Just weeks before the Legislature’s 2015 session commenced, Jay Inslee proposed a cap-and-tax scheme (the Carbon Pollution Accountability Act) that left legislators on both sides of the aisle questioning his leadership style. As Shift reported, Democrat state Rep. Judy Clibborn—chair of the House Transportation Committee—called Inslee’s cap-and-tax scheme a “non-starter.” She went on to express concern that Inslee’s plan would hurt lawmakers’ ability to pass a transportation bill—something Republicans and Democrats have been working to craft for several years.
A recent Crosscut article by Knute Berger asks the relevant question, “Is it leadership to propose an agenda that’s politically dead on arrival?”
Certainly, Inslee’s cap-and-tax scheme is the poster child of a “dead on arrival” policy. Inslee’s cap-and-tax bill only garnered 37 co-sponsors (all Democrats) in the Democrat-controlled state House—a testament to the lack of support his policy has even among members of his own party. In fact, there are not enough Democrat co-sponsors in the House to pass Inslee’s proposal out of the Transportation Committee itself (only 11 supporters of 25 members), let alone pass it on the floor.
While Inslee cannot count on the support of his fellow party members, he does have the approval of extreme “green” groups. Tomorrow, the House Environment Committee is scheduled to hold a public hearing on Inslee’s Carbon Pollution Accountability Act and environmental activists are planning to show up and voice their support. A recent email from the true believers in the Environmental Priorities Coalition (EPC) reads,
We need YOU to show up in support! We expect the oil industry and their allies to be focused on stopping this important bill, and we know that legislators need to hear and see the depth of support for bold action.
Using EPC’s “logic,” over one-fourth (14 of 51 members) of the House Democrat caucus are “allies” of the oil industry since they refused to sign their name to Inslee’s “bold”, tax-raising bill. They include Democrat House Leaders Speaker Frank Chopp, Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, Deputy Majority Leader Larry Springer, and Deputy Speaker Pro Tempore Tina Orwall; and Committee Chairs Brian Blake, Steve Kirby, Judy Clibborn, Jeff Morris, Dean Takko, Sharon Tomiko Santos, Chris Hurst, and Drew Hansen, along with back-benchers Reps. Carol Gregory and Christine Kilduff. There’s no word yet of how these Democrats feel about being called allies of the oil industry. But, their lack of support for Inslee and the extreme “green” team behind him speak volumes of our green governor’s failed leadership.
As Mr. Berger pointed out, Inslee is pushing policies and ideas that have the approval of the special interest groups that backed his election, but no traction in Olympia, and virtually no chance of passing. Inslee is not acting like a governor whose party has controlled Olympia for a generation, has held a House majority since 2002, is outnumbered 25-24 in the Senate (though one of those Democrats caucuses with the GOP). Instead, Inslee is acting like an elected official who is in a deep minority, throwing out narrow ideas to satisfy an extreme political base.
It’s clear that Inslee never made the adjustment from his D.C. mindset—he is still acting out the role he played for 15 years of a backbench, irrelevant congressman. Unlike D.C., the Washington State Legislature has a 105-day session in which to meet pressing transportation, education and budget needs. Inslee’s dead-on-arrival policies and fake proposals wastes legislators’ time, adding pointless hearings to the workload.
As Shift reported, Inslee’s cap-and-tax scheme also creates the perfect smoke screen for another equally unpopular proposal. While the cap-and-tax drama unfolds in the Legislature, Inslee is free to go about pushing toward his fuel mandate, with little-to-no media recognition. Asking the Legislature to vote on a fuel mandate would only add to Inslee’s track record of dead-on-arrival policies—that’s why Inslee’s planning to jam through his fuel mandate by executive order.
So, the question remains, “Is it leadership to propose an agenda that’s politically dead on arrival?” No, it just makes you an irrelevant leader.