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Thursday, February 7, 2013 - Page updated at 08:00 p.m.

Inslee warns Senate GOP ‘has gone backward’ on energy, workers’ comp

By Andrew Garber
Seattle Times Olympia Bureau

Politics NW

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee warned Senate Republicans on Wednesday he opposes several bills they’ve introduced on energy and the state’s workers’ compensation system, and is concerned by their reluctance to embrace the national health-care law.

It’s the first time the new governor has weighed in on what the Legislature is doing this session.

“I’m very concerned the Senate has gone backward in two areas,” Inslee said at a news conference Wednesday. He then criticized moves by the Republican-led majority in the Senate to amend Initiative 937 and to revamp the workers’ compensation system.

Inslee’s staff said he was particularly concerned by a proposal that would change I-937 to recognize hydroelectricity as a renewable resource.

The initiative requires about a third of the state’s utilities — those with at least 25,000 customers — to get 15 percent of their power through renewable sources such as wind and solar by 2020.

Most of the state’s energy comes from hydroelectric power, but existing hydroelectric power isn’t considered renewable energy under I-937, because the initiative was aimed at spurring development of new clean energy.

Inslee said he did not support the GOP proposals regarding the initiative, arguing, “It would take us backward instead of forward.”

He also jumped on plans by the Senate majority to revamp the state workers’ compensation system, saying they would “reduce protections for workers and their families. I think they are unnecessary.”

And the governor urged the Senate to move quickly to expand Medicaid as called for under the national health-care law.

If states expand Medicaid programs to cover low-income people now left out, the federal government will pick up the full cost for the first three years and 90 percent over the long haul.

Inslee called that a good deal that will save the state money both now and in the future. “This is a no-brainer,” he said.

Leaders of the GOP-led coalition in the Senate dismissed his criticism, saying the changes they’re proposing for I-937 and workers’ compensation are needed to help the economy.

Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, said the caucus (made up of 23 Republicans and two Democrats) is open to the idea of expanding Medicaid, but they want to make sure there is a way to back out if state costs for the program increase too much in the future.

Andrew Garber: 360-236-8268 or agarber@seattletimes.com


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