You have to forgive Jay Inslee for occasional lapses in memory (if not judgment), given that he first started working in Olympia a long time ago, back in 1988. But last week he apparently forgot that his party, the Democrats, have been in control in Olympia since the last Republican governor left in 1985.
That memory lapse – or deliberate misleading statement, you choose – came when Jay was answering questions about public education during his last appearance on KCTS 9’s “Ask the Governor” series. (If you missed it, last week SHIFT covered Inslee’s answers to environmental policy questions during the same appearance).
Here’s the question Inslee was asked:
What can you do to force the state Legislature to honor the McCleary decision?
“Well, listen, I don’t think we should have to wait for the Supreme Court to tell us to finance the education of our kids… We should not have to wait for the Supreme Court or depend on the Supreme Court to adequately fund education. And we know we are short on funding early childhood education. We have kids coming into First Grade, not ready for First Grade and ending up in our jails and penitentiaries… “
Now hold on here. Did someone forget to tell Jay that a Democrat governor has signed every state budget in Washington State since 1985, which means those governors are the ones responsible for kids not being ready for school and ending up in jail? Does Jay really want to accuse Booth Gardner, Mike Lowry, Gary Locke and Christine Gregoire of caring that little about children?
“We know our kids have astronautical debt for university, college education because we have been starving universities and we have had to jerk the tuition up… I can’t force legislators cause I don’t have waterboarding available to me, and I wouldn’t anyway, it would be wrong.”
Hold on again. Clearly Jay is against waterboarding legislators. But since his party has had control of at least one house of the legislature in 28 of the last 30 years – and complete control of the legislature in 14 of those years – shouldn’t Jay and his fellow Democrat governors have been able to convince Democrats not to raise tuition without resorting to torture?
“But, the people who could require the legislators to do that are voters… They have an opportunity this November to vote for legislators who actually will step up to the plate and create the fiscal conditions in Washington that allow this to do this… and frankly that means we’re gonna have to have some additional revenues to get this job done and that is an obvious just fact of finance and nature…”
Now we get to Jay’s main focus – how do we raise taxes (“some additional revenues”) so I can reward the special interests who financed my election. The interviewer does want to make sure that clearly understands what Jay wants, so he follows up with “Is that your not-so-subtle hint you want voters to bring back the senate to Democrats?
“I’m here on a bi-partisan basis… but we will have choices this November… a lot of legislators have tried to hide from this saying, “I like schools, but I just don’t like paying for them…”
Had Jay been paying attention to how the Democrats have been underfunding public education and higher education spending for a generation, Jay might have left off this last statement. Because if voters get rid of those hypocritical legislators who say they “like schools”, but spend taxpayer dollars on other priorities (like bigger state government), then Jay will have to deal with a Republican controlled House – which has been demanding for several years that the legislature “fund education first”– in addition to the bi-partisan Senate Majority Coalition which has resisted Jay’s desire to raise taxes by more than a billion dollars.
Instead of Jay’s make-believe, consider the facts of the last two legislative sessions:
Under the Majority Coalition Caucus (MCC) and Republican leadership, the state budget has prioritized education over non-education spending at a 4:1 ratio for the first time in 30 years. By contrast, under the heavily Democrat-controlled budgets, the education over non-education spending ratio was 1:2 (that’s two dollars for bigger government for every new dollar of education funding). In fact, Democrats have been underfunding education since Inslee was a state legislator some 25 years ago.
The MCC’s budget, with state Sen. Andy Hill as the budget writer, resulted in nearly $1 billion more toward K-12 schools and no tuition hikes at universities—again, for the first time in 30 years. On the other hand, Democrats repeatedly used tuition hikes a slush fund to reward their special interest buddies over the years. Conveniently ignored by Jay, earlier this year Democrat state legislators actually tried to eliminate tuition freezes put into place by Republican the year before.
Hill proved that raising taxes to get “additional revenues to get this job done” is not “an obvious just fact of finance and nature,” as Jay put it. It just requires that you make public education your first priority for the state budget, not your campaign donors.
As their past actions prove, it’s Democrats—not Republicans—who claim they “like schools, but just don’t like paying for them.”
You can view Inslee’s interview below: