Inslee outlined four issues that he says must get done during the 60-day legislative session:
- Recruiting and retaining teachers to address a shortage. Inslee proposed a plan to raise the beginning salary of a teacher to $40,000 a year, provide a one percent raise to all teachers and increase funding for teacher mentoring programs. He plans to pay for it through the “elimination of some tax breaks.”
- Recovering from devastating summer wildfires. The governor proposed using the Budget Stabilization Account to cover the $180 million in costs from last year’s fires, as well as using $29 million from the Disaster Response Account to help communities recover from the natural disaster.
- Fixing the mental health system. Inslee says the system is facing “urgent short-term needs,” and said his supplemental budget proposal includes funding for four new crisis triage facilities and and three new mobile crisis teams.
- Finally he urged the completion of a framework for an education funding plan. He said a first-step plan is “absolutely necessary this session,” and that “there’s no reason” basic education can’t be fully funded by 2017.
Inslee also addressed minimum wage during his speech. He is supporting a statewide initiative that phases in what he says is a “true” minimum wage and provides paid sick leave.
“In a nutshell: People are working harder, they’re working longer hours and they’re getting paid less in real dollars,” he said.
The governor also said he was concerned with the growing wage gap between CEOs and workers. He said he believes the State Investment Board can help by voting against executive compensation packages.
“I’ve asked the investment board to go further and exercise its voting authority to reduce the widening pay gap between CEOs and their workers,” Inslee said. “I’m encouraging the board to promote this policy with other state and institutional investors.”
He also touched on the need for stronger firearm related background checks and carbon pollution.
The governor ended his speech on a lighter note: “Go Hawks!”
Before the speech, Lt. Gov. Brad Owen recognized several officials in the crowd, including Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, Everett Mayor Ray Stephenson and former Secretary of State, Ralph Munro. Carmento Floyd, the widow of former WSU President Elson Floyd, received a standing ovation.
Missing from statewide elected officials: Auditor Troy Kelley and Superintendent of Public Instruction, Randy Dorn. Dorn left a note on the seat saying, “Reserved for kids and students.”
Watch the full State of the State address on TVW here.