Gov. Jay Inslee pledged to work on a transportation package, increased funding for pre-kindergarten and a minimum wage increase in his 2015 State of the State address, framing his policy decisions as an investment in Washington’s residents.
“One path leads to an economy that works for all Washingtonians, supports thriving communities and preserves a healthy environment. The other path leads to a slow erosion of our shared prosperity, a widening gap of inequality and a deterioration of our clean air and water,” he said.
“[T]here are no better people to invest in than Washingtonians, there is no better place to invest in than Washington and there is no better time to invest than 2015,” he said.
He also spoke on his plans for education, the environment and raising taxes through his proposed capital gains tax. His remarks on the latter two issues drew a more enthusiastic response from Legislative Democrats than from Republicans, many of whom withheld applause during those sections of the speech.
Republicans also issued a perspective on this year’s session with a statement from Rep. Norma Smith (R-Clinton) and a press availability from several Republicans from the House and Senate sides of the Legislature.
On transportation, Inslee said that his plan would be multimodal and include reforms and funding for “a transportation system that truly works as a system,” he said.
“A system that transcends our old divides and rivalries. No more east versus west, urban versus rural or roads versus transit,” he said.
He said that if the Legislature does not deliver transportation funding, the state faces a 52 percent cut in the maintenance budget for roads, and the deterioration of 71 bridges to being structural deficient or obsolete.
Inslee argued that the state should join with its Pacific Northwest neighbors in environmental goals, which could make a global impact.
“By locking arms with Oregon, California and British Columbia through the Pacific Coast Collaborative, we become a region of 53 million people comprising the world’s fifth-largest economy. This is the kind of collaboration that can move the world,” he said.
The region also could benefit economically, he said, citing three large businesses in the state that are developing technology to capitalize on renewable energy and reducing carbon footprint.
“We have a moral obligation to act. Our moral duty is to protect a birthright. Future Washingtonians have a birthright to a healthy Washington,” he said.
Capital gains tax and minimum wage increase
Inslee also argued that the state’s tax system is unfair and that his proposal to close tax loopholes and create a capital gains tax would create a “fairer tax system.”
“We know there are many forces driving inequality, but we can make policy choices that move us toward an economy that works for all Washingtonians. We can work toward a fairer tax system, and we should,” he said, to applause from the Democratic half of the legislative body.
“Our lowest-paid workers pay nearly 17 percent of their income in taxes while the top 1 percent pay less than 3 percent. A new teacher pays three times more in taxes as a percentage than our wealthiest citizens,” he said.
His proposed capital gains tax would be 7 percent on the on money made from the sale of stocks and bonds above $25,000 for individuals and $50,000 for joint filers. It would raise $800 million over two years.
He also pledged to work on paid sick leave and raising the state minimum wage, currently $9.32 an hour.
“I’ve always believed that if you work full time, you should be able to provide for your family’s most basic needs. That’s why I will continue to work with legislators to help working families through policies such as a minimum wage increase and paid sick leave,” he said.
You can read the entirety of Inslee’s prepared remarks online. You also can watch the delivery of his address in TVW’s archives. The video will be posted here when it is available.