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Cato Institute on why Jay Inslee gets a failing grade

The Cato Institute gave Governor Jay Inslee a failing grade for his taxation policies. (MyNorthwest)

When grades came out, it was a big red F for Governor Jay Inslee.

That’s according to the Cato Institute, based in Washington, D.C., which ranked Inslee as the worst governor in the nation in terms of taxation and spending policies.

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“He has just been like an Energizer bunny in pushing tax hikes,” said Chris Edwards, the Cato Institute’s director of tax policy, while speaking with KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson.

The Institute gave all 50 governors letter grades, as well as numbered scores out of a possible 100. The highest-ranked governor, New Mexico’s Susana Martinez (R) received a 73. Jay Inslee received a 23 — a full seven points behind the governor in next-to-last place, Oregon Governor Kate Brown (D). The seven-point gap is the largest between any two governors on the entire scorecard.

Edwards explained that the governors were graded on the amount of taxes and spending in their budgets, in the laws they have signed, and in those they have vetoed. There was no political ax to grind against any particular politician.

Dori recalled that when Inslee was first elected, he came on the show and promised not to raise taxes.

“He was lying to you because his first year in office, he proposed a billion dollars in higher taxes in his very first budget, in 2013,” Edwards told Dori.

Edwards added that Inslee proposed even more taxes the following year, such as a capital gains tax, cigarette tax, gas tax, and more taxes on business.

“He obviously was planning these big tax increases and it continues now, six years later,” he said.

At the same time, Edwards said, government spending in Washington has increased 31 percent in just the past two budget cycles.

RELATED: Inslee gears up for 2020 run, but doesn’t know the state of economy

Breaking taxation promises is not just limited to governors on the left — Edwards noted that some Republican governors, such as Massachusetts’ Charlie Baker (who received a D on the report card), are also guilty of telling voters they will keep taxes low, only to turn around and raise taxes.

“I think part of what my study does is, it deflates some of people’s preconceived notion of some of the governors, and scores them based on what they’ve actually done,” he said.

As Edwards pointed out, Washington attracts both startups and established tech companies because it is one of the few states in the nation without a state-imposed personal income tax.

“Inslee clearly doesn’t understand this — I mean, pushing a capital gains tax would be a dagger at the heart of the high-tech industry in Washington state; it’s just really stupid,” Edwards said. “And I think some of these governors, they surround themselves with bad advisers, they don’t understand the dynamics in the economy, they take the economic growth for granted.”

Unfortunately, he said, the policies Jay Inslee has put into place during his time in office “will be negative for the future.”

One of these policies — the carbon tax in Initiative 1631 that Inslee has praised as necessary to fight climate change — is in the hands of Washington voters, Edwards said.

“I think that would be a terrible idea, but ultimately, it’s going to be up to state residents to decide,” he said.

On the burning question — whether Inslee will make a run for president in 2020 — Edwards said he did not know, but noted that Inslee is certainly not the only contender with such pro-taxation and pro-spending economic ideals. Edwards pointed out that many of the current Democratic front-runners are quite far left in terms of fiscal policy.

“The combination of national spending hikes and tax hikes — it’s not what we need at the national government, certainly,” he said.

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