Former Congressman Jay Inslee says his time in Washington, D.C., has given him a proven track record of helping private industry grow and the experience to become Washington state’s next governor.
Inslee, a Democrat from Bainbridge Island, is facing Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna on the November ballot, which was sent to voters earlier this week. Inslee was in Aberdeen on Thursday for an interview with The Daily World’s Editorial Board.
Inslee says he’s focused on economic development and took action in Congress to create jobs, helping Microsoft expand its spectrum for Wi-Fi access and helping Boeing get a $35 billion contract for Air Force tankers.
“When the biotechnology industry needed to protect its intellectual property so they could hire more people, I was the guy who delivered that and I actually beat my Democratic chair on that issue and had a different view than President Obama on this and I won that battle,” Inslee said. “I’ve even written a book on clean technology.”
That book, “Apollo’s Fire,” released in 2008, features a chapter on Grays Harbor. In the book, Inslee talks about the “economic dislocation” of the Harbor’s natural resource economy in the wake of the “small, feathered bomb” that was the spotted owl.
Inslee says the area “tried the conventional routes, attempting to lure light manufacturing and call centers to the area with little effect. They even tried a plan to make Grays Harbor a historical seaport, filled with sailing ships, museums and tourists with disposable dollars. It fit the area’s sailing tradition and excited the community, but tourist dollars never came. Then, serendipitously, the town discovered another renewable resource: biofuels.”
Inslee talks about Imperium Renewables being the lifeline for the Harbor with the expectations of a 100-million-gallon-per-year capacity refinery attracting 65 full-time workers and generating 500 indirect jobs. Local economic development officials say the company actually employs 33 and it’s never reached capacity. Even with a few mills re-opened, the Harbor has had double-digit unemployment since 2008 and still has the second highest unemployment rate in the state at 12.8 percent.
Inslee concedes that Imperium’s growth didn’t match what he expected four years ago. But, he says, there’s still hope, speaking frequently about a clean energy jobs plan.
“I do think there still remains really significant potential for biofuel, particularly for aviation fuels,” Inslee said. “Over 1 percent of all carbon emissions are aeronautics … and the only way to reduce that is with biofuels because we can’t run an electric airplane. We are flying F-18s at supersonic speeds with biofuels, but we have to find a way to reduce the costs.”
Inslee said he truly believes Washington state can help lead the way to reduce carbon emissions and capitalize on clean energy technology.
“This is a transition we have to make and the only question is are the jobs going to be in China or Grays Harbor and I’d rather they be in Grays Harbor — so we won’t just be exporting Chryslers out of the Port of Grays Harbor, we’ll be exporting electric Chryslers,” he said.
“Our state is going to be a very different state if we don’t find a new way to reduce emissions,” he added, pointing to shellfish communities at risk.
Inslee noted that oyster larvae on the coast and on Puget Sound are having issues with ocean acidification and one Pacific County company has moved operations to Hawaii. He says to ensure the future of those jobs, it requires more state involvement and strategies to reduce carbon emissions by relying more on biofuels.
Praise for Port
Inslee praised the Port of Grays Harbor and pledged to have an active presence on the Harbor to determine the future of the pontoon construction site, which is set to end production in 2014. Community leaders are worried about what happens next for the site.
“You’ll have my personal attention and my personal commitment because I know these jobs are tough to come by,” Inslee said.
Inslee has led efforts in Congress to make permanent a Clinton-era rule that designated about 58 million acres of National Forestland as “roadless” with provisions that don’t allow logging. Bill Pickell, retired director of the state Contract Loggers Association, noted that the roadless designations around Lake Quinault made it impossible to retrieve blowdown following the December 2007 storm.
On the Wild Olympics legislation carried in Congress by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and Congressman Norm Dicks to expand wilderness areas around Olympic National Park, Inslee said he supports the decision to amend the original plan, excluding some timberland that might have potential for logging.
”I think everybody’s been working on that legislation to make sure that’s heading in the right direction,” he said.
“I do want to help the forest industry going,” Inslee added. “It’s important to the heart of Washington.”
Inslee said he wants to increase usage of biomass in the forests to produce cellulosic ethanol.
”I think we have some biofuels potential from our forest products,” he emphasized.
Inslee said as governor he would “break up” the state Department of Commerce and put its economic development arm under the governor’s purview. He says the agency “is not functioning as well as it should right now.”
”I want to put the real commerce function right in the governor’s office so we can be much more aggressive in our marketing of the state of Washington,” he said.
Inslee said he remembers talking to a biotech owner who was from the Seattle area and thinking of opening a manufacturing plant.
“He didn’t get a call from the governor of Washington, but he did get a call from the governor of Georgia and he went to Georgia,” Inslee said. “Governors can make a difference in these matters.”
Inslee re-iterated a statement he made last week in answer to a question about whether he would veto a tax increase the Legislature sent him. He said he would “veto anything that heads the wrong direction and the wrong direction is new taxes in the state of Washington.”
won’t support tax rate hike
Inslee said the increase in tax revenue should come by having more people working and buying more goods and services.
“I’m not in favor of increasing the rate of taxation as a solution to this problem,” he said. “I am in favor of putting people back to work. I am in favor of reducing medical care inflation. I am in favor of ‘Lean Management’ and I am in favor of closing tax loopholes.”
Lean Management is a streamlining process used by Boeing, Toyota and dozens of other companies to reduce costs and increase performance and efficiency. It will cost training dollars, although Inslee didn’t have an estimate on how much, but said companies that have done it say the investment pays off many times over.
”King County has reduced the time it takes for you to get your car tabs from 20 days to four days by using this simple quantitative formula to measure performance,” Inslee said. “You establish metrics of performance so when you have a permitting agency we want a metric for how long it takes you to get those permits out and if you don’t, we’ll figure out why. …
”I really do believe this can be transformative in state government,” Inslee said. “If you are going to work for me, you are going to need to be personally committed to Lean Management principles.”
Asked what experience Inslee has in Lean Management, he says he implemented parts of it in his congressional office.
“I can’t say we’ve done every jot and tittle of it,” Inslee said. “The idea of having a metric for performance, which is very important for lean management, I’ve done in my office. That’s why you find you’ll get your mail answered faster from my office than probably any other congressman’s office or close to it by having a metric for performance in how long a time it takes for you to have your mail answered.”
Plan for revenue
Inslee said that the Lean Management strategies, along with allowing more preventive health care to reduce health care costs, will help clear up extra dollars to devote to education.
“We need a governor that will embrace health care reform,” Inslee said, citing the work of a health care clinic in Wenatchee that reduced costs by doing more preventative health care measures to reduce the risks of diabetes, for instance.
“If you could extrapolate those results, it’s several hundred million dollars in savings that could go from the health care budget to the education budget,” he said.
”We need to build the budget around education,” he added. “Education gets the first dollars of additional revenues as my jobs plan starts to kick in.”
Inslee said he doesn’t trust a plan crafted by Democratic and Republican budget writers and supported by McKenna to increase the state’s levy dollars and reduce local levy dollars by the same amount, calling the property tax swap a gimmick.
“What it does is provide a paper response to the problem,” Inslee said. “It results in a tax increase for half of the people in the state of Washington — 47 percent.”
McKenna says it would likely reduce taxes in property poor areas like Aberdeen and Hoquiam with sky-high local levies.
“That may be the case here,” Inslee said. “I haven’t had a chance to really look.”
Inslee said he doesn’t buy into the thought that people with more wealth will just end up paying more taxes to support the state’s schools, noting a truck driver could live in Bellevue and pay higher taxes just like a hedge fund manager, who is a neighbor.
“It’s not individual toward our circumstances, it’s just by luck where you happen to live,” Inslee said.
Inslee said he will be voting for Referendum 74, allowing same sex marriage.
“I’m in a 40-year marriage and I just don’t think any politician should be able to tell someone who they can love and marry,” Inslee said.
He’s voting against Initiative 1185, mandating a two-thirds requirement for the state Legislature to approve taxes.
“If you have a supermajority requirement then some people get one vote and some people get one and a half and I don’t believe in that,” he said. “The interesting thing is if people do want this, why don’t they argue that the initiative shouldn’t pass unless they get two-thirds? There’s a certain irony to that.”
Inslee said he is not voting for Initiative 1240 creating public charter schools, but, if approved, he’ll help enact the will of the voters.
He has a similar approach for the initiative to legalize marijuana.
“I am not supporting the initiative but have made it clear that I will try to do everything I can to have Uncle Sam respect our wishes in the state of Washington and I take a different view than my opponent in this regard,” he said. “Whether it passes or not, we should re-orient some of our law enforcement resources to more important crimes and I think that would be helpful for a lot of reasons.”