Inslee pushes COVID-19 vaccinations, defends climate change vetoes in interview

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Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday that if sports fans want to root on the Cougars and Huskies this fall in-person, the best way to make that happen is to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

"It's a distinct possibility," Inslee said of  playing the annual in-state football rivalry with fans this fall. "What I can say is, everybody that loves the Apple Cup, like I do ... get vaccinated. The more people we get vaccinated, the more we can knock these numbers down, the more we can do these kinds of things."

Inslee spoke to The Spokesman-Review as part of a Northwest Passages Virtual Forum after touring the Catalyst building, a higher education learning incubator in Spokane that houses several Eastern Washington University academic programs. He cited the building as evidence of steps that need to be taken immediately to combat the threat of climate change, a dominant theme of his 2020 campaign for president and a priority for the 2021 legislative session.

That's also why he said he vetoed portions of two major pieces of legislation that passed this session — a low carbon fuel standard and a "cap-and-trade" program — because they were tied to passage of a 5-cent tax increase. Inslee said legislators did a good job "driving the ball 99 yards" with the policies, but he believed the vetoes were necessary to get the legislation "over the goal line."

"We are on sound ground on this, because when it was clear there is a desire to avoid a veto because of the subterranean way that they wrote this — we believe that's what happened here — that the governor does have the ability to veto a subsection," Inslee said.

Legislative leadership in Inslee's own party, the Democrats, have signaled they will legally challenge the veto. The provision was necessary to achieve the number of votes to pass the climate change proposals, said Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig, and the vetoes will undermine future efforts to compromise in the chamber.

Inslee countered on Tuesday that the measures need to be enacted now, and that the state cannot  wait for the passage of transportation funding .

The governor also said he believed the courts would uphold the imposition of a capital gains tax, one of several measures passing this session that Inslee supported. The law enacts a 7% excise tax on the sale of stocks, bonds, businesses and other investments if the profits exceed $250,000 annually, and at least two lawsuits have been filed in Washington state courts alleging the measure violates a constitutional ban on taxes of property that aren't uniform.

Inslee said the tax was necessary to ease the burden on Washington's lowest income-earners, who bear the heaviest burden of the state's consumption-based tax system.

"To have a fairer Washington, we have to stand up for working people, people who are struggling to pay their bills and their mortgage,"  Inslee said. "Unfortunately, we have not done what is needed to give them a fair shot."

The tax, if it withstands the legal challenges, is estimated to raise about $445 million in its first year, according to the latest financial analysis by the Office of Financial Management.

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