Inslee, McKenna offer ideas for maritime industry

Washington Gubernatorial hopefuls Jay Inslee and Rob McKenna are offering some ideas about how to bolster the region’s maritime industry but didn’t specifically say how they would pay for those improvements.

Both candidates spoke at the Bering Seas Fisheries Conference in Seattle on Tuesday, April 26, telling commercial fisherman, shipbuilders and others in the crowd that they would work to improve freight mobility and workforce training opportunities to keep Washington state competitive with Asia and others.

The Republican McKenna said he’ll work to lower the regulatory burden for businesses, open the state-run workers compensation program to competition, and boost K-12 and higher education spending.

Inslee, a Democrat, offered a suite of wide-ranging ideas, including establishing a Washington Center for Marine Innovation, creating a maritime sector lead person to address regulatory barriers, improving the state’s public ferries and encouraging the use of alternative energy such as biofuels.

Each candidate said they work with the industry to appoint well-qualified representatives to councils that determine fishing policies in the region.

“Our No. 1 job has to be in state government to figure out how to support private sector job creation,” said McKenna, who is the state’s Attorney General.

He noted that Washington’s expensive unemployment insurance, high workers compensation cost and burdensome taxes make it difficult for businesses. He would re-examine regulations to ensure that they make sense while still protecting the environment.

He took a jab at the Department of Ecology, saying: “they pride themselves on taking whatever the federal standards and making it harder. What if we were to harmonize state and local requirements with federal requirements so you have as much as possible a common set of standards to follow?”

To remain competitive, Inslee said, the state needs to support specialized maritime and other technical training in high schools, community colleges and universities. “This is an industry we want to get young people excited about early,” said Inslee, who resigned from Congress last month to focus on his gubernatorial campaign.

Inslee noted that Washington is the only state without a tourism office and that he would re-establish a private-public partnership with the Washington State Tourism Board. “We’re going to have a good tourism effort when I’m governor,” he said.

Inslee also stressed the importance of the region’s naval bases and said he would work to keep them competitive so they aren’t at risk of being closed.

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