Governor Inslee jokes the only job better than Washington state governor is that of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.
Voters are now deciding whether Governor Inslee is doing enough to move the ball down the field, and whether he gets to keep his job.
The first-term Governor sat down with KING 5 at a local campaign office to talk about what he views as his biggest accomplishments during his first term. Nearly four years, he stressed economy, transportation and education in his inauguration day speech.
“I have been successful bringing the parties together in a divided legislature; biggest transportation package ever, biggest advance of educational investment we’ve ever seen in our state,” said Inslee.
Last year, the Governor and lawmakers hammered out a $16 billion transportation package that included infrastructure and highway improvements that Inslee says he now wants to see completed.
“We want to make sure the projects in the pipeline actually get built,” he said listing off a number of the projects from completing State Route 520 to widening Interstate 90.
But the Governor, who prides himself in being a “Green Governor,” had to make a major concession, as part of the package. He dropped a provision aimed at reducing carbon pollution through a new clean fuel standard.
“It’s important to reach consensus. It can’t be my way or the highway, so one of the reasons we got the transportation bill is because I was willing to compromise on a very important issue, a poison pill that I had to swallow, it was very difficult, but we needed a transportation package,” Inslee said.
Related: “Poison pill” background
Something else the state needs is additional education funding, as mandated by the landmark State Supreme Court’s McCleary ruling. The Governor points to historic investments in education since he took office: $5.5 billion in additional funding, according to the Office of Financial management.
“We’ve got to continue build what we’re doing in education. That job is not done. We’ve got to increase our career and technical education. We should have kids that have a vision statement, even if they’re not going to a four year institution,” he said.
Inslee also points to success in convening an education funding task force made of Democrats and Republicans, tasked with pinning down a price tag of how much more money the state needs to spend on public education.
However, many people agree lawmakers punted, leaving the hardest part of the negotiation to next year, reducing dependence on local levies. The final portion of the McCleary puzzle comes with a price tag in the billions, one figure thrown out quite a bit is $3.5 billion per biennium.
KING 5 asked the Governor if he has a tentative idea or framework of how to come up with the cash. He says it will begin with the budget proposal he turns in this December.
“It will be a balanced budget; it will finance the education of our children, and it will do the new things that we know will work in our schools,” said Inslee.
His last budget proposal included calls for some tax and revenue changes, most notably a capital gains tax rejected by the legislature. He indicated capital gains could be a consideration this time around, as well but said it depends on the state’s revenue forecast released later this fall.
“We many also need to close some loopholes, and there are some loopholes that should be closed," Inslee said.
To pass his policy, the Governor needs votes. That’s why he’s actively campaigning for other Democratic legislators, in addition to campaigning for himself. State Democrats are hoping a possible “Trump effect" down ballot aids them in potentially picking up seats in swing districts.
Currently, Republicans control the State Senate by 26 to 23. Democrats control the House by 50 to 48. With narrow margins in both chambers, both sides are fiercely battling to change the balance of power, or at least defend what they have now.
“Look, if there’s a divided legislature, I’ll still be on the job," Inslee said.
Inslee outside of the Governor’s Mansion
When asked about a standout moment during his first term, Inslee shares a story about his grandson Brody, who escorted him down the capitol steps on inauguration day.
His wife, Trudi, was sidelined with a knee injury at the time.
“The most surprising moment was when Trudi couldn’t walk down the steps with me at our inauguration. So Brody, my then 5-year-old grandson did, and as we walked down the steps at my inauguration with a huge crowd around us, Brody acted like he’d just been elected and started waving to the crowd like he was the new governor of the state of Washington,” Inslee recalled laughing.
Inslee, a proud grandpa, has three grown sons. He says he recently celebrated “knowing” his wife and high school sweetheart for 50 years.
His private and public life intersect, at times. He shared a story about his now 7-year-old grandson Brody who it turns out likes the STEM education the Governor has been pushing.
“(Brody) says I’ve really been having a lot of fun at school lately. We’ve been lighting up lights in my play-doh and batteries, and they have taught us to make electric circuits in my STEM class. That’s Science, Technology Education and Math," Inslee said.
“When you get to see your own grandchild just volunteer that he was enjoying something that I’ve worked on as Governor, it’s kind of fun to be governor and granddad at the same time.”