Governor Jay Inslee’s rhetoric on guns isn’t sitting well with some Republican state Senators.
Tracy Ellis explains.
Governor Jay Inslee’s rhetoric on guns isn’t sitting well with some Republican state Senators.
Tracy Ellis explains.
Washington has the lowest per capita rate of officers in the nation.
For a guy who recently wanted to criminalize certain false statements, Gov. Jay Inslee certainly seems to have no qualms about spreading disinformation himself.
It happened again Wednesday, after the new state revenue forecast had me and our Senate Republican budget leader repeating our call for a temporary suspension of the state gas tax. Here was Inslee’s response, as provided by a spokesperson and published in multiple news outlets:
“As for the idea of temporarily suspending the state gas tax, the oil companies would be the ones to benefit from yet another opportunity to pocket more profit at the expense of our ability to put people to work fixing our roads and bridges…”
Is the governor confusing the Republican proposal (Senate Bill 5897) with the three-month gas-tax holiday the Biden administration finally suggested, also on Wednesday? After all, the Biden plan apparently doesn’t protect against oil-company profiteering and could cut into federal transportation spending.
No, we’ve heard this… malarkey, as President Biden would call it… from the governor before. From Inslee’s May 18 press conference:
“We don’t think giving oil companies more profits with less money to fix our roads is the right answer to this problem.”
Anyone who reads SB 5897 can see it contains anti-profiteering safeguards to ensure pump prices are lowered, while preserving funding for state transportation investments. Also, the state gas tax is 49.4 cents per gallon, nearly triple the 18.4 cents of federal gas tax. Our idea, which could be quickly enacted in a one-day virtual special session, would save much more money for a longer period than the Biden idea.
On March 8, just before the 2022 legislative session ended, Republicans made a motion to bring this legislation before the Senate for consideration. A gallon of regular gas in our state had just hit an average price of $4.45. The senator making that motion said this about the bill:
“It is not a paycheck to gas companies, the bill ensures that doesn’t occur. And it does not take away from other transportation priorities, as it transfers funds from the general fund. Rather, this is actually a reminder that the gas tax is an extremely regressive tax, one that affects those in the middle- and lower-income categories… and so this is a way… to give those families the relief they deserve, especially as gas prices are continuing to rise.”
Democratic senators were warned, by their own leadership, that voting to consider the bill would force them to stay longer at the Capitol. They fell into line and rejected the opportunity to extend immediate relief. The average cost of a gallon has climbed more than a dollar since then.
I’m guessing the governor is just fine with high fuel prices. After all, he has a taxpayer-provided car and driver and doesn’t feel the pain at the pump like the rest of us. But more to the point, anyone who disdains fossil fuel as much as Inslee likely views $5 gas with joy, thinking it will push people toward mass transit and electrified transportation.
Don’t expect Inslee to admit that, however – a pesky news reporter might start asking rank-and-file Democratic state lawmakers whether they side with the no-relief governor or with their constituents, who are looking for relief. I doubt those legislators would appreciate being put on the spot.
So instead, the governor has resorted to spreading disinformation. Maybe it’s willful, maybe he simply doesn’t understand our proposal. Maybe it’s both. Whatever the reason, I caution the people of Washington and the watchdogs in the news media to look out for it.
–– Senate Republican Leader John Braun
The governor’s use of football metaphors when speaking about the COVID-19 pandemic got old a long time ago, but he really fumbled recently by equating his administration’s pandemic response with winning the Super Bowl. Good grief.
Has Governor Inslee forgotten about Suzi LeVine? Countless Washington families suffered because he drafted her for the wrong reason and failed to bench her when her agency lost a billion dollars to fraudsters. That fiasco alone debunks his “won the Super Bowl” remark.
Wait, there’s more. Try 175,000 fewer people employed today in our state than before the pandemic, according to the agency LeVine formerly headed. More businesses closed in Washington (many permanently) than 45 other states. Our state being worse than 46 others for in-person instruction during the past school year. Tremendous harm to students’ mental health, with 1 in 5 contemplating suicide in the past 12 months. A substantial jump in drug-overdose deaths, far exceeding COVID deaths for the under-60 age group during the same period.
Won the Super Bowl? Not hardly. With stats like that, Inslee should also ease up on the “we’ve saved thousands of lives” comments he tosses out regularly.
As the pandemic grew, and Inslee issued emergency orders that ruined livelihoods and restricted freedoms, legislators’ offices were deluged with concerns from people who couldn’t believe the executive branch of government had so much control. Republicans did everything possible to involve the legislative branch, but the majority Democrats refused to join us, and no one legislator’s “bully pulpit” is as large as the governor’s. To this day we hear from folks who don’t realize Republican legislators had no part in acquiescing to Inslee, and don’t know how heavily the emergency-powers laws are stacked against our branch of government.
Another governor might have promised, as a sign of goodwill, to end the state of emergency as soon as possible. Another governor might have acknowledged the law gives his office more emergency power than it needs, and pledged to support reforms.
Not Inslee. He’s ended not one but two news conferences after a reporter dared ask when the state of emergency would end. He basically scoffed at the idea of reforming the emergency-powers law in making that ineloquent “won the Super Bowl” comment.
Translation: I’m just fine with having all this power indefinitely, thank you very much. Now move along.
I’m reminded of a verbal shot Inslee took at former President Trump, early in the pandemic, after being told the federal government would be the “backup” for states as they responded.
“We don’t need a backup. We need a Tom Brady,” Inslee told Trump.
With those self-congratulatory comments about saving lives and winning the big game, is Inslee styling himself as the Tom Brady of our state?
The pandemic never was a game. It isn’t over. But it is time for the governor to tell the people when the emergency will be over. Inslee is no Tom Brady, but he should be able to do that much.
— Senator Ann Rivers, Republican Caucus Chair
I can’t tell you how many people contacted my Senate office during the past nine-plus months about the unprecedented actions Governor Inslee has taken since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of them, using words that made their frustration or desperation obvious, asked what legislators could do regarding the dozens of proclamations he’s made since declaring a state of emergency.
We asked our constituents to stand by patiently while we tried month after month to convince the governor to call a special legislative session. Republicans made a strong case that the legislative branch could do much to help with pandemic relief, but as everyone knows by now, Inslee resisted.
No one expected our Democrat colleagues to join in pushing for a special session – not during the many months that Inslee was campaigning for re-election. It eventually became clear Republicans would have to wait for our regular legislative session, when the governor could no longer get in the way.
With 26 of Inslee’s temporary proclamations set to expire in January, Republicans were prepared for the full legislative branch to perform its duty as a check on the executive branch, for the first time during this pandemic.
The majority Democrats had a surprise for us. They’ve proposed Senate Concurrent Resolution 8402, which would bundle those 26 emergency orders and extend them “until the termination of the state of emergency…or until rescinded by gubernatorial or legislative action.” In other words, no more legislative oversight. The majority says it’ll bring the legislation to a vote sometime today.
Considering how the governor’s proclamations affect the entire state, it’s reasonable to conclude Democrat legislators have heard the same frustration and desperation from their constituents as Republican legislators have. I’d have expected they also had some misgivings about being relegated to the sidelines by Governor Inslee.
Assuming SCR 8402 passes as filed, however, it would seem Democrat lawmakers are as willing to relegate themselves to the sidelines as the governor was – even if that means betraying constituents who have waited months for their concerns to be taken to the Capitol.
Or, to continue the “sidelines” theme, the legislative branch finally has possession of the football for the first time in months, yet the majority Democrats have decided to punt on first down and give the ball back to the executive branch.
It makes you wonder what the next 102 days will bring.
— Senate Republican Leader John Braun
VANCOUVER…Sen. Lynda Wilson said Gov. Jay Inslee’s announcement of new restrictions on Washington employers, workers and families has her questioning whether he truly understands the depth of the economic and personal damage they will cause.
Wilson, R-Vancouver, is Republican leader of the Senate committee on economic development and trade. She also served on the governor’s pandemic-related business-recovery task force until it was abruptly disbanded in May, after just five weeks. With the food-service industry being one of Washington’s key economic sectors, her work to address the pandemic in Clark County has included many months of weekly meetings with up to 150 local restaurant owners.
Wilson offered this response regarding the restrictions on social gatherings and a variety of employers, which were made public over the weekend and began taking effect today. Indoor service at restaurants and bars statewide will again be prohibited starting tomorrow.
“It’s disheartening how the governor’s words and actions don’t match up. He claims the ‘science’ is driving this new round of restrictions when the data simply don’t support it. If the statistics from his own Department of Health say people are at the greatest risk in their own homes, and the hospitality industry is connected to only 1 percent of the COVID infections, why is he going after the restaurants again? The governor declares ‘inaction isn’t an option’ yet behind the scenes it took his office more than a month to decide that our local restaurant and bar owners will be allowed to put up tents to increase their outdoor seating capacity. And unbelievably, these business owners learned just yesterday that the tents can only have two sides and part of a third side, which is no help during the rainy season and winter for an industry that depends on occupancy. Many of these employers could go under for good at any moment, and this is the ‘action’ they get?
“Since Governor Inslee unilaterally rolled out this new round of restrictions many people have asked again why the Legislature doesn’t intervene. The answer is the same now as it was in the spring – we have to be called into a special session. That can only be done by the governor or with a two-thirds vote in both the Senate and House, which means the majority Democrats would have to allow such a vote. If it was up to me we would be in a special session right now, because there are many things the Legislature could do to help employers get through this latest setback, and our state needs every job it can get.
“The governor calls these new restrictions a ‘bold’ step, but it’s November, not March or May when so much less was known about the virus and how to limit the spread. There is nothing bold about him forcing employers to shut their doors again, or causing people to see their incomes disappear again. Even if it’s temporary, the pain goes far deeper than just the employee – it hits every child and spouse in that household. Besides, there’s no reason to trust his new edict will only last four weeks, and the people who can’t work for at least the next month have no reason to trust in the Employment Security Department, considering its atrocious response to unemployment claims earlier this year.
“When the governor puts his hand over his heart and says he has a ‘real feeling of empathy’ for those who will be hurt by his actions, I’d like for him to see the social-media posts from my constituents whose jobs are disappearing overnight. Their inability to control their own fate has sent them into tailspins of despair and anxiety that will be hard if not impossible to reverse. Maybe they can live without a Thanksgiving gathering or a birthday party or a football afternoon a lot easier than they can live without a paycheck, but the governor isn’t giving them any choice.”
OLYMPIA… State government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic is suffering from Gov. Jay Inslee’s resistance to calling the state Legislature into session to help with key decisions, Sen. John Braun said today.
Braun, R-Centralia, Republican leader on the Senate Ways and Means Committee, offered this reaction to new restrictions announced Sunday by Inslee. The governor is attempting to put limits on indoor social gatherings and has increased restrictions on much business activity to where they were earlier in the year:
“More than 250 days since the first COVID-19 death was reported in our state, it’s clear the pandemic is too big for one person or one branch of government to handle. The state’s response has consisted primarily of unilateral mandates from the governor, and no matter how well-intentioned he may be, no American would support the idea that a chief executive should use emergency powers indefinitely to decide any important issue. The people of our state have become tired of having their lives controlled and disrupted by one person. The state’s response would be more effective and better received if the entire Legislature is involved, so that people in all 39 counties could have confidence that their perspectives are being considered.
“If two heads are better than one, then all the heads in the state Legislature plus Governor Inslee’s must be better than the governor’s alone. We have ideas for tax, fee and regulatory relief as well as financial assistance to help small businesses survive and recover – steps that can be taken without putting a larger hole in the state budget – and it’s clear the number of small businesses needing help is only going to grow due to the governor’s new round of restrictions. Also, there are about 300 million dollars in federal pandemic aid that still need to be allocated before the year ends. These are decisions the Legislature needs to make because our branch has budget authority, and it would be smart to make them during a special legislative session that is tightly focused on pandemic relief, sometime in the next month. I realize the 2021 legislative session is less than two months away, but the agenda for that is already full enough.
“We can look at the same COVID-19 statistics as the governor and come to different conclusions about what they mean and how to respond. The new round of restrictions on businesses ignores the fact that it’s in the best interests of employers to ensure their customers and employees feel as safe as possible. The unenforceable new limits on social gatherings go against the idea that the people of our state care deeply about the safety and well-being of those around them. No one is questioning that the pandemic should be taken seriously, or that we should all take precautions to limit the spread of the virus. But it’s one thing to inform the people, and trust them, and another thing to dictate how they should live. The dictates need to end.”
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
Governor Inslee recently engaged in an amazing bit of revisionist history about his role in negotiating a reduction in tax rates for Washington’s aerospace industry. Back in November 2013 he called the agreement “great news for every Washingtonian.” Now, maybe to appeal to the far-left Sanders-Sawant crowd, he compares the negotiations to being mugged.
If anyone should feel they’re being mugged, it’s the hardworking taxpayers of our state. Inslee is partly responsible for that, when he points out that the people of Washington have no choice but to provide for his personal security as he jets around the country during his “moment” (his word, not mine). He said that again Monday to reporters.
The situation reminds me of a team that is contractually obligated to continue paying a player or a coach who has been cut loose. The fans wish those dollars could instead be put toward something that would actually help the team.
Washington taxpayers are contractually obligated, through state law, to pay for the protection of the governor. That makes complete sense when he’s acting in his capacity as chief executive. However, when Inslee is traveling strictly for the purpose of seeking a new job, how does that help the people back home?
The added cost goes beyond the State Patrol, as the lieutenant governor sees his paycheck go up 70% on the days he stands in for Inslee.
I’m not looking to change the law. However, there’s also nothing in the law preventing the governor from reimbursing the taxpayers, so they don’t get fleeced. Or feel like they’re being mugged.
The ‘Taxapalooza’ continues
Inslee isn’t the only one in Olympia wanting to take from the taxpayers. Not when the Senate Democrats want more than a billion dollars’ worth of new taxes to balance their budget, and the House Democrats want more than $4 billion in new taxes.
In 2010, the Democrat majorities in the Senate and House dragged the Legislature into a month-long overtime simply because they couldn’t agree on which taxes to raise. It was an embarrassment, but at least those Democrats had a budget deficit to use as an excuse for their record-high tax hikes – even if the deficit was of their own making.
Unlike 2010, state government is in the black this year, so much that spending could increase by 14% without any changes in the tax code. And still, like tax-and-spend addicts, the Democrat majorities want more. If taxpayers have to shell out for even one day of an overtime session because Democrats have trouble choosing from their Taxapalooza of proposals, the word “mugging” won’t be strong enough.
The orcas won’t want to hear this, but the $54 billion budget Governor Inslee brought out last week is not the proposal he was required to submit to the Legislature.
Under a state law dating to at least 1959, the governor is to provide a budget document based on “the estimated revenues and caseloads as approved by the economic and revenue forecast council and caseload forecast council or upon the estimated revenues and caseloads of the office of financial management for those funds, accounts, sources, and programs for which the forecast councils do not prepare an official forecast.”
In short, Inslee is to submit a no-new-taxes budget. It’s known informally as the “Book 1” budget. The law allows the governor to also submit a proposal that reflects “revenue sources derived from proposed changes in existing statutes” – as in new or higher taxes. This purely optional “Book 2” budget is what Inslee unveiled December 13.
Under a 1973 law, also part of the state code on budgeting, the Book 1 budget is due no later than December 20. I am told it was finally posted online today (apparently buried somewhere on the fiscal.wa.gov website). Is anyone in the governor’s office aware that failing to meet the deadline is a misdemeanor?
Inslee also took an under-the-radar approach to releasing his Book 1 budget in 2017. At the time, a member of the Capitol press corps explained to me in so many words that a Book 1 budget wouldn’t be relevant anyway, because Inslee wasn’t pushing it publicly. The perception was that Inslee’s real priorities – the stuff worth reporting – were in that year’s Book 2.
News flash: Inslee’s real priorities are in the Book 1 budget. It shows what goes in the budget box and what doesn’t when revenue is limited. That’s much more than a formality. It’s also very different from a Book 2, which is like making a shopping list, then compiling a list of new taxes to cover it.
The Book 1 budget tells the orcas whether they still get $1.1 billion even if Inslee can’t include revenue from a state income tax. Or, without revenue from raising the B&O tax, where Inslee cuts to protect funding for the new collective-bargaining agreements. If a budget is a “statement about what we value,” as Inslee once said, then comparing his Book 2 and Book 1 will reveal something about his values. To me, that’s newsworthy.
As a fiscal conservative who sees no need to raise taxes for 2019-21, because a whopping $50 billion is forecast to be on hand, I’m interested in seeing Inslee’s no-new-taxes budget. It might have some actual value to legislative budget writers, unlike a Book 2 wish list that hinges on tax votes that may not happen.
Did someone think keeping Inslee’s Book 1 budget under wraps until the Friday before Christmas, despite the legal deadline, would minimize the attention it will get? That’s even more reason for the news media (and taxpayers) to take interest.