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Washington will fare best with McKenna as governor

Post by TNT Editorial Board / The News Tribune on Oct. 13, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
October 12, 2012 5:46 pm

Rob McKenna

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

Washington has two substantial candidates for governor this year, state Attorney General Rob McKenna and Jay Inslee. McKenna is the standout.

Inslee, a Democrat, has had a creditable career as a federal lawmaker. He represented the 1st Congressional District from 1999 until earlier this year, when he stepped down to focus on the governor’s race.

One stark difference between the two is administrative experience. Inslee’s résumé has nothing to compare with McKenna’s eight years running the
Office of the Attorney General, which amounts to an immense law firm employing hundreds of attorneys.

It’s not just that he ran the office; he ran it well. His most impressive achievement, perhaps, was his multi-pronged, multi-state offensive against banks that had preyed on homebuyers and homeowners with dishonest lending and foreclosure practices.

This year, he and several of his peers from other states pushed JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, City and GMAC into a $25 billion settlement.

We’ve been particularly impressed with his commitment to open government. One of his innovations was the appointment of an ombudsman to intervene on behalf of citizens whose requests for public records were being frustrated by state and local officials.

As McKenna has campaigned for governor this year, he has been more willing than Inslee to spell out the specifics of his plans for the state.

For example, he has laid out a detailed road map for progressively devoting more legislative funding to the public schools, as required by the Washington Supreme Court’s McCleary decision of last January.

It can be criticized – because it exists in detail. Inslee’s approach is much harder to criticize, because it is much more vague.

Our single biggest disappointment with Inslee is the way he has been distorting an important school-funding option, the “levy swap,” into a cheap line of attack on the Republican.

There are various ways to achieve a levy swap, an idea supported wholeheartedly by some Democrats. They all involve reducing local school levies and channeling the money to public education through the state instead, which can be done in a revenue-neutral way.

Defined broadly, this is an approach McCleary almost necessitates: More state support for schools, less dependence on local funding that can vary wildly from one district to another. It also promises relief to property-poor school districts.

McKenna supports the concept. Inslee has dismissed it as a “gimmick” and tried to paint McKenna as a tax-hound for entertaining a serious, bipartisan idea. That’s irresponsible.

We don’t think this is a close choice. What McKenna offers is what the state needs.

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