One of the most newsworthy moments of Thursday night’s gubernatorial debate came after the debate was over.
In a post-debate news conference, Democrat Jay Inslee was pressed on whether he’d veto any tax increases sent to him by the Legislature. It was a logical follow-up for Inslee, who has repeatedly said he does not favor tax increases, but has been challenged on that by Republican Rob McKenna, who predicts Inslee would sign tax increases passed by his Democratic allies in Olympia.
But at the news conference, after dancing around the question for a while, Inslee made a pretty clear promise to veto tax increases.
“I would veto anything that heads the wrong direction and the wrong direction is new taxes in the state of Washington,” Inslee said.
Inslee could be putting himself in a box with that statement, as some top Democrats and education groups have insisted that new taxes are the only realistic way to raise enough money to adequately fund public schools and universities. And Republicans will no doubt remind voters that Democratic candidates for governor have a history of opposing tax increases during their campaigns, only to have a change of heart once in office. (Of course, the last governor to raise the state’s biggest tax source, the sales tax, was a Republican, John Spellman, in the 1980s.)
It’s also worth remembering that Inslee has said he’s against the voter-approved requirement that two-thirds of the Legislature approve any tax increases (that’s up for a vote again this year in Initiative 1185.) He favors a simple majority requirement for taxes.
But after last night, Inslee is solidly on the record. If elected, he’ll have to keep his tax-veto promise or take the heat if he busts it.