Gov. Jay Inslee used his State of the State speech on Tuesday to push for an increase in teachers wages and a framework for fixing the state’s underfunded public school system.
“There were a couple of things I actually agreed with him on,” said Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas. “It seems like in Olympia we always agree on the problem, but the solution (is difficult).”
Pike agrees there is a teacher shortage and the Legislature needs to continue to focus on education issues. But raising taxes, she said, shouldn’t be part of the solution.
Inslee has proposed closing certain tax exemptions.
“What I hear in my district over and over and over is, ‘Don’t take any more of my money. Do the best with what you already have,’ and that’s going to be my guiding post for everything for the next 58 days,” Pike said.
Inslee, who is seeking re-election, outlined four priorities: increase teachers wage, pay for the state’s record-setting wildfire season that scorched millions of acres, focus on the state’s mental health system, and create a framework for fixing the school funding issue, as ordered by the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision.
Overall, Pike said the governor’s speech was “lackluster.”
The governor also said he plans to support a ballot measure that would raise the state’s minimum wage over a period of time to $13.50.
Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, said the governor’s focus is on the right issues.
“I am encouraged and excited to see Gov. Inslee call for improvements in public education, treatment for the mentally ill and wages for working families. I share those priorities, as well as the desire to help bring them to fruition,” Cleveland said in a statement.
Although, she added, she will push for other less-high-profile issues this session.
“We need better protections for vulnerable seniors who face physical, verbal and financial exploitation,” she said. “We need to make sure women receive the same pay for the same work as their male counterparts. We have a growing, devastating homeless and housing crisis in Vancouver and in many other communities across our state that we must also work to address.”
Rep. Brandon Vick, R-Felida, said he found the governor’s address predictable.
“He went into the areas that are typical for him,” Vick said, including a push for curbing the state’s carbon emissions.
Vick said the state is already considered one of the “cleanest and greenest around.”
“At what point do we start getting a diminishing return out of the environmental policies,” he said.