Two years ago this week, Democrat and Republican lawmakers joined to pass one of the most important tax-fairness bills I’ve seen. SB 5977 would have reduced the B&O tax on all manufacturing to match the lower rate extended to aerospace in 2013. I say “would have” because days later Governor Inslee caved to political pressure from left-wingers and vetoed the change.
At the time Inslee attempted to justify the veto by criticizing the process that produced the bill. But in an interview a few weeks later he made the strange claim that “Republicans got caught with their hands in the cookie jar.” Apparently he either forgot or was oblivious to the fact that the Democrat-controlled House passed SB 5977 as well.
Fast forward to the present, and Inslee’s search for a new job, which shows without a doubt that the hand in the cookie jar belongs to…him.
At Inslee’s request the new state operating budget includes $3.474 million solely for the “Executive Protection Unit,” meaning the security detail supplied by the Washington State Patrol. It’s a brand new earmark, clearly coinciding with his out-of-state job hunt.
Inslee publicly defended the funding by saying the 1965 state law about the governor’s personal security doesn’t make exceptions for activities, “whether it’s going to a ballgame or church or visiting a national park.” He insisted the law “is being followed.”
Either the governor is being evasive or he truly doesn’t grasp what the law means.
RCW 43.43.035 contains two sentences. The first requires the WSP to protect the governor and the governor’s family “to the extent and in the manner that the governor and the chief of the Washington state patrol deem adequate and appropriate.” The second extends the protection to a governor-elect as well. That’s it.
There are no exceptions regarding activities, as Inslee said. But what he fails to acknowledge is that nothing in the law forces him to accept this entitlement unconditionally. The references to “extent” and “manner” clearly give Inslee broad authority about how, when and where he is provided security and protection at taxpayer expense.
When he signed the new budget (it took effect this week) Inslee should have vetoed the EPU earmarks that add almost $3.5 million to his office budget, and vowed to use private funds to cover security costs for what is clearly his private venture. Sure, the State Patrol chief might have protested, but he’s in no position to overrule the person who appointed him. Besides, the WSP still has money to cover the usual, legitimate security expenses – around Olympia, at the governor’s family home, and for official state-related travel.
Inslee’s EPU costs for April and May totaled $944,025, a pace that equals nearly $6 million per year. And his job search already costs taxpayers extra because the lieutenant governor gets a 70% pay raise for each day served as acting governor. That alone should have been reason for Inslee to pull his hand out of the cookie jar.
The governor can insist all he wants that dragging WSP officers along on private junkets is a matter of law. However, this is a moral question, not a legal one. It was an easy call to make – but Inslee blew it.
— Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler