Washington’s 23rd governor touched on a range of priorities in his inaugural speech: crafting a balanced budget, gun control and school safety, education, and sustaining Washington’s transportation system.
This week, we’re taking a look at what Inslee’s tenure could bring for the state.
Inslee’s first proposal to the state legislature is a bill that would require Washington to begin implementing a long-term water plan in the Yakima River Basin.
It is a $4 billion plan he hopes will improve water supplies in a region where periodic droughts reduce stream flows for farmers, communities and threatened fish.
The environmental bill also contains a list of priority projects that will open up food and agriculture industry jobs. The projects with the most jobs created are the Kachess Inactive Storage (122 jobs), the Cle Elum Fish Passage (40 jobs) and the Tributary/Main-stem Habitat Enhancement projects (27 jobs).
For Inslee, agriculture is one of the “clean energy technology” jobs that can clear the skies for people who are unemployed.
“There is no challenge greater for Washington, with more opportunity for job growth and more suited to our particular brand of genius and ingenuity, than leading the world’s clean energy economy,” said Inslee in his inauguration speech.
Inslee called jobs the state’s “top priority today, tomorrow and every day for the next four years.”
Inslee wants to focus on specific markets and initiatives that promote economic growth, research and development on clean energy.
“We need these clean energy jobs that work for the long haul,” he said. “They will be in Bellingham at the Itec Solar Company, in Seattle at MacDonald-Miller, a great efficiency company, in Spokane at the McKinstry Company and at Boeing where we are making the world’s most fuel-efficient jet.”
The focus on job growth in clean energy technology also includes the aerospace, life sciences, military, agriculture, information technology and maritime trade industries.
New tax credits for entrepreneurs can help new startup companies get the resources they need to start hiring and making money, said Inslee.
He also hopes that these changes to the current clean-energy tax credits will help consumers get better financing to make their homes more energy-efficient through the state’s solar energy startups.
“We need to increase the emphasis on STEM education. Science, technology, engineering and math are just as important to the next generation as the three R’s were to my generation. They are the essential tools for success in this new economy,” Inslee said.
He hopes to encourage schools to produce more graduates trained in the STEM fields to fill jobs in high-tech Washington companies such as Boeing and Microsoft.
But Inslee isn’t the only one focusing on education.
In the wake of last year’s Supreme Court decision which ruled that “the state must amply provide for the education of all Washington children as the state’s first and highest priority before any other state programs or operations,” lawmakers are focused on making education a top priority, as the Washington state government has not adequately funded education to the extent required by the state constitution.
Marijuana and I-502
Inslee proposed an additional $1 billion of the already-tight budget going towards education, and suggested that Washington’s marijuana initiative could be a possible source of education funding.
Initiative 502, which took effect in December, would tax marijuana sales. Inslee has high hopes that these taxes could generate a great deal of money for the state.
Last week, Inslee met with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to see if this was a possibility.
Since it was only a preliminary meeting, no details were discussed between the two, but it was clear that Holder was set on preventing the spread of Washington-grown marijuana to other states.
Washington is currently setting rules to license an estimated 100 growers and 55 processors to grow about 85 million grams of marijuana per year.
Also according to the I-502 Fiscal Impact Statement, a 25 percent tax at each stage in the sale chain could net the state $1.9 billion in revenue over the course of five years.
Marijuana is predicted to cost $12 a gram.
Inslee plans to update Holder in the following days about how the state can develop a system that tracks shipments of marijuana and one that also prevents leakage outside the state’s borders.
Inslee is determined to meet the standards of the federal government by creating a digital way of tracking inventory to the distributor and to the retailers, making sure there isn’t a percent shrinkage that could end up on the black market.
“We will be the first state in the world to adopt a licensed, regulated, disciplined, distribution market for marijuana, I think in world history,” he said.
Chelsee may be reached at [email protected]