Opinion

No more taxpayer subsidies for Inslee presidential campaign. Pay your security bill, governor

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee gets into his official vehicle near a member of his security detail following a speaking engagement at the University of Washington in Seattle on March 6.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee gets into his official vehicle near a member of his security detail following a speaking engagement at the University of Washington in Seattle on March 6. AP

Jet lag, heartburn from chicken dinners and drymouth from endlessly reciting political talking points aren’t the only afflictions that come with running for president. For Gov. Jay Inslee and others who’ve sought federal office, a bruised ego can be part of the price of admission, caused by a harsh media spotlight — and plenty of potshots from folks back home.

Some of the second-guessing Inslee’s faced from his home state is off base. As we’ve said before, his resume as a Washington legislator, congressman and two-term governor is unmatched and should make him a credible candidate to replace Donald Trump in the White House. His climate change message also deserves to be heard.

But one criticism of Inslee’s longshot bid for the 2020 Democratic nomination is spot on: Washington taxpayers shouldn’t have to pick up the cost of his security detail while he barnstorms around America — a cost that could nearly double under the proposed Washington State Patrol budget.

State Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, hammered home that point last week during budget debate on the House floor, when he exhorted Inslee to reimburse the state for all election-related security.

“He’s going to have plenty of money rolling in that he can use to fund State Patrol protection, and it should be his responsibility when he’s out campaigning to pay the cost of his campaign,” Orcutt said. “It can be done, it should be done, and everybody else around here has to do it that way. He should, too.”

Republicans tried to force Inslee’s hand with a budget amendment shifting security costs from WSP to the governor’s office. But Inslee’s fellow Democrats, who control both the House and Senate, swatted it away.

WSP officials requested the $4.2 million increase for their Executive Protection Unit, to be implemented in two steps over two years; it would add six troopers, a sergeant and a lieutenant to the team of eight troopers and one sergeant now assigned to the EPU.

That aligns with state law, which says troopers must protect the governor around the clock and accompany him on all trips, regardless of purpose.

But there’s nothing in the law that prevents Inslee from reimbursing the state for security expenses incurred while crisscrossing the country and making his best pitch to be the 46th president.

There’s nothing to prevent him from doing what Wisconsin’s chief executive did in 2015. Republican Scott Walker, unlike other governors who were early aspirants for the 2016 presidential election, did the right thing by vowing to cover his campaign security expenses and ultimately repaid Wisconsin taxpayers at least $260,000.

Washington Democrats should encourage Inslee to make a similar pledge, rather than pandering to him with silly smokescreens. We’re surprised Rep. Timm Ormsby, the chief House budget writer, was able to keep a straight face during Friday’s floor debate, when he said Inslee’s run for president would give “a real boost” to state tourism.

The longer Inslee lets this go, the more of a circus it becomes. On Tuesday, as the governor testified about climate change before a congressional committee, U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, took a turn with the ringmaster hat, asking if he planned to offer reimbursement for non-official business.

Inslee’s response was brief and wholly unsatisfying. “We plan to follow the current law, and that’s what we’ll be doing.”

Last year, Washington taxpayers footed Inslee’s $400,000 extracurricular security bill while he chaired the Democratic Governors Association, a national post for which he traveled often, allowing him to test the presidential waters.

Enough is enough, governor. Use some of the money you’re raising from super PACs, and give the people back home a break.

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