through our state—and the city of Seattle—and then onward to Western Washington ports that will ship it off to energy-hungry China. The county that elected you needs you to get off the fence, stop talking about more studies, and start tangling in an effective, direct way with the coal-train pushers.
Also: We would like a pony, a tax credit for exhausted journalists, and six bottles of that “secret sauce” you’ve been talking about all these months. Thanks.