Last week, Jay Inslee traveled to Snohomish County in an attempt to drum up support for his transportation proposal, a $12.2 billion package that includes a cap-and-tax scheme he won’t defend before lawmakers. He urged the invited crowd to help build support in the Legislature by putting pressure on their state representatives. Inslee claimed that there had not been much public support for his transportation package voiced by those representing Snohomish County. He said,
“Now let me explain the difficulty we have that local leaders have to be aware of. There are 21 legislators from Snohomish County. That is the available pool to advance the interests of Snohomish County. Fully two-thirds of them have not put their shoulder to wheel on this.”
Inslee’s remark—like so many others he has made—is not true. The Daily Herald points out that Inslee’s stats are outdated and present incomplete information. Inslee’s “two-thirds” claim refers back to 2013 when eight lawmakers from Snohomish County voted for a transportation package in the state House of Representatives. Due to the fact the House version was not fully funded and did not address needed transportation reforms, it was never voted on in the Senate.
Compare that to now, when 13 out of 21 Snohomish County lawmakers informed the Daily Herald they strongly support a transportation package. Five lawmakers said they support a transportation package if it includes “the right marriage of reforms, projects and revenue comes together.”
Given the difference between Inslee’s claim and reality, the fall-out of the remark was quick. Lawmakers – especially Democrats – were offended and the Daily Herald speculated on a possible connection between Inslee’s false claim about the lack of county political support and the fact that his $12.2 billion transportation proposal only funds two Snohomish county projects included in the governor’s $12.2 billion proposal.
Inslee and his team responded to the ensuing PR mess by doing what we here at Shift have grown far too accustomed with—denying he said what he said. David Postman, our green governor’s communications director and PR flak, wrote in an email to the Daily Herald,
“The governor said in Arlington what he has been saying all around the state for two years; lawmakers need to do more to pass a transportation package. But that has absolutely nothing to do with the list of projects in his package.”
But, Postman and his team didn’t stop there. According to the Daily Herald, they flew into full damage control by “contacting lawmakers and blaming the messenger — The Daily Herald — for printing what the governor said, claiming his comments were mischaracterized.” It’s the typical response from Inslee’s people—deny, blame and attempt to discredit.
Alas, Postman’s strategy did not work. His efforts to strong arm the Daily Herald by discrediting its reports—another strategy he has been known to employ on behalf of Inslee—were to no avail. The ruffled feathers of lawmakers—particular the Democrats—would not be soothed so quickly. The Daily Herald,
Sen. Marko Liias, D-Everett, vented in an email to the governor’s chief of staff.
“The number of lawmakers supporting a package that the governor cites (7) is inaccurate, so it makes him look out of touch with our legislative delegation when he repeats this bad information,” Liias wrote.
And he reminded the chief of staff that he and Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, are actively engaged in negotiations on a transportation package.
“I don’t understand how undercutting your Senate Democratic negotiators back at home helps the governor achieve his goal of passing a bill?” Liias wrote. “I am asking for your help to change the narrative, stop shooting at your allies, and work together to make the comprehensive investments that our state needs.
The PR mess has delivered a blow to Inslee’s credibility. As the Daily Herald points out so well, it also “reveals how far the governor is from mastering the techniques of legislating. And the longer such skills elude him, the more his ability to be a relevant policy-making force in the second half of his first term becomes an issue.”