Housing, gun violence top Gov. Inslee’s 2023 agenda
Making housing available to everyone and addressing gun violence are the top priorities for Gov. Jay Inslee.
Speaking to a joint session of the state legislature, Inslee said, “If we continue building on the investments and policies we’ve started, we can build a Washington where everyone is housed and where our schools are safe from gun violence.”
In his 2023 state-of-the-state address, the governor proposed raising the state debt limit and earmarking a $4 billion referendum for housing.
“If there was ever a time to go big, it’s now,” he said.
“States across the country are seeing an increase in homelessness, and Washington is one of them,” Inslee said. “Though some people face behavioral health challenges or chemical addiction issues, the fundamental, underlying challenge is that we don’t have enough housing.”
Inslee said it is partly an irony of having a strong economy.
“Until we fix our housing crisis, thousands of people will remain homeless,” Inslee explained. “I understand the frustration of those who wonder why this problem isn’t solved yet. And I understand the allure of easy answers to homelessness. But there is no easy answer.”
The governor is hoping the referendum will speed up the construction of thousands of new units. He said they will include shelters, supportive housing, and affordable housing.
Inslee said the state needs 81,000 housing units and it’s growing every day.
The governor explained the money from the referendum will be combined with behavioral health support, substance use treatment, and employment services.
Inslee also addressed the growing gun violence problem in the state. “One thing we know is that gun violence is a significant driver of increased crime. This isn’t a surprise considering the gun lobby has worked for decades against commonsense gun safety measures,” he said.
Inslee believes that “voters and legislators have been willing to take on the gun lobby. We’ve enacted several measures to strengthen background checks and limits on the kinds of weaponry used in mass shootings.”
He laid out a three-point plan to address the problem.
Inslee wants to require people to have safety training before they purchase a gun. He said we must demand more accountability from gun manufacturers and dealers when they fail to follow the law. And third, he said its time to ban the sale of military-style assault weapons in the state.
“We owe our children the assurance we’re doing all we can to keep them safe,” he said.
Among other items, the governor outlined: All people should have a constitutional right to reproductive freedom, and people struggling with mental health or substance use should get the support that is needed.
The new legislative session has just begun.