OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Gov. Jay Inslee said Wednesday that Washington state is poised to develop the next wave of innovations that will change the world, imploring state leaders to act swiftly in order to remain competitive in the global economy.
Inslee cited the state's history of development in aerospace and software during his inaugural speech, and he declared that Washington isn't done with that work. He said the state can harness its unique blend of values and talents to help bring fresh job growth, but he cautioned that "the world will not wait."
"Leading this next wave of growth is our opportunity, not our entitlement," Inslee said during the speech before a joint session of the House and Senate after he was sworn in as the state's 23rd governor. "We must move, swiftly and boldly, to put this recession behind us, and bring forward a unique economic strategy that brings the best of Washington state to the world."
Inslee's first talk took an international focus, noting that the world economy is changing as it emerges from the recession. The Democrat has focused his policies on research and development, hoping to help spur growth in areas such as clean energy and life sciences.
At age 61, Inslee takes office in a state that has an unemployment rate of 7.6 percent, though that number has been falling from a high of about 10 percent in 2010. He wants to pursue a research and development tax credit to aid his jobs agenda, though his first major task in office will be balancing a state budget while also finding a large chunk of new money for education.
Inslee has said taxes are off the table and that he wants to focus on making government more efficient to get more results out of the state's current resources. Gov. Chris Gregoire gave her final State of the State address Tuesday, saying the state wouldn't be able to simply cut its way out of the budget challenges.
Inslee also said that he would work with the Legislature on a bipartisan transportation plan.
"We need ways to free capacity for freight and commerce, and rethink how we do the business of transportation in our state and how we use our transportation infrastructure," he said.
While Inslee focused his first talk heavily on jobs and the economy, the new governor also touched on the matter of gun violence during his address. Inslee said he doesn't have all the answers on how to prevent massacres like the recent one at an elementary school in Connecticut, but he said one common sense solution would be to focus on keeping guns out of the wrong hands.
"Any failure to address the issue of violence in our communities and our schools will be intolerable," Inslee said.
A specific piece of legislation Inslee called for in his speech was one that would require insurers who cover maternity care — which Washington insurers are mandated to provide — to also pay for abortions.
The measure passed out of the House during the last legislative session but failed in the Senate. Inslee said that he wanted to see the measure on his desk to sign this year.
Inslee also pressed the issue of climate change, saying it's clear that the state faces grave and immediate danger if we fail to act. He noted that the state has had flooding, drought and devastating wildfires and warned that changes in snowpack could threaten eastern Washington's agriculture.
"Our current lack of action on clean energy is an offense against our own children, as we put their health in danger and their prosperity at risk," Inslee said.
House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis, said after the speech that he worried that Inslee will seek to micromanage the energy sector with tax credits geared toward clean energy.
"We still aren't going to allow the market to work," he said. "We're going to say government decides if you get to be successful or not."
Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler of Ritzville said that his party would work to help Inslee make good on his campaign pledge to not raise taxes.
"His first order of business today was jobs," he said. "It's first in the Senate Republican agenda."
House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, said that he didn't see how to solve the state's fiscal and education needs with an all-cuts budget but said he'll be interested to see the budget proposals put forth by both Inlsee and the Senate.
"We're going to work to get the job done," he said. "We have no choice."
Follow Rachel La Corte at http://www.twitter.com/RachelAPOly or http://www.facebook.com/news.rachel and Mike Baker at http://twitter.com/MikeBakerAP . AP writer Jonathan Kaminsky contributed.