Between Jay Inslee’s days as an economics major at the University of Washington and his election to Congress – first in 1993 in central Washington and again in 1999 representing the suburbs north and west of Seattle – he’s done some unusual things.
He’s driven a bulldozer in Bellevue, run jackhammers at construction sites, painted houses in Burien, waited tables in Edmonds, taught community college classes, earned a law degree from Willamette University, prosecuted drunk drivers, and represented Hanford nuclear. He’s even grown alfalfa in Yakima.
That list of experiences is of value, he says, because it gives him an understanding of working-class people in our state.
He believes the middle class is slipping away in the United States and in Washington.
“We have over 300,000 good people in our state who aren’t working and when that happens your revenues fall off the cliff. That’s what happened in the state of Washington,” says Inslee, a Democrat. “The best, most important, most fundamental thing we have to do is get people back to work.”
Inslee, sitting less than a foot away from me, with piercing eyes and hands gesturing toward the window of his downtown Seattle campaign headquarters, gets fired up talking about creating more tech jobs here.
“In Seattle, I can throw a rock from here and hit the EnerG2 company, which is the leading ultra-capacitor company to help electric cars take off,” says Inslee. “We need more companies like that.”
We’ve already had two technological revolutions in our state, he says. The first revolution was in aeronautics with Boeing. The second was with computer technology, driven by Microsoft. Inslee wants to lead a third economic uprising based on clean technology.
Many clean energy companies already exist in the state. Moses Lake’s REC Silicon is the world’s largest manufacturer of the raw materials for solar panels and electronic industries. Spokane-based Itron has nearly 8,000 utilities worldwide relying on their technology to optimize the delivery and use of energy and water.
With the right tax incentives, other manufactures could be lured here creating more jobs for residents. He wants to close tax loopholes while giving tax breaks to start-up research companies. The cap for a company would be $4,000 per job created, up to $8 million for the state.
Inslee’s clean technology proposal is part of a larger economic plan that focuses on aerospace, biotech, agriculture, small businesses, the military and information technology in Washington state.
“We are fifth per capita in the United States for technical jobs, but we’re 45th per capita in the production of people to fill those jobs,” he says. “We’re basically filling these jobs, these tremendous well-paid jobs, with everybody else’s children around the country, rather than ours. We need to reverse that.”
Creating jobs is a main concern, but as governor Inslee would have to deal with other issues including same-sex marriage. Inslee supports the state’s marriage equality legislation and he does not want voters to overturn it.
“I’ve been in a marriage of 39 years and I know the rewards of that long-term relationship and I know the rewards of the community recognizing it,” says Inslee, who turns 61 this Thursday. “No politician should be allowed to deny any of my fellow citizens that right to decide who they love.”
Of his competition in the Governor’s race, Inslee only says he “respects all” of his opponents but “fears none” of his opponents.
Next Tuesday, a profile of Attorney General Rob McKenna who also wants to be Governor of Washington.
By Linda Thomas
AP file photo/Kevin P. Casey from June 27, 2011 when Congressman Inslee announced his bid for governor of Washington