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Originally published June 29, 2012 at 2:41 PM | Page modified June 29, 2012 at 2:41 PM

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The Times recommends: Rob McKenna for governor

The Seattle Times editorial board endorses Rob McKenna, Republican, for governor of Washington.

Seattle Times Editorial

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WASHINGTON state is at a crossroads. The people's selection of their next governor will set a direction toward prosperity and quality of life or constant crisis and decline. Washington will follow California — or set its own course.

The voters' choice is clear.

Rob McKenna, the Republican, is our state's twice-elected attorney general. He grew up here; he went to high school and college here, and was elected student body president at the University of Washington. He knows our education system, what is good about it and what isn't. He has spent his entire career in local and state government, having to work with Democrats as well as Republicans, and knows it inside and out.

For the past seven years he has held the second-highest management position in the state. He has a deep understanding of state issues. Ask him what should be done about state employee pension plans, environmental review of proposed coal ports, on and on, and he has a practical, detailed answer.

Jay Inslee, the Democrat, is also a local product but chose a much different career. He went to Washington, D.C. For the past 13 years he has been a congressman, which is not a management position. He has the right positions on reforming the financial system, limiting the consolidation of media companies and opposing the pointless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has a stronger vision about fighting global warming than McKenna does.

But Inslee has not been here. He does not have the deep knowledge of what has been done and not done here, for what reasons, and by whom, and what the consequences have been.

McKenna does.

State government's overriding problem is not having enough money for all the things it is trying to do. The current administration has responded by cutting too much where it was politically easiest, in higher education, and too little where it was immediately painful, in employee head count and contracts with state employee unions. But this is short-term thinking. It sacrifices the future to the present. It is a strategy for Washington to slide back to the level of Mississippi.

The way out is education, and McKenna and Inslee both say they want to invest in it. They are right; Washington needs a world-class education system, including prekindergarten and higher education, so that the next generation can have the best possible chances in life. The question for voters is who can deliver.

Part of the answer in the public schools is reform, including allowing more innovation. Note that McKenna supports charter schools and Inslee does not.

Part of the answer is providing more money. Some suggest a state income tax is the answer, but that would remove one of the state's competitive advantages, and scare away investment in technology companies. In any case, Washington's voters have said no to an income tax.

McKenna and Inslee say they accept that decision, though our sense is that McKenna is the one who actually believes it and accepts the discipline it implies. Note that McKenna supports the two-thirds vote for the Legislature to increase taxes, while Inslee does not.

Inslee's proposal for solving the state's money problems is all carrot and no stick: give tax breaks to high-tech startups, thereby creating more business and more state revenue. As a political vision, it is beautiful, but there is no way it could be part of a revenue forecast or a budget.

McKenna's ideas are down-to-earth. He would save money through substantive reforms that state government could actually do.

McKenna is no ideologue about taxes. He has come out in favor of a package of increases to update the state's road system for the future. He is right about that, too.

We believe McKenna has the intelligence, the local knowledge and the strategy to right-size government in a new economic era, and to set Washington on a path of learning, innovation, investment and success.

Vote for Rob McKenna for governor.

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