Tough times for governor make McKenna best choice

This is not an easy time to be Washington's new governor.

The budget is in serious crisis, and almost everyone has an opinion about how to fix it.

Having two strong contenders in the race is a positive for state voters.

Attorney General Rob McKenna, a Republican, and former U.S. Congressman Jay Inslee, a Democrat, both bring a wealth of experience to the race.

As Gov. Christine Gregoire, who chose not to run for a third term, says, whoever follows her will inherit a $1.5 billion problem, and there are no easy fixes left.

Any budget cuts during the next governor's term will hurt state residents, she said. Many would argue that funding cuts made under Gregoire's watch -- like those to higher education -- have already had an impact.

It surely is a messy time to be governor. People and programs are going to be affected in negative ways, no matter what the next governor does.

Sometimes tough decisions can reap positive results and help motivate people. Challenges during tough economic times can bring innovative solutions and force government to adopt better ways of doing things.

Even so, $1.5 billion goes deep, and the decisions ahead will be painful for many Washington families.

Given that economic reality, McKenna is the best choice for Washington at this critical juncture.

He's a proponent of regulatory and education reforms, and believes programs like state managed Worker's Compensation insurance should be open to competition.

McKenna believes state employees and teachers should be paid for performance, not seniority. He says Washington spends more on health insurance for state employees than it does on higher education. And that needs to change.

We like the fact that he has the best interests of small businesses in mind and wants to find ways to decrease state-mandated costs to them so they can increase profits and hire more people.

He wants to restore the Legislature's role in collective bargaining with state employee unions, putting the lawmakers responsible for balancing the state budget back in charge of one of the biggest expenses.

He's proved his willingness to stand up and fight for our state, taking on the federal government over Yucca Mountain and health-care reform. (We applaud the former, and we wish he had skipped the latter.)

McKenna is sharp and has shown his worth in two terms at one of the top elected positions in our state.

Inslee is no slouch. He served the state for 13 years as a congressman, representing districts on both sides of the Cascades, before resigning to run for governor.

He knows a lot about Washington. Inslee started his career in politics in Yakima, but later moved to the west side of the state where Democrats usually fare better.

Both candidates are students of the lean management concept and proponents of education. Inslee is a big fan of programs like our own Delta High School. Inslee beats a loud drum for innovation, but he has a hard time explaining just what that means.

Inslee sometimes seems like a candidate who is spoon fed by his staff while McKenna comes across as well-versed on his own.

We look forward to watching McKenna lead this state. We believe his leadership will be thoughtful and reasoned, and that he truly will have the best interests of our state at heart.

The Tri-City Herald editorial board recommends Rob McKenna for governor.