Inslee, McKenna square off in third debate in Yakima

YAKIMA — Republican Rob McKenna and Democrat Jay Inslee sparred over taxes, immigration and health insurance Tuesday in the third debate of their tight race for governor.

Recent polls show Inslee has opened a slight lead in this Democratic-leaning state. Both candidates are seeking to replace Democrat Chris Gregoire, who did not seek a third term.

The debate at the Yakima Convention Center showed a sharp difference between the candidates over a federal plan to expand Medicaid in the state to cover more people without health insurance.

McKenna said he was opposed to the proposal, because the federal government will pay the costs only for the first three years.

“Medicaid is a basic safety net, not insurance,” McKenna said.

He said the proposal would prompt thousands of people to drop private insurance and enroll in Medicaid.

But Inslee called it a “no-brainer” that he supported. Washington residents already pay the medical costs of uninsured people who show up at hospitals, he said.

“We all pay $1,000 a year because of uninsured folks,” Inslee said.

IInslee said he opposed Initiative 1185, which is on the November ballot and calls for a two-thirds vote of the Legislature or voter approval* to raise taxes in Washington state. He said the law dilutes the concept of one person, one vote. The correct path, he said, is to grow the economy so the state does not need to raise taxes.

McKenna said Washington residents have supported similar bills four times in the past and clearly approve of the concept. He said he would seek to uphold the initiative if it passed.

On the issue of jobs, McKenna said it is too expensive for small businesses to hire people in Washington, and reform is needed on unemployment insurance, workers compensation and business regulation. Inslee pointed to his 75 point plan to spur an innovative economy.

Asked about a shortage of farm labor, a major issue in central Washington, Inslee said the immigration issue had been politicized by the Republican Party and comprehensive immigration reform is needed.

“One of the parties has decided to use immigration and fear of immigration as a wedge issue,” Inslee said.

McKenna replied that if Inslee wanted to pursue immigration reform, he should have stayed in Congress.

“It’s an irony to be chastised by a Republican on this subject,” Inslee retorted.

McKenna said he opposes Washington’s law that grants driver’s licenses to people without requiring proof of legal residence. Both candidates said they support the concept of a temporary permit for driving that is not a state driver’s license.

Given a chance to ask McKenna a question, Inslee asked which state environmental laws should be lowered to be the same as federal standards.

“I don’t believe we should reduce our standards,” Inslee said.

But McKenna said a mishmash of local, state and federal environmental laws made no sense.

“We should be looking for harmony in standards,” McKenna said, and the state should not automatically pursue standards that are tougher than the federal government’s.

On the issue of gang violence in the Yakima Valley, Inslee said a solution would include more resources for law enforcement, a system to help move kids out of gangs and back into schools, and removal of “nuisance locations” where gangs congregate.

McKenna said one barrier was convincing the Legislature about the scope of the problem. He proposed going after the leaders of gangs.

McKenna said a ballot initiative that would legalize recreational use of marijuana should be defeated because it will still be a federal crime to use marijuana. The issue is a federal one, he said.

Inslee also did not support the initiative but said he supported the medical use of marijuana.

* Correction, Oct. 3, 2012: This story has been corrected since it was first posted to accurately describe Initiative 1185.

More in Local News

At long last, a church of his own

After years of filling in elsewhere, Hallack Greider is the new pastor at Maplewood Presbyterian.

Judge: Lawmakers’ emails, texts subject to public disclosure

News organizations had sued to challenge the Legislature’s claim that members were exempt.

Herald photos of the week

A weekly collection of The Herald’s top images by staff photographers and… Continue reading

Outgoing councilwoman honored by Marysville Fire District

The Marysville Fire District in December honored outgoing City Councilwoman Donna Wright… Continue reading

Everett district relents on eminent domain moving expenses

Homeowners near Bothell still must be out by April to make way for a planned new high school.

Their grown children died, but state law won’t let them sue

Families are seeking a change in the state’s limiting wrongful-death law.

Officials rule train-pedestrian death an accident

The 37-year-old man was trying to move off the tracks when the train hit him, police say.

Number of flu-related deaths in county continues to grow

Statewide, 86 people have died from the flu, most of whom were 65 or older.

Ex-Monroe cop re-arrested after losing sex crime case appeal

He was sentenced to 14 months in prison but was free while trying to get his conviction overturned.

Most Read