Governor Inslee delivers the 2020 State of the State Address
Governor Inslee delivers the 2020 State of the State Address at the rostrum of the Washington State House of Representatives (Photo: Andrew VIlleneuve/NPI)

Wash­ing­ton Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee has decid­ed against seek­ing a fourth term and will be leav­ing the state’s high­est office in Jan­u­ary 2025 when his cur­rent term expires, his office announced today in a state­ment cir­cu­lat­ed to its press list.

“Serv­ing the peo­ple as gov­er­nor of Wash­ing­ton state has been my great­est hon­or,” said Inslee. “Dur­ing a decade of dynam­ic change, we’ve made Wash­ing­ton a bea­con for progress for the nation. I’m ready to pass the torch.”

Inslee is only the sec­ond gov­er­nor in Wash­ing­ton his­to­ry to serve three con­sec­u­tive terms, after the leg­endary Repub­li­can Dan Evans, who is also the old­est liv­ing for­mer gov­er­nor still with us. (Evans has out­lived four suc­ces­sors: Dixy Lee Ray, John Spell­man, Booth Gard­ner, and Mike Lowry.)

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)

First elect­ed in 2012, Inslee has led Wash­ing­ton through some tur­bu­lent times, includ­ing the Rod­ney Tom error, which began about when his first term did in 2012, the Trump error, which began when his sec­ond term did in 2017, and the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, which hit as he was run­ning for a third term in 2020.

Rod­ney Tom, a Repub­li­can-turned-Demo­c­rat-turned-Repub­li­can again, was an ear­ly thorn in Inslee’s side, and con­spired with Repub­li­cans and anoth­er turn­coat named Tim Shel­don to flip the Sen­ate to Repub­li­can con­trol just as Inslee was prepar­ing to take office. How­ev­er, Tom retired in 2014, and a 2018 come­back bid end­ed in an embar­rass­ing fail­ure. Shel­don stuck around for a cou­ple more terms, but he’s gone now, too. Inslee has out­last­ed both of them.

The gov­er­nor’s list of accom­plish­ments is long, and his team pro­vid­ed a selec­tion of those accom­plish­ments in today’s state­ment, high­light­ing what they see as the biggest wins Inslee has deliv­ered for the peo­ple of the State of Washington.

Notably not includ­ed in the list is Wash­ing­ton’s new cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy, which we’d put at the top. Inslee first called for such a tax to be levied at the end of 2014 as he laid out his pro­posed bud­get for the 2015 Leg­is­la­ture, which had a Demo­c­ra­t­ic House and Repub­li­can Senate.

It took six years for the Leg­is­la­ture to answer the call, but it final­ly did in 2021, after Democ­rats had built robust majori­ties in each cham­ber, with the pas­sage of ESSB 5096. The tax has with­stood bal­lot mea­sure threats and a legal chal­lenge, and is now being col­lect­ed. It is the biggest pro­gres­sive tax reform mea­sure in recent his­to­ry — sore­ly need­ed and fierce­ly opposed by Republicans.

The rev­enue from the tax is devot­ed to the Edu­ca­tion Lega­cy Trust and allo­cat­ed to ear­ly child­hood edu­ca­tion and child­care. How­ev­er, Wash­ing­ton’s pub­lic schools remain under­fund­ed. Many school dis­tricts are grap­pling with big bud­get deficits right now and impos­ing harm­ful cuts due to a lack of sup­port from the state.

On eco­nom­ic secu­ri­ty, the Gov­er­nor request­ed and signed into law a paid fam­i­ly and med­ical leave pro­gram, which even earned Repub­li­can sup­port. It has been a huge suc­cess. The gov­er­nor and the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Leg­is­la­ture also final­ly got the Work­ing Fam­i­lies Tax Cred­it fund­ed — an impor­tant vic­to­ry that both improves eco­nom­ic secu­ri­ty and bal­ances our tax code a bit more.

Pret­ty much all of the progress Wash­ing­ton has made on gun safe­ty has come under Inslee. After a series of three Alliance for Gun Respon­si­bil­i­ty ini­tia­tives passed at the bal­lot (in 2014, 2016, and 2018), the Leg­is­la­ture belat­ed­ly began tak­ing up the cause. It has now sent Inslee many gun safe­ty bills to sign.

Wash­ing­ton has banned bump stocks, ghost guns, high capac­i­ty mag­a­zines, and most recent­ly assault weapons. It has pro­hib­it­ed the car­ry­ing of firearms at the state Capi­tol and the car­ry­ing of firearms at local gov­ern­ment meet­ings and elec­tion sites. A ten-day wait­ing peri­od is slat­ed to go into effect soon, and gun man­u­fac­tur­ers will be required to exer­cise rea­son­able con­trols in their busi­ness­es under a new account­abil­i­ty law that just got signed.

On human rights, Gov­er­nor Inslee placed a mora­to­ri­um on the death penal­ty ear­ly on dur­ing his tenure and more recent­ly signed a bill get­ting rid of the death penal­ty after the Supreme Court has struck its use down as uncon­sti­tu­tion­al and con­vert­ed all death sen­tences to life sentences.

On repro­duc­tive jus­tice, the state has stood firm against the Supreme Court’s hor­rif­ic Dobbs deci­sion. Gov­er­nor Inslee has vocal­ly and emphat­i­cal­ly defend­ed access to abor­tion care and signed laws to pro­tect patients and clin­ics, espe­cial­ly from puni­tive dra­con­ian laws passed in Repub­li­can-con­trolled states.

Governor Inslee speaks prior to signing five environmental bills
Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee speaks at the sign­ing of five land­mark envi­ron­men­tal bills (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/Northwest Pro­gres­sive Institute)

On cli­mate jus­tice, the Gov­er­nor has a record sec­ond to none in the coun­try. Inslee has signed into law a huge num­ber of bills to put Wash­ing­ton on the path to a clean ener­gy econ­o­my, includ­ing the Cli­mate Com­mit­ment Act and a one hun­dred per­cent clean elec­tric­i­ty grid bill which our own Gael Tar­leton led on.

And, very impor­tant­ly, Inslee has been unafraid to stand up to dis­hon­est ini­tia­tive pro­mot­er Tim Eyman. His Demo­c­ra­t­ic pre­de­ces­sors Gary Locke and Chris Gre­goire had each capit­u­lat­ed to Eyman, urg­ing the Leg­is­la­ture to rein­state harm­ful tax-slash­ing ini­tia­tives after the Supreme Court had struck them down.

Inslee did­n’t capit­u­late — not after I‑1366 passed in 2016 or after I‑1976 passed in 2019. He stood up for Wash­ing­ton’s com­mon wealth. As a con­se­quence, bil­lions of dol­lars in fund­ing for essen­tial pub­lic ser­vices were saved, and Wash­ing­ton turned away from repeat­ing some of the mis­takes of the ear­ly 2000s.

Inslee has also signed into law bills to rid our bal­lots of Eyman’s push polls and ensure that any future right wing tax cut­ting ini­tia­tives that qual­i­fy for the bal­lot will appear with a dis­clo­sure that explains what they would defund if passed.

Inslee pre­vailed over three Repub­li­cans to win the state’s top office three times, each by a mar­gin greater than his pre­vi­ous vic­to­ry. He defeat­ed Rob McKen­na in 2012, Bill Bryant in 2016, and Loren Culp in 2020. Those vic­to­ries coin­cid­ed with a minor polit­i­cal realign­ment in the state that has turned Wash­ing­ton into a strong Demo­c­ra­t­ic tri­fec­ta, with Repub­li­cans out of pow­er and often out of the picture.

Polit­i­cal­ly, dur­ing Inslee’s gov­er­nor­ship, Democ­rats have:

  • Main­tained a major­i­ty in the state House of Representatives
  • Won a major­i­ty in the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate after years of try­ing, thanks to North­west Pro­gres­sive Foun­da­tion board­mem­ber Man­ka Dhin­gra’s spe­cial elec­tion vic­to­ry, and then expand­ed that majority
  • Lost and regained the office of State Treasurer
  • Gained the office of Sec­re­tary of State
  • Flipped two seats Demo­c­ra­t­ic in the U.S. House (in the 8th CD and 3rd CD)
  • Reelect­ed both U.S. Sen­a­tors (Maria Cantwell in 2018, Pat­ty Mur­ray last year)

Before becom­ing gov­er­nor, Inslee was a Unit­ed States Rep­re­sen­ta­tive from the 1st (1999–2012) and 4th Con­gres­sion­al Dis­tricts (1993–1995). Before that, he was a state leg­is­la­tor, serv­ing in the Wash­ing­ton State House from 1989–1993.

NPI con­grat­u­lates Gov­er­nor Inslee for a great run as Wash­ing­ton State’s chief exec­u­tive. We look for­ward to work­ing with him to get even more great pol­i­cy signed into law next year as he wraps up this chap­ter of his pub­lic service.

The gov­er­nor’s full announce­ment is below:

Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee announced today he does not plan to seek a fourth term. Inslee was most recent­ly re-elect­ed in 2020, mak­ing him only the sec­ond Wash­ing­ton state gov­er­nor to serve three con­sec­u­tive terms.

“Serv­ing the peo­ple as gov­er­nor of Wash­ing­ton state has been my great­est hon­or. Dur­ing a decade of dynam­ic change, we’ve made Wash­ing­ton a bea­con for progress for the nation. I’m ready to pass the torch.

“Our last decade of Washington’s sto­ried his­to­ry is one of growth and inno­va­tion. I am proud to have played a role in our state’s lead­er­ship on so many fronts. We’ve passed the nation’s best cli­mate poli­cies, the most suc­cess­ful fam­i­ly leave ben­e­fits, the best col­lege schol­ar­ship pro­grams, a more fair legal jus­tice sys­tem, and the most pro­tec­tive actions against gun vio­lence. We’ve shown that diver­si­ty is a strength worth fight­ing for. This has been ten years of dynam­ic success.

“As gov­er­nor, I have seen my role as inspir­ing our state ever for­ward and ever high­er. I’m grat­i­fied to be able to say that this approach has worked to improve Wash­ing­to­ni­ans lives in many ways and many places.

“Now is the time to intense­ly focus on all we can accom­plish in the next year and a half, and I intend to do just that. I look for­ward to con­tin­ued part­ner­ship with leg­is­la­tors and com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers to address Washington’s home­less­ness cri­sis, speed our efforts to expand behav­ioral health ser­vices, con­tin­ue our fight against cli­mate change, and con­tin­ue mak­ing Wash­ing­ton a bea­con of progress for all.”

High­light­ed achieve­ments since 2013:

  • Pass­ing nation-lead­ing cli­mate poli­cies to dri­ve down emis­sions and invest more equi­tably in over­bur­dened communities.
  • Estab­lish­ing the state’s Clean Ener­gy Fund to pro­mote devel­op­ment and deploy­ment of clean ener­gy technologies.
  • Pass­ing the Clean Ener­gy Trans­for­ma­tion Act to achieve 100% clean pow­er by 2045; Cli­mate Com­mit­ment Act to estab­lish a cap-and invest pro­gram with strong equi­ty pro­vi­sions; clean build­ings poli­cies to reduce emis­sions in homes and offices; and clean fuels and clean trans­porta­tion poli­cies to elec­tri­fy the state’s fer­ries and pro­mote elec­tric vehicles.
  • Estab­lish­ing Wash­ing­ton state as a sub-nation­al leader on cli­mate by co-found­ing the U.S. Cli­mate Alliance, Ocean Acid­i­fi­ca­tion Alliance, and Amer­i­ca is All In, and help­ing lead the Pacif­ic Coast Col­lab­o­ra­tive and Under2 Coalition.
    Improv­ing equi­ty across Washington’s legal jus­tice system.
  • Pri­or­i­tiz­ing more diverse judi­cial appointments.
  • Estab­lish­ing a Mar­i­jua­na Jus­tice Ini­tia­tive to clear mis­de­meanor con­vic­tion records.
  • Plac­ing a mora­to­ri­um on Washington’s death penal­ty – a posi­tion that was ulti­mate­ly affirmed by the state Supreme Court due to its unequal and racial­ly biased appli­ca­tion, and sub­se­quent­ly struck from state law.
  • Estab­lish­ing a statewide effort to improve reen­try ser­vices for peo­ple tran­si­tion­ing from incar­cer­a­tion into the community.
  • Pro­mot­ing poli­cies that con­sis­tent­ly rank Wash­ing­ton among the best states for busi­ness and for work­ers, thanks to the state’s strong econ­o­my and work­force as well as pro­grams for work­ing fam­i­lies such as paid fam­i­ly leave, a high min­i­mum wage, and the new Work­ing Fam­i­lies Tax Credit.
  • Tak­ing deci­sive mea­sures to pro­tect the health and safe­ty of Wash­ing­to­ni­ans dur­ing the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, result­ing in one of the low­est death rates in the country.
  • Ful­ly fund­ing Washington’s K‑12 edu­ca­tion sys­tem for the first time in over a decade as deter­mined by the McCleary case, and expand­ing finan­cial aid to make Washington’s pro­gram among the most gen­er­ous in the nation.
  • Enact­ing the nation’s most gen­er­ous paid fam­i­ly and med­ical leave pro­gram, offer­ing up to 16 weeks of paid leave for every work­ing Washingtonian.
  • Pro­vid­ing more afford­able health care options to all Wash­ing­to­ni­ans by mak­ing Wash­ing­ton one of the 10 lead­ing states for ful­ly imple­ment­ing the Afford­able Care Act and expand­ing eli­gi­bil­i­ty for Med­ic­aid. Inslee con­tin­ues to pro­mote poli­cies to strength­en access to health care such as requir­ing insur­ers to cov­er peo­ple with pre-exist­ing con­di­tions, cre­at­ing a low-cost “pub­lic option” style insur­ance plan known as Cas­cade Care, and cap­ping insulin costs to $35 per month.
  • Help­ing to estab­lish Wash­ing­ton as a leader in gun vio­lence pre­ven­tion by ban­ning bump stocks, high capac­i­ty mag­a­zines, “ghost guns,” and assault weapons sales, as well as requir­ing safe­ty train­ing and a 10-day wait­ing peri­od pri­or to pur­chase and enhanc­ing account­abil­i­ty for man­u­fac­tur­ers and retailers.
  • Push­ing back on Repub­li­can efforts to roll back abor­tion rights and gen­der-affirm­ing care by strength­en­ing legal pro­tec­tions for providers and patients and expand­ing access.
  • Pro­mot­ing diver­si­ty and belong­ing as one of Washington’s strengths by wel­com­ing refugees from Syr­ia, Afghanistan and Ukraine; hold­ing the first-ever rais­ing of the June­teenth and Pride flags at the Capi­tol; and estab­lish­ing a new statewide Office of Equi­ty, as well as a new LGBTQ Com­mis­sion and Women’s Commission.

Again, our con­grat­u­la­tions and thanks to Gov­er­nor Inslee. We have enjoyed work­ing with the Gov­er­nor and appre­ci­ate his stead­fast leadership.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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