Gov. Jay Inslee was in Bellingham Tuesday to meet with students and staff at Shuskan Middle School to talk about a state grant that provides support to beginning educators.
He also spoke at Western Washington University’s Institute for Energy Studies’ 2017 Energy Symposium.
In addition, Inslee sat down with editors at The Bellingham Herald for a question-and-answer session about issues facing Whatcom County, and the state.
On school funding: Inslee said he hopes to get Republicans and Democrats to the negotiating table soon to fully fund education and meet the requirements of the state Supreme Court’s McCleary ruling.
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“This has been like dragging a rock uphill,” Inslee said. “My timeline is ‘as fast as we can.’ Right now my challenge is getting the Republicans to negotiate. ... They’ve got to get to the table. We’ve got to find consensus here.”
The parties’ plans vary widely in what and how they would fund education. Inslee said his plan, which counts on a carbon tax among other funding sources, offers pre-school-to-college solutions.
On mental health reform: He said he was hopeful lawmakers will agree on some form of community-based mental health reform that will divert people who might be headed for the criminal justice system and possibly ease homelessness. He cited the success of the “housing first” model, like Catholic Housing Services’ facility on Cornwall Avenue. He toured Francis Place, a Catholic Communities Services apartment for the homeless, earlier Tuesday.
On water use: Inlsee said legislators are working to develop regional authorities to deal with water use regulations related to the state Supreme Court’s Hirst decision. But, he cautioned the state must balance an individual’s desire for water rights with the rights of others.
“People sometimes forget a water right is a property right,” he said. “There’s a commonly viewed scenario in which there’s two different kinds of water rights. One is mine, which is really important, and one is everybody else’s, which is subordinate and really not that big a deal. You can’t do that.”
He was hopeful some form of water banking could be used to deal with competing interests.