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Originally published February 6, 2012 at 8:23 PM | Page modified February 6, 2012 at 8:31 PM

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Inslee's jobs plan includes tax breaks, growing key industries

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee rolled out his jobs plan Monday, proposing new business tax breaks and a state government focused on growing key industries such as aerospace, clean energy and agriculture.

Seattle Times political reporter

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Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee rolled out his jobs plan Monday, proposing new business tax breaks and a state government focused on growing key industries such as aerospace, clean energy and agriculture.

Speaking at a South Seattle manufacturing plant, Inslee said that if elected he would demand "fundamental reforms" to make state government "more focused on the principal job of the state of Washington, which is job creation."

Inslee said he would create a new Office of Economic Competitiveness and Development, led by a Cabinet-level official reporting directly to him.

That office — which he'd create by shifting those functions away from the state Department of Commerce — would focus on business recruitment, coordinate trade missions and provide a "one-stop shop for industry engagement," according to the 29-page plan released by Inslee's campaign.

The economic-development efforts would zero in on seven key sectors: aerospace, clean energy, agriculture, information technology, life sciences, the military and small businesses.

Although Inslee has vowed to repeal special-interest tax exemptions as governor, his jobs plan would add new tax breaks and extend some existing ones.

Inslee proposed a business-and-occupation (B&O) tax credit for small businesses that hire workers, with the size of the credit increased depending on the workers' wages. He'd cap that at $4,000 per job created and $8 million total for the state.

His plan also calls for three years of tax breaks for biotechnology, clean-energy and computing startups. And he'd extend existing tax breaks for renewable-energy development and for companies that invest in manufacturing and research.

The plan would create new partnerships between government and businesses, including workforce-training programs and technical aid to firms seeking military contracts. And Inslee said state universities should work harder to produce more engineering and computer-science graduates to fill the demands of companies like Boeing and Microsoft.

Long known as a leading advocate of green power, Inslee said Washington should be a world leader in the next generation of clean-energy manufacturing.

"We know the global demand for affordable, sustainable energy will only grow," Inslee said. "The only question is where those jobs are going to be: China, Germany or Washington state?"

The Washington State Republican Party took shots at that part of Inslee's plan Monday, distributing a memo to news media about the failure of some local and national green-jobs programs and manufacturers.

While the jobs plan contained dozens of policy ideas and goals, Inslee did not specify how much the plan would cost or how it would be funded. He also did not say how many jobs it could create, though he spoke of "thousands of middle-class-paying jobs."

The jobs plan was the first of what Inslee promised will be several upcoming policy blueprints, with others to focus on health care, education and government reform.

Now serving his seventh term in Congress representing the 1st District, Inslee has long been the Democratic Party's choice to succeed Gov. Chris Gregoire, but has faced questions about his grasp of state issues and trailed in early polls against Attorney General Rob McKenna, Republican candidate for governor.

McKenna has sketched his own jobs plan, which focuses on regularly reviewing government regulations, giving small businesses new tax breaks and tort reform.

Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or jbrunner@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @Jim_Brunner.

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