OLYMPIA — For his last year in office, Gov. Jay Inslee said he wants to protect the state’s progress in fighting pollution and addressing climate change. Inslee’s remarks came Thursday morning during the Associated Press’ annual legislative session preview at the Capitol.
“We should be warriors against pollution, not supplicants,” Inslee said.
The governor said Washingtonians also want to continue making progress on reducing homelessness, funding special education, giving families and children better access to mental health care, and building a green energy economy to tackle climate change.
“The decisions we have made have put the state of Washington on very firm footing to be able to continue our upward march,” Inslee said.
With initiatives to repeal the capital gains tax, long-term care benefit, Climate Commitment Act and police reforms already filed, legislation passed by the Democrat-controlled Legislature is now at risk of being undone.
Inslee said he remains focused on getting his proposed supplemental budget passed by the House and Senate. The budget relies heavily on revenue from the capital gains tax and Climate Commitment Act, or CCA, to fund new spending.
Inslee could have a difficult time convincing voters to support higher taxes. A new Crosscut/Elway poll released Thursday showed 57 percent of those responding support repealing the 2021 capital gains tax, with 78 percent of Republicans and 44 percent of Democrats in favor of repeal.
Utility bill credit
Among the programs included in Inslee’s budget are $3-per-hour pay raises for paraeducators, additional housing for the homeless, new behavioral health facilities and public safety training centers, among others.
“We’ve closed 32 camps along our freeways and our highways, and we’ve got over 1,000 people now out of tents, out of tarps and off the shoulders of our roads,” Inslee said. “But we need to continue our efforts to build more housing.”
The proposed budget includes a taxpayer rebate in the form of a utility bill credit for low- and middle-income residents, which would use approximately $150 million in Climate Commitment Act taxes to fund.
“There will be 2 million Washingtonians benefited by this … We proposed it in our budget as a one-time thing, but I think we should consider making it an ongoing program,” Inslee said.
Inslee said he would rather see taxes from the Climate Commitment Act going to the state’s residents rather than the oil and gas industry. He said the taxes are already going back to residents by paying for solar panels, insulation for older homes and free bus rides. It’s just not in the form of payments or rebates, he said.
Inslee also had some harsh words for the oil and gas industry, which has been highly critical of the climate act.
“I’ll tell you where to look for deception. Look at the oil industry that, for decades, has lied to the American people about what their product is doing. … They told us this was a benign product when they have known for decades that it was going to destroy the health of the state of Washington and this country,” Inslee said.
He said the state can’t give up on fighting pollution just to have lower gas prices.
The 2024 legislative session convenes at 9 a.m. Monday.
Note: This story has been updated to show the Crosscut/Elway poll results were related to the 2021 capital gains tax. An earlier version incorrectly stated the results were related to the Climate Commitment Act.