NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

“We are the state that invests in our people”: Jay Inslee delivers 2019 State of the State

Yes­ter­day, Wash­ing­ton State Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee deliv­ered the exec­u­tive’s annu­al State of the State address to the new­ly con­vened Legislature.

Inslee began his speech by list­ing some of Washington’s “firsts”.

He con­grat­u­lat­ed Rep­re­sen­ta­tive My-Linh Thai (D‑41st Dis­trict) as the first refugee to be elect­ed to the State House, and Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Debra Lekanoff (D‑40th Dis­trict), the first Native Amer­i­can woman to be elect­ed to the State House.

“It’s real­ly great to look out and see faces that reflect the diver­si­ty of our state,” said Inslee. “These are firsts we all are proud of.”

Inslee not­ed that while the Leg­is­la­ture advanced many pro­gres­sive ideas dur­ing the last ses­sion, law­mak­ers can­not rest on their laurels.

He detailed some of the biggest issues he believes should be tack­led, begin­ning with the grave and ever-wors­en­ing threat of cli­mate dam­age. Over that last few years, Wash­ing­ton has expe­ri­enced record-high tem­per­a­tures, record-low snow­pack, high­er ocean tem­per­a­tures and high­er sea­wa­ter acid­i­ty, Inslee observed.

“I don’t know of any oth­er issue that touch­es the heart of things so many of us care about: our jobs, our health, our safe­ty and our children’s future,” he said. “But this doesn’t have to be our future. Sci­ence affirms the neces­si­ty of action – this day.”

Inslee argued that Wash­ing­ton should invest in clean ener­gy and low-pol­lu­tion  tech­nolo­gies to ensure broad pros­per­i­ty for every region in Washington.

“These kinds of jobs have pro­pelled our clean ener­gy sec­tor to grow more than twice as fast as the rest of our econ­o­my. There is no greater job oppor­tu­ni­ty than the oppor­tu­ni­ty of clean ener­gy,” he con­tin­ued. “We will pass leg­is­la­tion to tran­si­tion to one hun­dred per­cent clean elec­tric­i­ty, trans­form our build­ings with cost-sav­ing effi­cien­cies, and mod­ern­ize and elec­tri­fy our trans­porta­tion sys­tem. We’ll phase down super-pol­lu­tants and phase in clean­er fuels.”

“This trans­for­ma­tion has start­ed, but we need to do more, do it big­ger and do it faster,” Inslee stressed. “So when your grand­chil­dren ask what you did to pro­tect them from cli­mate change, you can tell them you weren’t sit­ting around say­ing it was some­one else’s prob­lem. You took action.”

“Because that is who we are in the State of Washington.”

The next issue he addressed was men­tal health. 

The Gov­er­nor declared that we must trans­form our behav­ioral health sys­tem to act proac­tive­ly instead of in a reac­tive man­ner, lurch­ing from cri­sis to crisis.

“For those with a loved one who has wait­ed too long for the right kind of treat­ment, we know this chal­lenge is urgent,” he said.

“Our fam­i­lies and friends are suf­fer­ing and we can do so much better.”

Some of the prob­lems Inslee would like to see addressed include find­ing room for more peo­ple at new com­mu­ni­ty-based facil­i­ties so patients are near fam­i­lies, homes, places of wor­ship and their com­mu­ni­ties. He said the state should also expand the pro­fes­sion­al work­force ded­i­cat­ed to men­tal health issues. Inslee then announced a new part­ner­ship with the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton to cre­ate a teach­ing hos­pi­tal to serve these patients and to train behav­ioral health providers.

“We can turn this sto­ry around and direct it toward hope,” said Inslee. “And I’m pleased that we’re at the begin­ning of a bipar­ti­san effort to do just that. We will cre­ate a sto­ry this year about a holis­tic mod­el for behav­ioral health that encom­pass­es the fam­i­ly, the com­mu­ni­ty and the promise of time­ly care.”

Switch­ing gears, Inslee then talked about sav­ing the south­ern res­i­dent orcas.

He recount­ed the unfor­get­table sto­ry from last sum­mer, when a moth­er orca car­ried her dead calf for over two weeks.

“We saw a mother’s grief. We felt it. Our hearts broke as we shared in her loss,” the Gov­er­nor lament­ed. “This can­not be their fate.”

Inslee stressed the impor­tance to make “unprece­dent­ed invest­ments” to save the res­i­dent orcas, because the “demise of any species is a warn­ing in our nat­ur­al sys­tems.” Through an orca task force led by Dr. Les Purce and Stephanie Solien, Inslee pre­sent­ed rec­om­men­da­tions to save the pod, which includes increas­ing salmon stocks, fix­ing cul­verts and decreas­ing ves­sel traf­fic risks.

“We have just one last chance to save these orcas,” he said. “In this per­ilous moment, we must answer back with action.”

He did not pro­pose any restric­tions on fish­ing, which Seat­tle Times colum­nist Dan­ny West­neat has argued may be nec­es­sary to save the south­ern residents.

Inslee then moved on to edu­ca­tion.

“I thank every­one in this cham­ber who has been part of the years-long effort to ful­ly fund basic edu­ca­tion,” he said, refer­ring to efforts to purge the State’s con­tempt in the now-end­ed McCleary court case, which dragged on for years.

“This was an enor­mous­ly heavy lift that I’m proud we accom­plished togeth­er last year. This was a remark­able bipar­ti­san effort; both par­ties shared in that success.”

The Leg­is­la­ture can­not stop now, he said. McCleary com­pli­ance isn’t enough. Fund­ing spe­cial edu­ca­tion and ear­ly learn­ing is “the best way to secure a strong start for every child, regard­less of their family’s eco­nom­ic circumstances.”

He hopes to expand preschool pro­grams, as well as cre­ate a statewide refer­ral sys­tem to con­nect fam­i­lies with ear­ly learn­ing ser­vices and facil­i­ties. He’d like to see uni­ver­sal home vis­its, which would allow new par­ents the oppor­tu­ni­ty to get a vis­it from a nurse dur­ing the first weeks at home with a newborn.

“And once those chil­dren reach the oth­er end of their edu­ca­tion and pre­pare to grad­u­ate from high school, we want to open up as many path­ways as pos­si­ble, includ­ing appren­tice­ships, cer­tifi­cates and degrees,” he said.

“For high-school stu­dents or indi­vid­u­als who seek an expe­ri­ence out­side a four-year pro­gram, our Career Con­nect Wash­ing­ton ini­tia­tive gives them that option.”

The ini­tia­tive con­nects stu­dents with real-world expe­ri­ence in their cho­sen careers, which ulti­mate­ly gives them a bet­ter chance when they even­tu­al­ly apply for their first job after school. Inslee’s pro­posed bud­get would also pro­vide 100,000 stu­dents over the next ten years an option to explore their inter­ests through appren­tice­ships and paid internships.

“This means more Wash­ing­ton stu­dents can take advan­tage of great careers here at home in one of the best economies any­where,” he explained.

“Don’t our kids deserve that?”

Inslee also detailed the Wash­ing­ton Col­lege Promise, a new statewide free col­lege pro­gram that guar­an­tees finan­cial aid to eli­gi­ble students.

“As we grap­ple with these chal­lenges in our state, we must also con­front oth­er forces seek­ing to under­mine our progress,” said Inslee.

“We are the state that invests in our people.”

Inslee praised the pre­vi­ous Leg­is­la­ture’s major accom­plish­ments, like pass­ing the Access to Democ­ra­cy pack­age and tak­ing a first step to end­ing the death penal­ty. He encour­aged the 2019 Leg­is­la­ture to build upon those suc­cess­es. He con­clud­ed by say­ing that he believes this next chap­ter “must show that we pushed the lim­it and moved beyond our plateau, that we always looked for the next beginning.”

“So let this be our pro­found sto­ry. Let it be bold,” he said.

“And most of all, let it make history.”

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