At a press conference today in Olympia, hosted by the Associated Press, Governor-Elect Jay Inslee refused to directly back up a campaign pledge he made on the campaign trail to veto new taxes. “I would veto anything that heads the wrong direction and the wrong direction is new taxes in the state of Washington,” Inslee had said in an October gubernatorial debate against Republican Rob McKenna.
But today Inslee told reporters that he was willing "entertain ideas… from every part of the political compass," adding later, speaking about the transportation budget specifically, "I don't think we should take off the table any funding mechanism…"
I asked Inslee if that meant that he stood by his campaign statement to veto any new taxes. "What I said was that we needed funding for transportation. I would not eliminate any source of revenue for transportation," Inslee said. What about funding for education, which the state supreme court found we were deeply underfunding in its McCleary decision? Would he veto a bill that raised taxes for education or other purposes? Inslee seemed to waffle. "I believe we need to look at economic growth... and closing tax loopholes," he said before quickly taking a question from another reporter. But he never said yes or no. With budget shortfalls in the state's forecast and court mandate to fund basic education, this seems like a question Inslee will need to answer in office.
"He still didn't answer the question," one reporter told me shortly afterward. Another reporter who asked to remain anonymous added, "He didn't answer the question. Fuck no, he didn't answer anything."
So I followed Inslee down the hall and out the door, asking for clarification—directly: Do you still pledge to veto new taxes for education? "I am not going to answer another question because I don't want to encourage people to follow me to my car out of press conferences," Inslee said with a smile. Inslee further added that, by asking him to clarify his position, I was attempting to "shanghai" him.
Nonetheless, in an interview in the hallway afterward, Inslee campaign spokesman Sterling Clifford said that the governor still fully plans to veto any new taxes, even to meet the state's constitutional obligation for education funding. Clifford insisted, "He is standing by his pledge."