Emptying the notebook from Gov. Jay Inslee’s weekly meeting with the press corps Friday morning:
Cap-and-trade is starting the legislative process in both the House and the Senate, and Inslee said he’s been assured it will receive a fair evaluation from lawmakers this session.
He said that’s more on the Democrat-held House side now, and hasn’t met with Republican leaders in the Senate yet. There’s 37 co-sponsors for the House bill, with Reps. Joe Fitzgibbon of Seattle and Ross Hunter of Medina as the two main backers. One name not on the list: Democratic Rep. Jeff Morris of Mount Vernon, who chairs the Technology Economic Development Committee and is a longtime Democratic lead on energy policy. He voiced frustration over the governor’s process in an interview with the Bellingham Herald this week, and won’t see cap-and-trade come through his committee because “it’s not my No. 1 priority.” Look for it the House Environmental Committee, which Fitzgibbon chairs.
The Senate version has Sens. Kevin Ranker of Orcas Island and Cyrus Habib of Kirkland as prime sponsors. Inslee said Friday morning it was too soon to say if it would come up for a hearing in the Senate.
“I’ve been assured the bill will get serious consideration,” Inslee said. “There’s work to be done on all of our issues, including this one. This is a new idea, even for legislators. They have good, legitimate questions. Fortunately we have good, legitimate answers.”
I asked if he’d support a gas tax agreement between the chambers to fund transportation projects, which has been the focus over the last two legislative sessions without success. He replied, “On the first week of the session we should not rule things out. I will continue to urge them to look at (cap-and-trade) as the best solution.”
Inslee also addressed a levy swap for education funding, where the state in essence exchanges its property tax revenues with local school districts’ levy dollars. The proposal is revenue neutral and counts toward McCleary credit, and was pitched by former Attorney General Rob McKenna during his 2012 campaign for governor.
Inslee said Friday he felt his budget proposal, which included $2.3 billion in education funding increases, is the best means of addressing the levy equalization aspect of the McCleary ruling. He said this would level out the imbalance in the ratio of state funding and local dollars for schools.
“I have not seen a proposal on a levy swap that will meet the needs of Washington children,” Inslee said. “A levy swap simply does not provide the resources we need for early childhood education.”
Inslee said he felt confident on the prospects of getting a transportation package done this session. It’s among the few issues in the Legislature that Republicans and Democrats share some broad strokes of an agreement.
“I actually look at this from a glass half-full perspective,” Inslee said. “Both sides have more common ground than you might think.”
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