Inslee addresses climate change, mental health

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Emma Epperly/Columbia Basin Herald Governor Jay Inslee gives his State of the State address in Olympia on Tuesday.

OLYMPIA — Governor Jay Inslee gave his State of the State address, dubbed “Washington’s Unwritten Chapter.” in Olympia on Tuesday.

The heart of Inslee’s speech was moving Washington forward, always striving to be ahead of the curve. The governor then moved to discuss one of the issues that has historically been the most important to him: climate change.

“Scientists say if we don’t act now, this will become the norm — a permanent degradation of what we love, our magnificent state,” said Inslee. “I don’t know of any other issue that touches the heart of so many of the things we all care about: our jobs, our health, our safety and our children’s future.”

Climate change and innovation in clean technologies are important to rural and suburban economies, according to Inslee. Mentioned in the governor’s speech was Lind, which is now home to the largest solar array in the state. Inslee then moved to the largely bipartisan issue for this session: mental health. He outlined the need for community-based facilities and expanding the mental health workforce.

“We need to transform behavioral health from a system that responds to crisis to one that helps people before they reach crisis,” he stated.

Inslee then moved to education by praising the legislature for their work on funding basic education. He did remind everyone, however, that more work needs to be done.

“For anyone who cares about equity in education, early learning is the best way to secure a strong start for every child, regardless of their family’s economic circumstances,” said Inslee.

The Career Connect Washington initiative’s goal is to help connect students to a variety of pathways, including apprenticeships, certificates and degrees, and is a key part of Inslee’s education plan. The Orca Task Force, which has been a controversial part of the governor’s budget, was briefly discussed. Ending the death penalty, increased affordable housing, statewide access to broadband and gun reform were among the other issues Inslee discussed.

Seventh District Rep. Jacquelin Maycumber, R-Republic, delivered the Republican response to the speech. Maycumber called for tax reductions and advocated for a less-is-more approach in state government. Inslee did not discuss taxes during his address, but rather the programs he hopes to have funded during this session, which is largely focused on budgeting. Maycumber discussed the bipartisan issues of access to broadband and mental health; however she chastised the Democratic Party’s handling of mental health crisis in the past.

She argued that increased accountability is necessary, especially when one party controls the legislature and the governor’s office. Maycumber called Inslee’s environmental agenda “extreme” and costly to the Washington population.

“To the citizens of Washington I say this: there is a better way. Our commitment to you is to work harder, be more creative, care more deeply, and understand and listen to you and be more dedicated than any other legislature in state history,” Maycumber said in closing.

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