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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Inslee Pledges Accountability In State Of The State

Austin Jenkins
Northwest News Network
Governor Jay Inslee addresses a joint session of the Washington legislature to give his 2016 State of the State address.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee used his State of the State speech to pledge accountability when government fails. The Democrat’s comments Tuesday follow the early release of more than 3,000 prison inmates because of a computer coding error.

Part way through his speech, Inslee said he wanted to address state employees directly. He called their work important, but said they must hold themselves to the highest standards.

“So if the public trust is violated, we blow the whistle on it and we provide absolutely accountability,” Inslee said. “And that is what is happening with the sentencing errors that went on for 13 years at the Department of Corrections.”

House Republican leader Dan Kristiansen wasn’t impressed.

“Over 3,000 people were released early, some of them have committed murder and other horrific crimes,” he said. “When are you going to do more than listen, when are you going to act?”

Inslee has appointed two former federal prosecutors to investigate what happened at the Department of Corrections. He has said he will wait for the results of that investigation before taking personnel action.

In his speech, Inslee also endorsed a proposed ballot measure that would raise the state minimum wage and require employers to provide paid sick leave. The measure filed this week.

“If you work 40 hours a week, you deserve a wage that puts a roof over your head and food on the table. Period,” the governor said. “And you shouldn’t have to give up a day’s pay if you or your kids get sick.”

Inslee has previously used his State of the State address to call on the legislature to raise the minimum wage and enact a paid sick leave law.

Republican leaders argue minimum wage is an issue that divides urban Washington from rural communities.

“There’s a big difference in downtown Seattle, downtown Tacoma where most of the Democrats come from, so it’s not even an issue of discussion where I live,” state Senator Linda Evans Parlette of Wenatchee said.

Inslee also used his state of the state address to call for a hike in teacher salaries, more funding for mental health, a plan to fully fund public schools and money to cover last summer’s forest fires.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."