Gov’s State of the State: Increase minimum wage, boost education spending, fund transportation package

In his State of the State address yesterday, Gov. Inslee introduced themes likely to resonate through the November elections.  Whether they will gain bipartisan  approval in the divided Legislature is less probable. The headlines: a minimum wage increase, $200 million in new education funding (including the oft-suspended teacher COLA) paid for with unspecified tax increases, increased transportation funding, and something addressing climate change.

As Republicans were quick to point out, the speech lacked details. But then, it is just a speech. We’ll know more in the next week or so about the governor’s specific plans.

Here are some excerpts.

On the minimum wage:

I don’t have the exact number today for what our minimum wage should be. …But I believe that an increase in the range of $1.50 to $2.50 an hour is a step toward closing the widening economic gap.

There is ample evidence that a raise in that range does not kill jobs.

That last line suggests the governor concedes that a proposal higher than that – to $15 perhaps? – will kill jobs. But even the lower wage hike he suggests will eliminate jobs and slow hiring, particularly for young, inexperienced, and unskilled workers.  

On education spending:

the Supreme Court has forced us all to look anew at funding our education system this year.

So,

In the coming days I will propose a plan to make an investment of about $200 million in our schools this session. Most of that will go directly to your local school districts. It will also fund a long-overdue cost-of-living adjustment for our educators this session.

He broadly hints at the funding source:

You can expect that again I will bring forward tax exemptions that I think fall short when weighed against the needs of our schools

The Senate Majority Leader isn’t buying it:

Asked if more money is needed for education this session, Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom said, “No … We already addressed the money issues this last time with over a billion dollars.”

On transportation funding, he tosses it to the Senate:

You know, I’ve been pushing the Legislature to do something about this since my first day in office. The House passed a bill last year, and in the interim, the Senate hit the road to hear from the people about how they view our state’s transportation system.

I then convened 12 negotiating sessions…

The next logical step is for the Senate to produce a package of transportation improvements that has 25 votes.

As the governor observed, things have stalled, but talks continue. Of the headline issues, the transportation package appears to have the best chance of gaining bipartisan support this session. In other words, the state of the state hasn’t changed.

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