6 points covered in Gov. Inslee's 2023 State-of-the-State address
Gov. Jay Inslee countered Washington’s many challenges with optimism in the state’s ability to overcome them, while also praising lawmakers’ recent work, during his 2023 State-of-the-State address Tuesday.
“Because of that work, I can proudly report that the state of our state is strong,” Inslee said.
Tuesday was the first time the governor delivered the annual State-of-the-State address in person at the Capitol in Olympia since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The address was given virtually in 2021 and 2022.
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The address focused on a handful of core issues, providing a preview of hot topics the Legislature will pick up this session: homelessness, housing, behavioral health, climate change, public safety, and education. In turn, Inslee hyped aspects of his proposed budget under consideration by lawmakers this session.
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Leaning most heavily into the issues of housing and homelessness, at the core of Inslee's address was a list of priorities, arguing that Washington should be a state where:
- Where everyone is housed
- Where our schools are safe from gun violence, and students receive the mental and educational support they need
- Where the existential crisis of climate change is met by unmatched innovation; Where communities feel welcoming and safe to all
- Where all people have a constitutional right to reproductive freedom
- Where people struggling with mental health or substance use no longer fall unseen and unheard through the cracks
“States across the country are seeing an increase in homelessness, and Washington is one of them. Why? There are multiple reasons. Though some people face behavioral health challenges or chemical addiction issues, the fundamental, underlying challenge is that we don’t have enough housing. It’s a difficult irony of having a strong economy. Well-paid workers flock here for jobs, forcing lower-paid workers to compete for housing. When there’s not enough housing for all, rents and prices skyrocket beyond what many can afford. Until we fix our housing crisis, thousands of people will remain homeless.”
“Again, until we fix our housing crisis, thousands of people will remain homeless.”
Inslee said that Washington is currently short 81,000 housing units and that the state needs another million over the next 17 years. He is proposing a $4 billion referendum aimed at speeding up construction of new housing units, including shelters, affordable housing, and supportive housing. The governor argues that the money “will turn into true assets that, once built, will provide a pipeline of affordable housing for tens of thousands of more people every year.”
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The referendum also proposes changes to the state’s ability to build housing. Inslee argued that residential zoning often prevents developers from constructing more dense housing structures, which are often more affordable options.
“We must finish the job we started last session to address middle housing and increase housing density within our communities," Inslee said. "There is a way to do this that respects the unique character of our towns and cities, while also responding to the reality that we are a growing, changing state.”
The governor highlighted climate efforts out of Olympia in recent years, such as the Climate Commitment Act in 2021, and a cap and invest program.
RELATED: Why Inslee says Washington can still meet carbon pollution goals
“We’ve passed several landmark policies that are transitioning us to clean transportation, clean electricity, and clean buildings," Inslee said. "Just last week, our clean fuel standard and cap-and-invest programs went into effect.”
“Now, our focus must shift to implementation and investment,” he said, further commenting that aspects of Washington environment are still under threat, pointing to the state’s efforts around salmon recovery. “Unfortunately, climate change will continue increasing the temperatures of our waters and killing salmon … let’s boldly continue our fight against climate change and salmon extinction this year.”
“That phrase, ‘public safety,’ evokes different meanings and ideas among people. We need to escape the trap that public safety is about any one thing – mental health, gun safety, drug treatment, or law enforcement. The fact is, we need them all. 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.”
Inslee urged lawmakers to advance gun safety proposals, such as a new requirement that gun buyers complete firearm safety courses; holding firearm manufacturers accountable when their products are used in crimes; a ban on the sale of military-style assault weapons.
RELATED: Washington governor, AG unveil 3 gun safety proposals
Included in his statements on public safety was a call to hire and train more police officers, sourced from within local diverse communities. Inslee added that 911 is not always the appropriate response to every emergency and praised the state’s efforts toward alternatives, such as the 988 system (a suicide and crisis hotline).
Inslee noted the Legislature’s previous investment in school funding, “so they can hire more nurses, counselors, psychologists, and social workers.”
“I’m also hopeful we can increase funding for special education. I’ve proposed more than $120 million to better support school districts as they meet the needs of every student they serve, no matter how complex the needs. All told, my budget proposal increases K-12 spending by $3 billion. We know that circumstances have been difficult for students, educators, paraeducators, school bus drivers, and others who work in our schools."
“The Dobbs decision last year on the national level upended decades of precedent that assured people across the country had at least some measure of constitutional protection for abortion care and contraception. That protection is gone for more than half the people in our country. And the new Republican majority in Congress this weekend made further abortion restrictions one of their top priorities.
"So, in Washington state, we are fighting to make sure that right remains protected. We must protect patient data and privacy. We must protect access from the threat of health care consolidation and cost barriers. We must protect patients and providers from persecution by vigilantes and activist politicians in anti-choice states. And we must pass a constitutional amendment that expressly establishes a fundamental right to reproductive freedom in Washington state.”