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1/23/2013 3:18:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
Jay Inslee
New governor maps new direction for jobs, education, health care
Inaugural address defines Inslee’s major goals

By Zoey Palmer and Kylee Zabel, Reporters
WNPA Olympia News Bureau

Shortly after noon Wednesday Washington's newly-sworn Democratic Governor Jay Inslee laid forth his vision for his first term that included focusing on job creation and preservation, a balanced operating budget, meeting the needs of the state's education system, and an affordable health care system responsive to consumer needs.

Inslee delivered his inaugural address to a joint session of the legislature after being sworn in during a mid-morning ceremony in the Capitol rotunda.

In mapping the health care system innovations and challenges, Inslee drew special attention to the Reproductive Parity Act due for the Legislature's consideration this session.

"We must . . . protect the quality and choice that we expect from a health care system that works. Washington women need the freedom and privacy to make the health care decisions that are best for themselves and their families. That's why I look forward to the Legislature sending the Reproductive Parity Act to my desk, which I will sign. Let's get this done," he declared.

Inslee views health care reform as a primary link to reaching a balanced budget and fully-funded education system.

"To honestly address our budget problems, we must admit the difficult truth that the road to a balanced budget and a fully funded educational system runs directly through health care reform. This means investing in preventive care and aligning incentives with patients to encourage healthy lifestyle choices," he said.

In his speech, Governor Inslee stressed that Washington must stay innovative in order to remain competitive in a fast-changing world. Inslee, quoting former president and fellow Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, said "Never have we had so little time in which to do so much."

Following the inaugural address, Republicans held a press briefing in response to comments made by the governor. Representative and House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt (R-20, Chehalis) applauded Inslee's enthusiasm for innovation.

"We've got to be more innovative when it comes to reforming our government. We've got to live within our means," he said.

Inslee stated that government, too, must also be agile and able to adapt to new circumstances. "I heard a clear and powerful message on election day. The people of Washington state are tired of a state government that doesn't change with the times," he said.

The governor said he wants government programs to be measured by their successes, rather than simply how much money is invested in them. Referring to taxpayers as "customers," Inslee said that the cycle of old, uncompromising ideas are unproductive, and that his administration is dedicated to "a multi-year effort to bring disruptive change to Olympia, starting with the very core of how we do business. If we're serious about long term economic growth, innovation must become part of the very culture of Olympia."

Senator Andy Hill (R-45, Redmond) was impressed by Inslee's pledge to measure the success of programs by their results, not the dollars spent. But Republicans suggested that the governor's speech was lacking in specifics.

"There were a lot of nice things said today, but it was very short on detail," said Senator Mark Schoesler (R-9, Ritzville).

The governor acknowledged that serious challenges still remain in the wake of the global recession, but stated his faith in the people of Washington:

"Where the world sees uncertainty," said Inslee, "we Washingtonians see opportunity."

In order to take advantage of those opportunities, however, the governor said that cooperation will be necessary. "I want us to collaborate early and often on a legislative agenda that benefits all of Washington," he said.

DeBolt agreed, saying he is "looking forward to working with this government, the governor and the Senate, bringing it all together, negotiating what I think will be a collaborative process this year. I think this is a great opportunity for innovation and change."

Inslee emphasized that job creation will be his top priority while in office, a point with which Republicans said they completely agreed.

"Our priorities from day one have been consistent. Jobs, education and a sustainable budget," said Schoesler.

And those three priorities are linked, said Representative Gary Alexander (R-2, Olympia), by helping the people of Washington to have faith in the legislative process. "If we can provide trust and a way to control our budget and be in control of our resources, the same way they do, then they will also have expand their resources," said Alexander.

The governor singled out clean energy, such as solar and wind power, as a growth industry in Washington, one that he believes could help the state work toward sustainability in economic growth and stewardship of the environment.

"The key is affordable energy, "said Schoesler responding to the governor's energy citation. "For that struggling family out there, the cost of energy is critical. Businesses locate to parts of Washington because of some of the most affordable energy in the United States. Keeping that energy affordable is very important to the state of Washington. If we look at our first priority of jobs, affordable energy is a big part of that" he said.

Inslee noted that although climate change is a global issue that can't only be solved here, Washington should take on the role of being an entrepreneur in green technology. "We do not follow technological innovation; we lead it. And we will not pass up a golden opportunity to create jobs."

Inslee reiterated his support for education in the wake of the McCleary decision by the state Supreme Court, which instructed government to fund the basic education system before anything else. "I am proud to live in a state where the education of our children is enshrined as the paramount duty of state government."

Science, technology, education and math curriculum, said Inslee, are a must for all levels of education. "They are the essential tools for success in this new economy," he said.

"We need a system that aligns from early learning to kindergarten to 12th grade to our universities," said the governor.

The House Republican Caucus has put forth statements that it will submit a proposal to the legislature to create a separate basic education budget that would require adoption prior to any other budget negotiations each biennium.

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