Last week, the Washington State Republican Party held a press conference where they called on Gov. Jay Inslee to reimburse the state for costs associated with his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.
"[Inslee should] use... campaign funds to reimburse the taxpayers of the state of Washington, so we're not forced to subsidize his presidential ambition," said WSRP chair Caleb Heimlich in an interview with KREM.
At the event, they asked Inslee to give $2 million back to the state treasury. But on a website used to gather online signatures from supporters of the idea, the party says Inslee's run "is costing taxpayers $4 million."
We wanted to know: What is the actual figure? We set out to verify.
The expense in question here is the cost of travel and protection from the Washington State Patrol.
According to WSP, those costs through the end of July were $663,119.88.
That figure includes overtime and travel expenses, and has not yet been updated for August. It does not take into account the normal salaries for the additional employees that were hired to fill out the protection detail.
Six troopers, an additional sergeant and a lieutenant were all hired. Five of those will now be re-assigned now that the campaign is over. Three will remain, as the WSP was already saying it was understaffed even before Inslee's presidential run.
But where did the million-dollar numbers come from?
When the legislature passed the budget, WSP requested $4 million so they could be prepared if Inslee went all the way for a full two-year campaign. He did not.
But Republicans say Inslee should reimburse half of that budget, or $2 million, because he went most of one year.
"There's a little bit of ambiguity, but there is no question that we have spent at least $662,000 in taxpayer resources, not even including the month of August, and not including the fact that we've hired eight additional staff members to this unit. So that's why we asked him to reimburse $2 million," Heimlich said.
But Heimlich also says he's more concerned about the principle of this issue and would be happy if Inslee returned the smaller amount instead.
Now the question remains: Will Inslee reimburse taxpayers?
When pressed by reporters last week, Inslee said, "We're going to follow Washington law and Washington law is that the Washington State Patrol provides security for the governor. We're going to follow that law to the T."
In other words, it does not look like he intends to reimburse.
"Our response to that is...just because it's legal doesn't make it right," Heimlich said. "The right thing to do would be to reimburse the taxpayers."
Heimlich also points out that some other governors who have run for president, including Montana Democrat Steve Bullock, have already promised to reimburse their states for the cost of their campaign.