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Originally published Sunday, September 2, 2012 at 12:04 AM

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McKenna's economic policies more sure-footed than Inslee's

The Seattle Times editorial board compares the economic policies of Rob McKenna and Jay Inslee, the candidates for governor of Washington, and favors McKenna's.

Seattle Times Editorial

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Rob McKenna and Jay Inslee, Washington's candidates for governor, offer visions of prosperity based on education, innovation and private business. So far so good -- but there are significant differences.

McKenna, the state's attorney general, would have the state reform unemployment and workers' compensation insurance and thin out some regulations. The aim is to lower the state's burden on payrolls.

In a high-cost state, this may imply thinning some benefits or tightening up who gets them. This approach, a Republican one, allows government to help business without favoring one industry over another. It would "reduce burdens on job creators to let them do what they do best," McKenna said in Wednesday's debate.

Inslee, a former congressman, is implicitly for keeping social benefits (and taxes) high. He would target industries that could afford them, like biotechnology, and boost industries that he champions, such as solar and wind power. He would ramp up the state's effort to entice investors in those industries. He said he would "give those entrepreneurs what they need" -- a broadband network maybe, or financing to buy solar power. This has been more of the Democrats' approach.

The targeted approach creates businesses politicians can point to, but it is also risky. The biodiesel plant at Grays Harbor, Imperium Renewables, was created because of a state law intended to be a mandate but it really wasn't. The company had a crisis and canceled a stock offering, but has rebounded.

Oregon attracted a solar-panel plant in Hillsboro, near Portland. But the plant may be at risk because its German owner, SolarWorld, has been hammered by withdrawal of German subsidies and by competition from China.

McKenna's strategy is the surer one. It changes things over which the state has direct control. McKenna's no-favorites approach will create jobs in many more places than Inslee's, and probably more overall, though it will be more difficult for politicians to identify them and take credit.

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