The Stand

McKenna slick in debate, but Inslee’s values prevail



Last night, Jay Inslee squared off against Rob McKenna in a debate focused on jobs, the economy, and economic development. Inslee focused on the innovative spirit of Washingtonians and the new “innovation economy” and McKenna laid out what he called a “New Direction” for the state.

While McKenna is a slick speaker, it soon became apparent that his New Direction approach was all too familiar: cut taxes, cut regulations, cut services, and blame the victims of the economic crisis for the economic crisis. He exposed himself on this last point in his question to Inslee about voting for bills that extended credit to homebuyers, which McKenna blamed for causing the “housing meltdown.” Inslee took sharp exception with McKenna’s analysis and pointed out that he was among the few members of Congress who voted against the financial deregulation bill, undoing the Glass Steagall Act, which gave Wall Street banks the tools and incentive to undermine our economy.

On health care, McKenna had a hard time answering how he would address the one million Washingtonians without health coverage if the Affordable Care Act is found to be unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court — a lawsuit McKenna is a party to. While he suggested he would continue to work on the state’s Health Care Exchange and expanded Medicaid, if the ACA is ruled unconstitutional, the foundation and funding for these pieces likely goes away as well. So then we are left with McKenna’s old direction of Health Savings Accounts and the old Republican wish that insurance companies could sell their policies nationally. Everyone with great admiration for and trust in the big health insurance companies, please raise your hands!

Inslee recognizes health care for all as a value that we embrace in Washington state, but he is an absolute realist in recognizing that our state will be on its own if McKenna’s lawsuit takes down the the Affordable  Health Care Act. Inslee recognizes that this would not be a pretty picture and that allowing insurance companies once again to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions and for young adult dependents on their parents’ policies will only make our health care crisis worse.

With regards to basic education, McKenna says he supports the charter school initiative and supports spending $1 billion additional dollars on K 12 education. He claims that we will get this funding through squeezing the existing budget and repurposing government. In doing so, he shows his ignorance of the state budget process. More than 70 percent of the state budget can’t be cut because of either state constitutional and federal requirements. Coming up with $1 billion without raising taxes would require either shutting down our state’s higher education system, leaving our environment totally unprotected, and privatizing most of state government to private contractors that pay minimum wage.

Inslee’s answer to how to fund the $1 billion necessary for K-12 needs some more work, too. He said growing the innovation economy which will grow revenue. This, of course, takes time. He also suggests eliminating some tax loopholes. Inslee was right on the mark when he attacked McKenna for the contradiction of supporting charter schools and the tens of millions of public dollars that would require, and also promising that he would raise $1 billion for basic education.

When all is said and done, McKenna is a slick and polished politician, while Inslee is a candidate with deep character and values. This was my biggest takeaway from this debate and it is a no-brainer for me that Inslee will govern with the best interests of the people of our state in mind.

Jeff Johnson is President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, the largest labor organization in the Evergreen State, representing the interests of more than 500 local unions and 400,000 rank-and-file union members.

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Posted by on Jun 13 2012. Filed under OPINION. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

2 Comments for “McKenna slick in debate, but Inslee’s values prevail”

  1. Doug

    Good observations. It appears that Jeff was pre-inclined to support Inslee from the onset. Anyone that would portray McKenna as a ‘slick speaker’ is obviously doing so only to discredit him. And to purport that Superior Court decisions on constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act is a political decision doesn’t undersatnd the the Judicial branch of gov’t and its purpose. McKenna is a straight thinking, functional proponent of rational execution of policy and has a record of doing the right thing without the banner waving and political pagentry that our current governor so ineffectively has used. I look forward to the change.

    • Dan7

      An opinion piece where the writer is already “pre-inclined”? What a concept! That obviously discredits anything they might want to say.
      Actually, McKenna pre-discredits himself. Instead of doing his job (upholding the law, acting as advocate for the state government, etc), he jumped on the “repeal and replace” bandwagon before the ink was dry on the bill, something that no one in the state government asked him to do. And well before we had the chance to actually see most of PPACA in action, and decide for ourselves, as voters, if we liked the results.
      I may not understand how the Judicial branch works, but I can recognize political opportunism. McKenna is just checking the one and only box on the now-mandatory application form to run for Republican higher office: “Will you oppose anything Obama does?”
      It’s not like no other red state or Republican think-tank wasn’t going to challenge the law all the way to the Supreme Court. So why did WA need to join the suit? What do we get out of McKenna’s grandstanding? Do all Washingtonians get a free visit to a doctor of our choice if the law is struck down? No, we get to keep getting mugged by the health insurance lobby.
      And this is the least of our concerns when it comes to McKenna. I don’t care how rational he may appear. He’s a Republican, and if I know one thing about modern Republicans, it’s that they cannot be trusted to govern in the same manner in which they campaign. His promise not to pursue the Scott Walker model of labor relations isn’t worth a dime. Any union voter who votes for the “change” that McKenna would bring is in for a nasty surprise.

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