Courtesy of the State of Washington

Governor: ‘Much Work to Be Done’ on Racism in the U.S.

President Donald Trump “never misses a chance to polarize America,” Inslee says.

Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday didn’t rule out taking a knee the next time he’s at an event where the National Anthem is played.

“I haven’t thought about that,” he said when asked at a news conference about the controversy stirred by President Donald Trump’s criticizing of professional football players who kneel during the anthem.

What he said he had thought about is how the president “never misses a chance to polarize America.”

“Whatever you think of this issue it is striking to me he could go to Charlottesville and talk about the fine people who are embracing racism and hatred and go to Alabama and attack people who are African-American and who happen to be talented,” he said.

“It was not necessary,” Inslee said. “What is necessary is that we have a discussion about how to improve this country and there’s much work to be done. If it takes some discomfort so be it. Sometimes things don’t improve unless there is a modest amount of discomfort. Freedom of speech is uncomfortable.”

Also Monday, Inslee had harsh words for the revised travel ban pushed by the president. It calls for Venezuela, North Korea and Chad to be added to the five Arab-majority countries whose residents’ ability to travel to and from the United States is restricted.

Inslee said the changes are no more than a “disguised attempt” to satisfy the anti-Muslim intent of his original travel ban. That prohibition got derailed by a lawsuit filed by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

“This president wants to remain divisive,” Inslee said. “He is divisive. This is yet more evidence of it.”

Closer to home, Inslee said there is a “reasonable chance” a water rights dispute that’s held up passage of a $4.2 billion capital budget can be resolved this year.

Inslee said he’d learned in the past couple of days of an idea from the building industry that offers a “glimmer of hope” to end the impasse that’s left rural property owners wondering if they’ll be able to build a home and drill a well.

The fight centers on a 2016 ruling by the Supreme Court known as the Hirst decision which said counties must determine whether there’s enough water available for a new well. Each county must come up with its own system for predicting the impact on water flowing to nearby streams or available to existing wells before issuing permits for new wells for rural homeowners.

Before commenting on Hirst, Inslee lambasted lawmakers for adjourning without getting the budget done. He again blasted the Republican-led Senate for holding the capital budget “hostage” as part of a strategy to get a Hirst deal.

Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake, the lead negotiator on this issue for Senate Republicans, has been asking the governor to get more involved. On Monday she said she was not aware of any new ideas.

“I hadn’t heard that. I’m very hopeful that we can get it done this year,” she said. “If we had not taken this stance we wouldn’t be talking about fixing the water situation for our rural citizens.”

And Inslee also put the kibosh on a Republican senator’s call for using a higher-than-expected increase in revenues to reduce a planned increase in the state property tax next year.

Next year, the state property tax will rise by 0.81 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. The additional revenue is to be poured into education. That money will help the state comply with a Supreme Court ruling in the McCleary case.

Senate Republicans proposed the tax hike and Democrats opposed it but relented during negotiations.

Now, Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, the chief budget writer and negotiator on education funding, wants to make the increase smaller by spending the additional $288 million the state is forecast to collect through mid-2019

Inslee said that can’t be done because those dollars are needed to plug holes discovered in the budget lawmakers passed hours before a government shutdown. He appreciated Braun’s recognition of the impact the tax could have on middle-income families as Inslee has been saying for months.

“It is a good sign that Senator Braun has come to see the world as I do,” Inslee said. “If he now agrees with me…we could make beautiful music together.”

jcornfield@heraldnet.com

This story first ran in the Everett Herald.

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