An hour or so after he was sworn in as Washington’s 23rd governor, Democrat Jay Inslee is delivering his inaugural address in the state House chambers this morning. Anyone hoping he would flesh out his campaign talking points – which critics thought were a bit vague – may be disappointed. The speech – based on the draft comments – is a bit light on specifics, too.
But Inslee, a Democrat with an eye to putting Washington ahead of other states on green jobs and responding to climate change, revisited those themes in his address, which also touch on school funding, the economy and other themes. He also spoke of bringing “innovation” to the culture of Olympia.
Hoping to lend his message urgency, Inslee’s speech was titled, “The World Will Not Wait.” Longtime speech writer Ben Vaught, who has written speeches for other governors, drafted it.
Notably, Inslee said: “There is no challenge is greater for Washington, with more opportunity for job growth, and more suited to our particular brand of genius and ingenuity, than leading the world’s clean energy economy. It is clear to me that we are the right state, at the right time, with the right people, and it’s also clear to me that we face grave and immediate danger if we fail to act.”
He did not address a carbon tax or other specific remedies to global warming. Inslee did restate his intention to seek a “tradeable” research and development tax credit for startup businesses and offered to help medium and small businesses.
Speaking a day after departing Gov. Chris Gregoire gave her final state of the state speech, Inslee acknowledged there is work to do in the areas Gregoire pointed out – education and transportation.
He said money is needed for the K-12 education system to answer the Supreme Court’s ruling in the McCleary case that said the state was not amply funding it. But in a message that dovetails with that of a Republican-led coalition in the Senate, he said money must be coupled with reforms.
Inslee also speaks of wanting a transportation package and said he would work with stakeholders, but he notably left out any target date for a deal. As a candidate, Inslee spoke of wanting to win over the public’s trust before going out with a revenue package on the ballot.
But in a nod to environmentalists, he said: “I want us to turn our innovative spirit towards crafting a transportation package that includes roads, trains, light rail, buses, bike routes and other modes of transportation.”
As he’s said before he favors expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare, believing the state benefits from new federal funds. Inslee also said he wants a reproductive parity bill to pass that would require health insurers to cover abortion.
And on a day President Obama was laying out proposals for gun control, Inslee said he wants a response to the “public health” threat posed by firearms in the aftermath of the Sandy, Conn., school shooting spree.
“I don’t have all the answers, but I know the sooner we reject the extremes and embrace common sense, the sooner we’ll be able to get a public health solution to this public health problem,” his prepared remarks say. “And common sense tells us that this solution will involve mental health and keeping guns out of the wrong hands, while respecting the right for my son to hunt, and my uncle to defend his home.”
Denis Hayes, CEO of the Bullitt Foundation and coordinator of the first Earth Day, spoke at Inslee’s swearing in – talking about 2012 as the hottest year on record in the United States.
The new governor is being filmed at the Capitol today by a crew for Showtime network, which is preparing a documentary on governors and climate change. Inslee aides said there is no certainty he will be featured.
We’ll have more later.
UPDATE: A more formal draft of Inslee’s speech text is and more formally here