Education tops Inslee’s to-do list in State of State address

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday laid out a short to-do list for this legislative session: ease a statewide teacher shortage, improve mental health services and cover the costs of last summer’s devastating wildfires.

And a fourth item, one which he called “absolutely necessary”, is agreeing on the blueprint for ensuring the state meets a 2018 deadline to provide ample funding for the public school system.

It will require passing a bill this year that keeps the legislature on track to make the spending decisions next year, he said.

“We’re not going to just fix a few potholes, we’re going to finish the job,” Inslee said in his State of the State address to a joint session of the House and Senate. “That means actually financing these critical investments so our kids and grandkids get the education they deserve.”

Not much in Inslee’s speech surprised Republicans.

“I think you’ll find most of his goals are very similar to ours,” House Minority Leader Dan Kristiansen said. “The route that we take to attain those goals … is going to be the difference.”

On education, Inslee called for higher teacher pay to help recruit and retain instructors, and thereby erase a teacher shortage.

He wants to hike starting pay for teachers to $40,000 and give a 1 percent raise to instructors statewide. He’s called for closing a handful of tax breaks to generate the money to pay for it.

Washington can have small class sizes and the best mentors for teachers, he said, but if “nobody is standing in front of the classroom, we’ve got zip.”

Regarding the wildfires, he’s proposed siphoning $180 million from reserves to cover the costs and $29 million from the Disaster Response Account to help communities in the fire zones rebuild and recover.

On mental health services, Inslee’s proposed supplemental budget contains roughly $137 million to hire additional nurses and psychiatrists at state psychiatric hospitals, operate four new 16-bed triage facilities and three new crisis teams across the state.

Some of the money will help the state comply with a federal court order to reduce wait times for mentally ill inmates locked up in jail. Some of the money, he said, will expand services for those in the community living with mental illness.

“We need to make sure that we have the appropriate services in place for them,” he said. These aren’t nameless, faceless people. They are our loved ones. They are our colleagues. They are our friends. Let’s get this done for these folks this year.”

Also Tuesday, Inslee, who is seeking re-election this fall, pushed his plans for reducing gun-related deaths and curbing pollution-causing carbon emissions.

Inslee did make brief mention of the Department of Corrections error that for 13 years allowed inmates to be released early.

He said those responsible would be held accountable. He also encouraged state employees and managers to speak up when they see something “is not working right” in their agency.

Inslee also backed the ballot measure to hike the statewide minimum wage to $13.50 and allow workers to earn paid sick leave. It was filed Monday.

“I stand on this rock-solid belief: If you work 40 hours a week, you deserve a wage that puts a roof over your head and food on the table, period. And you shouldn’t have to give up a day’s pay if you or your kids get sick,” he said.

Republicans refrained from taking a position on the initiative. They have consistently opposed boosting wages out of concern it would lead to job losses at businesses in rural areas. Also they worry it will make agricultural products more expensive leading to fewer exports.

Kristiansen said he was surprised by Inslee’s strong backing of the measure.

“Typically that’s something we as elected officials don’t do because it’s considered using public resources to get behind an initiative,” he said.

He said he wasn’t alleging wrongdoing. “I am not going to go that far,” he said.

Inslee also said he asked the Washington State Investment Board to “exercise its voting authority to reduce the widening pay gap” between workers and chief executives of companies in which state dollars are invested

The board, whose 10 voting members include two lawmakers and the state treasurer, manage investments for Washington State pension and other public trust funds.

That didn’t please GOP lawmakers.

“This is the first time I’ve seen a governor politicize the State Investment Board,” said Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Marysville
1 pedestrian dead after car crash on I-5 south of Marysville

Around 5 p.m., a car crashed into a pedestrian along I-5. Investigators believed a man had parked on the shoulder to refuel.

FILE - A person walks near the Legislative Building, Wednesday, April 21, 2021, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. Washington's redistricting commission failed to meet its deadline and on Tuesday, Nov. 16, kicked the job of creating new political maps to the state Supreme Court. The bipartisan commission had a deadline of 11:59 p.m. Monday to approve new boundaries for congressional and legislative districts following the 2020 census. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Do Snohomish County lawmakers want a 2020 presidential rematch?

The Herald contacted seven Republican legislators representing parts of Snohomish County about their primary choice. Five did not respond.

A man walks by Pfizer headquarters, Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, in New York. Pfizer will spend about $43 billion to buy Seagen and broaden its reach into cancer treatments, the pharmaceutical giant said. (AP Photo / Mark Lennihan, File)
Pfizer backs out of Everett manufacturing plant after $43B Seagen deal

Pfizer finalized the acquisition of the Bothell-based cancer drug developer in December.

Photo provided by 
Economic Alliance
Economic Alliance presented one of the Washington Rising Stem Awards to Katie Larios, a senior at Mountlake Terrace High School.
Mountlake Terrace High School senior wins state STEM award

Katie Larios was honored at an Economic Alliance gathering: “A champion for other young women of color in STEM.”

A view of one of the potential locations of the new Aquasox stadium on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024 in Everett, Washington. The site sits between Hewitt Avenue, Broadway, Pacific Avenue and the railroad. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
20 businesses could be demolished for downtown Everett stadium

Some business owners say the city didn’t tell them of plans for a new AquaSox stadium that could displace their businesses.

Kathy Purviance-Snow poses for a photo in her computer lab at Snohomish High School on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024, in Snohomish, WA. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
To ban or embrace ChatGPT? Local teachers fight AI with AI — or don’t

“It has fundamentally changed my teaching in really stressful and exciting ways,” an EvCC teacher said. At all levels of education, ChatGPT poses a tricky question.

In this Feb. 5, 2018, file photo a Boeing 737 MAX 7 is displayed during a debut for employees and media of the new jet in Renton, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
FAA gives Boeing 90 days to develop plan to fix quality, safety issues

The agency’s ultimatum comes a day after a meeting with CEO Dave Calhoun and other top Boeing officials in Washington, D.C.

Firefighters respond to a report of a smoke alarm going off in the 100 block of West Main Street in Monroe on Monday morning. Fire officials confirmed the fire was coming from living quarters above Good Brewing Co. (Provided by Snohomish County Regional Fire and Rescue).
Fire damages apartment above Monroe brewery

Good Brewing Co. on West Main Street was listed as permanently closed Monday.

Tom Ceurvorst picks up his food order at Big Chicken on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2023 in Mukilteo, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Free ice cream Wednesday for Shaq’s birthday at Big Chicken in Mukilteo

Sign a card for the NBA Hall of Famer and restaurant founder. Shaquille O’Neal turns 52 on March 6.

Flowers for slain trooper Chris Gadd begin to collect outside Washington State Patrol District 7 Headquarters on Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Marysville, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Police: Lynnwood man consumed cannabis, beer before crash into trooper

Trooper Chris Gadd, 27, was stopped along I-5 when he was hit and killed early Saturday. Troopers suspect Raul Benitez Santana was impaired.

Madi Humphries, 9, Rose Austin, 13, and Eirene Ritting, 8, on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024 in Bothell, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
No grades, no teachers: Inside a Bothell school run by student vote

Each day at The Clearwater School, 60 students choose their own lessons. It’s one vote per person, whether you’re staff or student.

SonShine Preschool inside First Baptist Church Monroe is pictured Friday, March 1, 2024, in Monroe, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
SonShine preschool in Monroe to close at the end of the year

The preschool, operated by First Baptist Church, served kids for 25 years. School leadership did not explain the reason behind the closure.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.