Originally published Monday, October 3, 2011 at 4:33 PM

Gubernatorial hopeful Jay Inslee should shift gears toward state issues

The Seattle Times editorial board argues that U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee should focus his campaign for governor of Washington on state issues, and not on whether his opponent, Rob McKenna, has supported health insurance reform.

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U.S. REP. Jay Inslee is wasting voters' time by making an issue of federal health-insurance reform in his campaign for governor in 2012. Instead of attacking Attorney General Rob McKenna's challenge to "Obamacare," Inslee should focus on state issues.

That the health insurance law will apply in this state does not make it a state issue. The law applies in all the states. It is a federal law being challenged in federal court regarding the federal Constitution.

Opponents argue that the Constitution gives the federal government no power to order individuals to buy insurance. The Obama administration argues it has that power under the Commerce Clause. This is just the sort of argument the Supreme Court is designed to settle, and the argument was bound to arrive there. That McKenna joined one side and Gov. Chris Gregoire joined the other will not affect the outcome. Nor will a future governor of Washington, whether Inslee or McKenna.

All the while, there boils a huge state issue: the $2-billion budget shortfall. Gregoire has ordered state agencies to offer a list of 10-percent cuts. She will use this list to recommend a package of cuts to a special session of the Legislature. Does Inslee support this? Does he think the governor should be empowered to make discretionary cuts if the Legislature does not? How would he close a $2 billion gap? Cuts? Tax increases? Reforms?

This gap should be closed by the time the new governor takes office in 2013, but the questions are likely to be similar.

Inslee has been in Congress since 1999, and he is still thinking about national issues. He needs to shift gears.


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