OLYMPIA…Senate Republican Leader John Braun, R-Centralia, and House Republican Leader J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, released the following statement as thousands of people expect to lose their jobs this week thanks to Gov. Jay Inslee’s unnecessarily punitive vaccine deadline. Inslee imposed the deadline as a condition of employment for most state employees and contractors, health-care workers, those working in K-12 and higher education, and many childcare providers through the emergency powers he will have had for a stunning 600 days as of this Thursday.
“We are already experiencing higher prices and empty shelves partially as a result of COVID’s shutdowns and workforce shortages. Today’s deadline, with its unnecessarily hardline consequences, will only make that worse when hundreds, if not thousands, lose their jobs and are denied unemployment benefits. It also threatens public safety by reducing our police forces at a time when crime is already rising. People feel unsafe. They are afraid of what criminals will do when there are even fewer law enforcement officers to respond. And they are worried about people’s chances of survival if there aren’t enough first responders to help in an emergency. The governor underestimates the potential impact of his actions.
“Coercion, intimidation, threats and public shaming are not tactics a leader should be using against the people. The governor’s obvious disdain for those who are choosing to lose their jobs rather than compromise their right to make their own medical decisions is unhelpful. He is dividing the public – segregating us and turning people against each other. Yesterday, even unvaccinated health-care workers were heroes. Today, they become villains in the governor’s narrative.
“We’ve seen the governor bend his mandates according to convenience, practicality and political considerations when it’s in his political interest to do so. If COVID knows no bounds, then the accommodations Inslee has made throughout this process undermine the equity Democrats say they care about. In fact, other governors and even the president have offered weekly testing alternatives for many of those who choose not to get the vaccine. We cannot expect a COVID-free society. We need to find ways to mitigate the virus without making it even harder for people to provide for their families.
“Exercising sweeping, unchecked emergency powers for 600 days is excessive, undemocratic, and just plain wrong, especially when the person with those powers is the only one who can end them. What motivation does he have to restore the balance of power, especially when the majority party’s complacency won’t even allow discussion of possible legislation to reform executive powers? Until Democrats recognize that allowing authoritarian rule for more than a year and a half is dereliction of duty, reform won’t happen. The people will continue to be shut out of the decision-making process.
“A much better approach for the governor would be to treat people respectfully and unite them. Instead, he only listens to a limited amount of people from the largest urban areas of our state. It’s sad that Inslee reverts to his base instinct to divide the people to augment his power. As for the governor’s claim that he’s the only one in Washington who can save lives, it diminishes the contribution that every frontline worker and health-care provider has made during the pandemic. It’s ridiculous.”