Thursday, November 15, 2012

Jay Inslee vs. Obama

Posted by on Thu, Nov 15, 2012 at 11:50 AM

Scream if you like—I'm taking the day off from screaming—but Governor-elect Jay Inslee sacrificed a little candor when he campaigned against Republican Rob McKenna, like adopting positions to oppose tax hikes (Inslee even lambasted a school-funding plan by McKenna that could raise taxes) and pot legalization. I don't think Inslee believed in either position. Democrats know the state is $2 billion short for the next biennial budget and that we'll need billions more for K-12, higher ed, Disability Lifeline, Basic Health, etc. All that stuff will require raising taxes. And Dems like Jay don't actually support marijuana policies that target racial minorities and waste money. But that's politics: Inslee did what he thought he had to do to win the election—and that meant guarding against attacks about being a tax-'n-spend drug pusher.

Fair enough.

But Inslee's painted himself into a corner, and now he's got to paint himself out of it. The number-one challenge for Olympia is correcting a structural revenue deficit. (We rely on sales taxes for about half of our revenue, but the sale of goods is shrinking part of the state's economy.) Taxes need to rise under Inslee's watch, most likely by letting the legislature send an income tax measure to voters while Inslee stays mum. And as for pot, well, he's in a corner there, too. That pot-legalization initiative Inslee opposed? Voters passed it. And now he has to either take sides with the Feds, which say all pot is illegal, or he has to stand up for the voters who approved pot legalization by an even wider margin than they elected him.

Natch, he's standing with the voters. Inslee held a press conference yesterday in which the inevitable pot question came up, and local politics blog PubliCola transcribed his answer:

My belief is Washington has worked its will. The voters have spoken. I was not supportive of the initiative but I’m going to be fully supportive of protecting, defending, and implementing the will of the voter—which will essentially allow the use of recreational marijuana in our state.

So I will be working to a very rational, mature ways to convince the [Obama] administration that it's in the best interest, not only of our state, but in our country, to allow our state to move forward in this regard.

And I believe that makes sense for the country for this reason: We have a principal of federalism in our country that has worked well. We’ve allowed states to be incubators of new ideas of, and I think it’ll serve the nation well to allow the state of Washington and Colorado to serve as incubators of a new policy. And I don’t think there’s any reason that that’s antithetical to national security or interstate commerce. This is a local decision of a local state, and we’re going to do everything we can in this administration in that regard and hopefully that’ll happen. I think there’s some positive signs that we’ll be able to prevail…….

I don’t want to be too optimistic about this but my sense is there’s an honest consideration going on in the administration. My sense is we probably won’t have a clear cut answer to that for some time, but I look at that as a good sign. I’m going to look at that as a glass-half-full here. I have not communicated with the administration. It’s a gut check, glass-half-full, the door remains open to allow our state to look forward as we have in so many ways.

Right on, Jay! Remember back when the White House said, "Legalization is not in the president's vocabulary." Uh, it sure is now—thanks in part to our future governor. The next question is how Washington can regulate growing and selling marijuana. Any way this goes—and I don't think Obama really oppose legalization, either—we've either got a governor who can keep the feds out or who will smartly defend the state in a federal showdown.

Now let's see if he can thread the needle on raising revenue.


Comments (6) RSS

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I'm with you that Inslee shouldn't have made that pledge and will need to show leadership on new revenue. But he is not the only person culpable for this failure. The electorate is not yet in the position it needs to be to support new taxes. I-1098's failure was a warning sign. So too was the failure of transit taxes in Pierce and Clark Counties. So too was the non-binding rejection of the two tax advisory votes on the statewide ballot last week.

Inslee needs to step up, absolutely. But Washington's utterly incompetent progressive infrastructure, particularly its failing advocacy organizations, have been AWOL on these issues too. They need to be out there identifying their base, organizing them into activists, and getting them to help deploy a drumbeat message that says "Washington voters demand new taxes."

No politician is going to storm the barricades of the anti-tax movement unless they are convinced there's a horde behind them. And right now there's no assurance that there is a horde. We can and should browbeat Inslee on this. But nothing will change without some dramatically better organizing from progressives on this issue. It's Olympia we have to worry about. It's Issaquah, Lynnwood, Puyallup, and similar places where the battle for new revenue will be won or lost.
Posted by junipero on November 15, 2012 at 12:03 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 2
This reminds me of the state dem convention when the powers that be didn't want to admit the drug war is a failure and shut down amendments of the party platform.
Posted by Will in Seattle on November 15, 2012 at 12:46 PM · Report this
I think it was unfortunate for inslee to swear off raising taxes, though like you i can see why he may have thought he had no choice but to make that promise. Problem is, breaking it will likely destroy his political future, unless he can come up with a voter-supported initiative to raise taxes that he can bow to support.

It does strike me that these two positions on pot and taxes are convenient, though, in that no one will hold it against him to implement stiff taxes on everything related to pot... Too bad that isnt likly to yeild enough revenue on its own.
Posted by Xtoph on November 15, 2012 at 1:26 PM · Report this
internet_jen 4
The Liquor Control Board is supposed to have guidelines in place to license sellers by December 2013, if that happens on time we'll have 11 months to show the rest of the country how it goes before the 2014 elections, if any other states are able to put decriminalization on their ballot.
Posted by internet_jen on November 15, 2012 at 2:00 PM · Report this
One of the arguments for legalizing recreational marijuana was that it could be taxed. There is no way to really know how much revenue this means yet, but the Olympian reports:

"The state budget office thinks Initiative 502 could bring in as much as $800 million in extra state revenue in the next budget period, but says there are too many uncertainties to count on the money."…

That doesn't cover all the shortfall, but sure does make up a big chunk of it.
Posted by screed on November 15, 2012 at 4:41 PM · Report this
Posted by pupuguru on November 15, 2012 at 8:29 PM · Report this

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