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Originally published Saturday, June 16, 2012 at 4:00 PM

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Gubernatorial candidates Inslee, McKenna need to fine-tune fiscal positions

The Seattle Times editorial board takes a look at the positions on spending and taxes offered by Washington gubernatorial candidates Jay Inslee and Rob McKenna and finds both of them too vague.

Seattle Times Editorial

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Are you kidding? McKenna does have a plan,where it will cut some parts of Government... MORE
Inslee does not have a credible fiscal position because he is a wet noodle. His... MORE
Inslees plan is ridiculous. Nobody is going to hire a new employee for a one time $4,00... MORE

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ON state spending and taxes, Democrat Jay Inslee and Republican Rob McKenna have yet to lay out a believable program.

In running to replace Gov. Chris Gregoire, each is eager to tell voters he will spend more on schools and colleges, a position this page supports. To pay for this, each vows to make government more efficient and to examine every tax loophole. But everyone says this, and we are inclined to discount it. Beyond that, the two have a difference:

Former U.S. Rep. Inslee says he has a way for the state's economy to create new revenue. He would excuse high-tech startup companies from paying business tax in their first three years. Certain zero-revenue companies would get a tax credit. He would offer a subsidy of up to $4,000 in state money per new job. He says these and other measures would put the 280,000 unemployed Washingtonians to work, thereby generating more revenue for schools.

Attorney General McKenna would mostly raise the money by cutting back on other government expenses. He would lessen the state's legal payouts by repealing the doctrine of joint and several liability, increase the Legislature's power over state employee contracts, reduce the number of state employees through attrition, move Medicaid from fee-for-service to managed care, and raise the share of premium state employees pay for health insurance from 15 to 25 percent.

Inslee's plan has no pain in it. If we were convinced it would work we would be for it. We are doubtful, however, whether it would pay enough quickly enough.

McKenna's reforms would definitely save money, but we are also not sure if it would be enough, and we doubt whether he could get most of them through the Legislature, as currently comprised.

Neither candidate dares advocate a general tax increase, though it is notable Inslee opposes the two-thirds rule for the Legislature to raise taxes. That rule, passed in 2010 as Initiative 1053, has been declared unconstitutional by a King County judge, but the ruling is not the final one, and signatures are being collected for the people to vote on the two-thirds rule again.

McKenna supports the two-thirds rule. On taxes, the disagreement may be the most telling difference between the two candidates.

Still, they need to lay out more clearly what they will be able to do, and expect to do, when the winner takes office next January.


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