Rep. Inslee calls for focus on employment

EVERETT — Getting the U.S. economy back on track boils down to creating jobs and controlling health care costs, U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., told Economic Alliance Snohomish County members at the group’s annual federal issues update on Thursday.

Inslee touched on the region’s energy innova

tions and Boeing’s success in landing the U.S. Air Force’s refueling tanker in the second round of bidding, but much of his talk focused on the economy and education.

Congress needs to ignore all of its partisan distractions and concentrate on three things, Inslee said: “Jobs, jobs and jobs.”

State government needs to do likewise, the 1st District congressman said. He told about one biotech company that was lured to Georgia with a call from that state’s governor.

“It’s something we need to think about,” he said. “We’re in a competition for business recruitment.”

Washington state’s education system also needs attention, Inslee said, because its colleges and universities aren’t producing enough graduates with degrees in high-tech fields. Ironically, the state ranks fifth nationally in high-tech jobs but sinks to 45th in the number of high-tech degrees it gives.

There’s no reason the public shouldn’t demand that schools produce the sort of graduates that employers need in an evolving job market, he said.

“I’m committed to that,” Inslee said.

He advocates an overhaul of the state’s education system to address that shortcoming and the state’s 33 percent high-school dropout rate.

“We as a state need to say that’s inexcusable,” Inslee said. “We need to have a 90 percent graduation rate.”

He said the Everett School District shows what can be done. It has increased its graduation rate from 54 percent to 84 percent in the last five years.

Any new jobs and a smarter workforce are moot unless the country addresses rising health-care costs, which are squeezing business owners and government.

“That ‘PacMan’ is eating through the heart of state government,” Inslee said, relating the health-care cost curve to the 1980s video arcade game.

Kurt Batdorf is Snohomish County Business Journal editor.

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