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Gov. Jay Inslee says state must act on homelessness

Republican Sen. John Braun talks to the media after Gov. Jay Inslee's State of the State address that focused on the issue of homelessness, in Olympia on Tuesday. Braun said that more focus needs to be put on the root causes of homelessness.

In his Republican response to Gov. Jay Inslee’s State of the State address Tuesday, state Sen. John Braun knocked the governor’s plans to address housing shortages and his opposition to the $2 billion Kalama methanol plant.

In his 10-minute rebuttal, the Centralia Republican said Inslee’s veto of a proposed business tax reduction on manufacturing and his reversal on the proposed methanol plant in Kalama could cost Southwest Washington family-wage jobs. Braun represents the 20th Legislative District, which includes parts of Cowlitz and Lewis counties.

“Up until last year, Gov. Inslee supported the construction of a natural-gas project there (in Kalama) and a similar one in Pierce County. These would have meant hundreds of new jobs in our state,” Braun said. “This past spring the governor suddenly pulled his support for both of those projects. And once again, good jobs are at risk.”

Inslee, who has made a name for himself nationally as a climate change activist, also proposed a clean fuel standard requiring fuel producers to reduce carbon emissions. Braun said clean air and clean water aren’t a partisan issues. However, the governor’s energy initiatives would drive up gasoline prices, creating the same effect as a gas tax, he said.

Braun, ranking member of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said the governor’s proposal to pull $300 million out of the state’s rainy day fund to create housing is a mistake because that fund will be necessary when the economy slows.

“If the governor believes more tax dollars are the best response to the homeless situation, he needs to look somewhere besides the state savings account,” Braun said.

He also criticized the governor’s past proposed property tax increase and call for an income tax and tax on services, such as veterinary, engineering and accounting. (The governor did not renew calls for those taxes in his speech Tuesday.)

“In all, these new taxes amounted to nearly $26 billion dollars over the next 10 years,” Braun said in his address. “It was the greedy side of government, on full display.”

Braun said the state’s new funding priorities should be for nursing homes, programs for developmentally disabled citizens and “seriously underfunded” special education.

Republicans tried to correct the “huge” car-tab increase related to Sound Transit, he said, but “when those in control ignored the very people who were hurting, the result was Initiative 976.”

Braun said he was proud of recent bipartisan efforts to improve K-12 education and mental health services.

However, the state government needs to do more to get people into housing, decrease crime and make healthcare affordable “without going the ‘Medicare-for-all’ route.”

“We have to look for ways to bring all parts of Washington into the discussion, in a productive way. That means your elected officials need to hear you,” he said. “You can trust Republicans to listen, and to bring forward policies that will help all of Washington.”

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