OLYMPIA, Feb. 14.—Gov. Jay Inslee Wednesday finally took the wraps off the plan he touted all through the fall campaign last fall to boost jobs in Washington state – not all 75 points of it, and with plenty still to be fleshed out, but enough of it and in general enough terms that lawmakers said they found plenty to like.
Just wait for the details, though. For now it’s all about vision. “In order for our state to compete in the next century’s global economy we have to create a working Washington that is as dynamic as our last century, and the reason is simple,” Inslee said at an afternoon news conference. “We still have about 300,000 people who are looking for work, and our first priority, job number one, has to be to provide jobs for those 300,000 people. That is what this action plan is designed to do.”
Goals were grander than specifics, and it may never be possible to offer a precise definition of Inslee’s proposal because much of it appears to be an endorsement of efforts already under way in the Legislature. They include plans for a transportation package, for instance, and expansion of Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act. Inslee, as expected, is promoting a tradable tax credit for startup businesses in the high-tech field, efforts to boost green energy, and science and technology education programs aimed at meeting the needs of the aerospace, biotech and computer industries. But in terms of specifics, the governor laid out $122 million in proposals.
“We will have many more ideas that we will be proposing,” he said. “Most of them will have budgetary connotations or will be part of the budget. There will be other things that we could be doing through executive action… This is just the first round of our discussions on this issue, but these are the important ones.”
Inslee also said he didn’t have any guesses yet on how many jobs his program would create.
Lawmakers said they liked what they’ve heard so far – not that they’ve heard enough detail to criticize. “I would rather search for common ground than just throw rocks,” said Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville.
Observed Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, “Most of it was at a pretty high level.”
And so the leading point of criticism during the campaign went unspoken Wednesday – that Inslee would prefer to target tax breaks at favored business segments rather than business as a whole. That debate comes later. Inslee told reporters he thinks high-tech startups offer Washington the biggest bang for the buck. “We want to target the places that have the biggest return, that are the most in need, and find it most difficult to get capital and have the highest upside for Washington job seekers and taxpayers, and frankly those are the companies that offer some innovative new ways to do business – they can actually be breakthrough technologies.”
Better Get Cracking
Other Inslee plans include $50 million in capital spending for green-energy research and improvements to the region’s electricity grid, and $20 million in tax breaks for businesses that hire recently discharged veterans. Inslee also is promising to streamline permitting processes and continue efforts of previous administrations to develop a “one-stop” Internet portal for business licensing and permitting activities.
House Republican Leader Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis, said he’s not about to say a discouraging word at this point – but if Inslee hopes to roll out the full 75-point plan he announced during the election, he better get cracking. Legislative committee cutoff for policy bills is coming Feb. 22. “If you miss your timelines, that doesn’t work for anybody.”
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