Governor Jay Inslee delivers the 2023 State of the State Address
Governor Jay Inslee delivers the 2023 State of the State Address before a joint session of the Washington State Legislature (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Today in Olympia, Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee appeared before a joint ses­sion of the Wash­ing­ton State Leg­is­la­ture, as he has for the past decade, to deliv­er the annu­al State of the State Address, shar­ing his thoughts on Wash­ing­ton’s well being and lay­ing out his pri­or­i­ties for his eleventh year in office as the state’s chief executive.

This was the first State of the State Address to be deliv­ered in-per­son since 2020, the year that COVID-19 began spread­ing rapid­ly through­out the U.S. and the world. The last two ses­sions of the Leg­is­la­ture were both held remotely.

Inslee start­ed off the speech by tout­ing recent leg­isla­tive suc­cess­es, such as enact­ing paid fam­i­ly leave as well as trans­for­ma­tive cli­mate action leg­is­la­tion, con­tin­u­ing to build more homes, and improv­ing the behav­ioral health sys­tem, to name a few. But, progress is still need­ed in Wash­ing­ton, and the gov­er­nor quick­ly began dis­cussing what still needs fix­ing in the Ever­green State.

Inslee first addressed ris­ing rates of home­less­ness in Wash­ing­ton, and under­scored that “the fun­da­men­tal, under­ly­ing chal­lenge is that we don’t have enough hous­ing”. The gov­er­nor stat­ed that he wants to “go big” on hous­ing this ses­sion. He pro­pos­es to do that through “a $4 bil­lion ref­er­en­dum that will sig­nif­i­cant­ly speed up the con­struc­tion of thou­sands of new units”.

“When it comes to build­ing afford­able hous­ing, our Hous­ing Trust Fund has been our pri­ma­ry tool for decades,” Inslee noted.

“Unfor­tu­nate­ly, we can only adjust that dial a lit­tle bit here and there. And we’ve been adjust­ing it up every bien­ni­um since 2013 — $30-$50 mil­lion at a time.”

“It isn’t enough. If there was ever a time to go big, it’s now.”

“This ref­er­en­dum will fast-for­ward our abil­i­ty to build,” the gov­er­nor added.

“Impor­tant­ly, it offers us the scale and speed we need. Scale and speed are nec­es­sary for mar­ket-rate devel­op­ment, too. Res­i­den­tial zon­ing restric­tions block pri­vate devel­op­ers from build­ing denser and more afford­able options.”

“The state has been and will con­tin­ue doing its part to shore up capac­i­ty,” Inslee told leg­is­la­tors and guests. “We’ve added hun­dreds of foren­sic beds since the True­blood tri­al in 2015, and we plan to add hun­dreds more.”

Governor Inslee listens to the national anthem before State of the State
Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee lis­tens to the nation­al anthem ahead of the 2023 State of the State Address (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Then, Gov­er­nor Inslee talked about edu­ca­tion, and men­tioned to the assem­bled body that his “bud­get pro­pos­al increas­es K‑12 spend­ing by $3 billion.

“Meet­ing the social and emo­tion­al needs of our stu­dents has been an impor­tant effort, and I com­mend this Leg­is­la­ture for mak­ing his­toric invest­ments last year to increase fund­ing for schools so they can hire more nurs­es, coun­selors, psy­chol­o­gists and social work­ers,” the Gov­er­nor said.

Next, the Gov­er­nor moved to an issue he holds dear — com­bat­ing cli­mate dam­age. He spoke of shift­ing Wash­ing­ton’s focus “to imple­men­ta­tion and invest­ment,” such as increas­ing the state’s abil­i­ty to do R&D, “bol­ster our trans­mis­sion infra­struc­ture,” and more, includ­ing a con­tin­ued focus on “salmon recov­ery actions”.

“It was fan­tas­tic to join Sen­a­tors Joe Nguyen and Matt Boehnke in Tri-Cities last month to talk about the poten­tial for a new Insti­tute for North­west Ener­gy Futures at Wash­ing­ton State Uni­ver­si­ty,” said Inslee. “This insti­tute will put the region at the glob­al fore­front of clean tech innovation.”

On the pub­lic safe­ty side, the gov­er­nor asked for more fund­ing for law enforce­ment and gun safe­ty train­ing, but his head­line request of the Leg­is­la­ture is “to ban the sale of mil­i­tary-style assault weapons”.

“These weapons are designed for the sole pur­pose of destroy­ing lives — the lives of school chil­dren, law enforce­ment offi­cers, con­cert-goers, night­club patrons, and peo­ple gath­ered in hous­es of wor­ship,” Inslee somber­ly observed.

And final­ly, Inslee talked about an issue that Democ­rats cam­paigned fierce­ly on in 2022: “the rights of Wash­ing­to­ni­ans seek­ing repro­duc­tive care”.

He called on leg­is­la­tors to keep Wash­ing­ton a pro-lib­er­ty state for all, includ­ing refer­ring to vot­ers a new con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment “that express­ly estab­lish­es a fun­da­men­tal right to repro­duc­tive free­dom in Wash­ing­ton state”.

“The Dobbs deci­sion last year on the nation­al lev­el upend­ed decades of prece­dent that assured peo­ple across the coun­try had at least some mea­sure of con­sti­tu­tion­al pro­tec­tion for abor­tion care and con­tra­cep­tion,” said Inslee.

The Gov­er­nor con­clud­ed his remarks by thank­ing leg­is­la­tors for their service.

“You have each left your hearth and home to come here to serve your con­stituents and fur­ther the progress and suc­cess of our state,” Inslee said.

“And when you do so, you will strive and toil to enact poli­cies, and yet may nev­er know many of the actu­al peo­ple you’ve helped.”

The 2023 leg­isla­tive ses­sion began yes­ter­day and will run until April 23rd, 2023.

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