PASCO, Wash. –Incumbent Governor Jay Inslee takes on Republican challenger Bill Bryant at Columbia Basin College at the gubernatorial debate Wednesday.
The candidates are only weeks away from the November election. Action News sat down with both candidates to talk about issues they plan to address, and the candidates don't see eye-to-eye on many issues.
Bryant portrayed Inslee as an ineffective Governor, with no plan for the future and he insists he will take a much different approach.
Meanwhile, Inslee spoke about his love for Washington, the success he’s seen in the state, and described himself as an upbeat governor looking forward to the next 4 years.
When it comes to issues on education, the rivals differ over how to satisfy the Supreme Court’s McCleary ruling to fund basic education by 2018.
Bryant said he wants to use a combination of property taxes and state funds, he said he plans to allocate 50 to 51 percent of the state budget on K-12 education.
“What we need to do is equalize the levy rate across the state so every property tax for schools is pretty much more or less the same,” Bryant said. “That raises whatever it raises in that community and then the state makes up the difference. So that every child is having the same amount of money spent on them.”
Inslee said he plans to use additional revenue from economic growth to invest in early childhood education. He said, according to Business Insider, Washington has the number one economy in the country.
“When we increase our economy, more revenues come into the State Treasury from a variety of taxes,” Inslee said. “We want to use that additional revenue, put it into schools, solve the McCleary Decision and give our kids what they deserve, which is a bright future, and we’re going to do that.”
The candidates spoke of their plans to continue to improve education at all levels.
Bryant said he has a three-step program: First he wants to change the way the state funds schools; second, he plans to spend 50 to 51 percent of the budget on K-12 education; and third, he wants create apprenticeships for the last two years of high school.
“Let’s reinvent the last two years with apprenticeship programs and industry certification programs that allow kids not only to graduate with a high school diploma, but also with a certificate that allows them to get a family wage job,” Bryant said.
Inslee spoke of his success providing all-day kindergarten, creating smaller class sizes for early grades, better paid and trained teachers and tuition cuts at public colleges. Moving forward, he said he also plans to create apprenticeships for high school students. Plus, he wants to offer more financial aid for students seeking higher education, particularly at community colleges. Lastly, he said he will continue investing in early childhood education.
“We need to provide students with good teachers, teachers who understand culture competency, we need more diversity in our teacher rank, we need to give people role models in our schools,” Inslee said. “And we intend to do that in part by recruiting and retaining and training great teachers because that’ the single most important thing in a child’s life.”
On issues of gun control, both candidates support the initiative on the ballot that will allow family members to petition a judge to remove guns from a relative dealing with mental health issues. However, they differ on the right to carry.
“I own a gun and I support the Second Amendment, but I don’t have a problem with background checks or waiting periods,” Bryant said.
“I don’t think weapons of war are necessary,” Inslee said.
When talking about Hanford, Bryant said that he wants to decrease the time and money spent in court litigating issues and look to find solutions to the problems at the nuclear site.
“Let’s be flexible enough to work with the contractors and the feds, while still holding their feet to the fire, but recognizing we’ve got to work together on this.” Bryant said. “We can’t be battling each other all the time.
Meanwhile, Inslee spoke of his personal connection to the Hanford site, after representing the area in U.S. Congress. He added that he’s insisted the federal government improves safety for Hanford workers.
“Now I’m also committed to making sure that the federal government does its job of financing the cleanup,” Inslee said.
And when to comes to raising minimum wage and offering paid sick leave – the candidates clash again.
Inslee is in favor of the initiative to raise minimum wage and opportunities for paid sick leave across Washington state.
“I’m wholeheartedly in favor of it,” he said. “It will give people a living wage, it will help our economy because when people have a living wage they can be better consumers and they can help grow small businesses.”
Bryant said he doesn’t agree with a “one size fits all” approach to raising minimum wage, and believes the initiative would hurt workers instead of help.
“If you take a minimum wage increase that is based out of King County’s cost of living and impose it on small businesses in those downtowns, you’re going to either cause people to lose their jobs or lose benefits or have their hours cut,” Bryant said.