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Public Investments Key to WA Governor's Recovery Vision

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Thursday, January 14, 2021   

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Jay Inslee was sworn in for his third term as Washington state governor and delivered his State of the State address Wednesday.

Inslee focused on the COVID-19 crisis and laid out a vision for an equitable recovery from the pandemic.

Misha Werschkul, executive director of the Washington State Budget and Policy Center, said the governor's proposed budget, released in December, outlines investments in public services and prioritizes racial equity, but her group sees it as just a start on the path toward an equitable recovery.

"What I would say, though, is that in many cases, his budget doesn't go far enough to be able to really make that vision that he laid out a reality, in the short term," Werschkul contended.

Inslee's budget, for instance, includes a one-time investment of $10 million into the Immigrant Worker Relief Fund. The Washington State Budget and Policy Center thinks lawmakers should invest in a permanent income-support program for undocumented workers.

The group also suggested the Legislature invest more money in programs like Housing and Essential Needs, to improve access to affordable housing and prevent homelessness.

However, the state faces a massive budget shortfall because of the pandemic, which is leading to calls for cuts.

Werschkul noted cuts did not bode well for states in the wake of the Great Recession.

"If what we really want to do is get our economy back on track, the best way to do that is actually to have more public spending and investment in communities," Werschkul asserted. "Getting that money flowing is going to be what helps our economy, long term."

Hers, and other progressive groups, are urging lawmakers to make the state's tax system more equitable. Washington's wealthiest residents have some of the lowest tax rates in the country.

The governor spoke frankly about racial inequities in Washington state.

Werschkul added that frank discussion will help the state prioritize communities of color.

"I do think it's really important that both the governor and the Legislature are talking about processes that are more equitable, in terms of the development of the state budget," Werschkul concluded.


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