Comparing McKenna, Inslee on the issues

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Democrat Jay Inslee and Republican Rob McKenna are locked in one of the most competitive gubernatorial races in the country. Here’s a breakdown of how the two candidates stand on some of the major issues facing Washington state.

ECONOMY: The economic strategies in the race for governor have showed clear differences. Inslee would like to target tax breaks and aid toward clusters of industries, such as clean energy and life sciences, seeking to spur another revolution like the state has helped lead in aerospace and computer software. McKenna is focused in easing the regulatory burden, looking to streamline the process for businesses to get permits and simplify the process for businesses to collect taxes when they operate in multiple jurisdictions.

TAXES: Both Inslee and McKenna say they would veto any new taxes, except in the case of a revenue package to pay for transportation projects or in the case of tax exemptions that may be repealed. Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire and some lawmakers have expressed support for new taxes to help pay for education. Inslee opposes the voter-approved initiatives that require the Legislature to have a two-thirds majority to raise taxes. McKenna supports those rules. Inslee has accused McKenna of supporting what he calls a tax gimmick in which the state would take charge of more funding of education while lessening the burden on local governments.

GAY MARRIAGE: Voters will weigh in next month on Referendum 74, which asks for them to either accept or reject the law legalizing same-sex marriage that was passed by the Legislature this year and signed by Gregoire. That law is on hold pending the outcome of the election. Inslee said he supports gay marriage and will vote to uphold the law. McKenna said that while he supports the state’s current “everything but marriage” domestic partnership law, he opposes gay marriage and will vote to reject R-74.

BUDGET: In order to free up extra cash for education, McKenna would like to cap non-education spending growth at 6 percent per biennium while Inslee believes his economic plan can trigger strong job growth to increase revenues. Both candidates are looking to save money by making government more efficient and curbing health care costs. The next governor is likely to face an immediate budget challenge, with lawmakers searching for an extra $2 billion even after expected revenue growth. That figure includes money needed to respond to a state Supreme Court decision that said the state is not adequately funding education.

EDUCATION: The candidates differ on whether the state should pursue charter schools. McKenna notes that many other states have allowed charter schools and that they need to be part of the mix in Washington. Inslee opposes them, saying he doesn’t think the research indicates that they are helpful and that there are other ways to encourage innovation in schools.

MARIJUANA: Both Inslee and McKenna have said that they will vote against I-502, which would legalize and tax recreational marijuana sales for those over 21 in Washington. If the measure passes, Inslee has said he would respect the will of the voters. McKenna has said he has concerns about the potential conflict with federal law.

FEDERAL HEALTH CARE LAW: Inslee is ready to fully embrace the implementation of President Barack Obama’s health care law. McKenna is urging caution on the law’s expansion of Medicaid. He says Medicaid is a crucial safety net but questions whether the state really wants one in three people to be eligible for Medicaid under the new law. Before accepting the expansion, he wants to see a six-year plan showing how it will be funded and efforts that would keep as many people as possible covered by private insurance.

ABORTION: Inslee and McKenna both support a woman’s right to have an abortion. Inslee has attacked McKenna for his opposition to a bill that failed in the Legislature earlier this year that would have required insurance plans funded or administered by the state to cover abortions if they cover maternity care. McKenna said he supports insurance coverage for reproductive health, but that he does not support the proposed mandate, known as the Reproductive Parity Act, because of concerns that it would jeopardize federal funding.

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