Washington’s candidates for governor gave plenty of opinions on issues facing the state in Monday night’s televised debate. But there were times Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee and his GOP opponent Bill Bryant said they were undecided on a policy proposal.
Here’s a look at some of those issues where one or both candidates have yet to take a position.
Safe injection sites
Inslee on Monday night said he needs to study “safe injection sites,” or government-sanctioned spaces set up for heroin users to inject the drug under medical supervision, before deciding if he supports them.
A King County task force aimed at reducing heroin and opiate addiction in September recommended two such sites. Vancouver, British Columbia, has one, and the city has touted peer-reviewed studies that say they reduce overdose deaths and increase addiction treatment of clients at the sites.
Bryant said in the debate he would be “a tough sell” on approving safe injection sites sponsored by the state. He said he has spoken to mothers of drug users who say the spaces would further “enable” their children’s habits.
Assault weapon ban
When asked about how to reduce mass shootings in Washington, Bryant said the state needs to primarily focus on improving mental health rather than enacting new gun regulations — although he did say he supports Initiative 1491 that would allow people to petition a court to take a person’s gun away if the court deems them a threat to themselves or others.
But he didn’t give his opinion on state Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s proposal to ban assault weapons in Washington.
Bryant on Tuesday said he wants to wait to see how Ferguson defines an assault weapon before taking a stance on the legislation. Ferguson has said he is unsure exactly how an assault weapon would be defined in the bill he plans to send to the Legislature.
“I don’t want to say I’m against it until I see what it is,” Bryant said in an interview with The News Tribune and The Olympian.
He did say it “would be tough” for Ferguson to define an assault weapon in a way that would earn Bryant’s support for the measure. Bryant said he owns one gun, a semi-automatic shotgun, and has told KTTH Radio people should be allowed to own an AR-15 rifle.
Ferguson singled out the AR-15 as one gun he would ban.
Inslee has said he supports the concept of a ban on assault weapons.
Vetoing an income tax
Inslee has not said whether he would veto a state income tax should it reach his desk, although he has been adamant he opposes one. Bryant pushed Inslee on Monday to say if he would nix any form of income tax, but the moderators moved on before Inslee had a chance to answer.
Jamal Raad, Inslee’s campaign spokesman, in a phone interview Tuesday said Inslee continues to oppose an income tax, but he didn’t take a stance on vetoes either.
In 2014, Inslee rescinded a 2012 campaign promise not to advocate for new taxes if elected when he proposed capital gains and carbon pollution cap-and-trade tax measures. Bryant has hammered Inslee for the first-term flip-flop.
Bryant’s spokesman Jason Roe said in an email the Republican candidate would veto any income tax approved by the Legislature if elected.
A state income tax has not gained any traction in the Legislature in recent years. It faces heavy opposition from Republicans and is opposed by some Democrats as well.
Inslee is “not going to make veto threats on bills that have no chance of getting to his desk,” Raad said.
Bryant faced heat from Inslee in the debate over lack of specifics on the Republican’s minimum wage proposal that Bryant plans to mold after Oregon’s regionally-tiered system approved this year.
Oregon has three minimum wages based on the regions of the state. The base wage in Portland and its surrounding metro area is set to rise to $14.75 per hour by 2022, while counties designated as “nonurban” reach $12.50 an hour. The rest of the state will get a $13.50 an hour minimum wage by 2022.
Bryant has yet to name how much he thinks the minimum wage should be for any part of the state under his plan, but has said King County is one area that low-wage workers might be in line for a pay raise.
Bryant said he plans to work with the Legislature to settle on how much the minimum wage should be in different parts of the state.
Raad painted Bryant’s plan as a “smokescreen” used to oppose raising the minimum wage anywhere in the state.
Inslee supports Initiative 1433, which would raise Washington’s current $9.47-per-hour minimum wage to $13.50 an hour by 2020. If would also require employers to provide up to seven days of paid sick leave a year. The initiative is on November’s general election ballot.
Both candidates were asked Monday how Washington can deal with ongoing tensions and mistrust between police and communities of color.
Neither Inslee nor Bryant mentioned whether the state should alter a much-debated state law to make it easier to prosecute police who use deadly force in a way deemed reckless or unjust.
Washington currently requires a prosecutor to show an officer acted with “malice” and without “good faith” to be convicted of any charge for using deadly force. The standard is considered difficult to prove and uniquely protective of police compared with other states.
The candidates for governor are waiting to hear a state task force’s recommendation on the law before deciding their position on the issue, according to follow-up interviews with Bryant and Raad, Inslee’s spokesman.