Click here to read in The Columbian…
Elected officials react to governor’s inaugural address
As Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee urged the Washington Legislature to fully fund the state’s public schools in his State of the State speech on Wednesday, newly elected Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, sat behind the governor on the dais looking out at the entire legislative body.
“I appreciated the view from the front,” Wilson said. “Seeing reactions from everyone from that vantage point is rare.”
Wilson and Sen. Tim Sheldon, a Democrat who caucuses with Republicans, were the two senators chosen to represent the Senate Majority Caucus and sit behind the governor.
Inslee’s speech, which he gave after being sworn in for his second term, stressed the importance of the Legislature taking action to fund public schools this legislative session. In 2012, the Washington Supreme Court ruled in the McCleary case the state was violating the Constitution by not meeting its requirement to adequately fund the state’s public schools.
Wilson described the energy level as being high in Olympia and agreed with the governor that the time has come to stop under-funding the state’s public schools.
“We all understand that funding education is our paramount duty and he emphasized that,” she said. “He also emphasized the widespread problem of mental health and the opioid addictions we need to address that I agree needs our attention.”
Wilson also appreciated the governor mentioning that not all students want to or can go to college and the need for more vocational education.
“I am all for that,” Wilson said.
Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, who has been involved with the state’s school funding issues and sits on the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee, said the positive and upbeat tone was a welcome departure from the hyper-partisan rhetoric. She also appreciated the comments focused on other types of education.
“I led the standing ovation when he made his comments about changing the culture of college,” Rivers said. “The governor acknowledged that the education policy where all kids have to go to a four-year university to be successful — we’ve made kids ashamed to go into the trades. Now, we are in a crisis because our skilled workforce is limited.”
But, of course, there were times when Inslee veered into ideas the local Southwest Washington Republicans could not get behind.
“I simply cannot agree with the largest increase of nearly $14 billion in four years in taxes that he is recommending,” Wilson said.
Rivers agreed, calling his talk of raising taxes misleading and “off putting.”
And Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, who will also likely be a key player in the education funding crisis this session, called it disingenuous.
“The problem I have with the Democrats is they come up with the same solutions. We’ve looked at all these for the past five years and they have gone down in flames every time,” Harris said.
Voters have made it clear, Harris said, they don’t want to see huge tax hikes.
“My door still says representative. It doesn’t say king for a day,” Harris said. “We have to come up with something else, that’s where we have to do the hard work and we will.”
Time to reach summit
During those parts of the governor’s speech, where Democrats often applauded and Republicans didn’t, well, it was a little uncomfortable for Wilson, knowing she was sitting in front and on camera.
“I always want to be respectful of the office. I was just a bit more subdued during those particular instances,” she said.
Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, praised the governor for his clarity and focus during the speech. And she even used one of the governor’s favorite analogies — climbing a mountain.
“I agree that fully funding basic education is our responsibility to accomplish this year,” Cleveland said. “As the governor said, it is time for us to reach the summit and complete this task.”