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Originally published Monday, April 7, 2014 at 4:13 PM

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Editorial: Gov. Jay Inslee saves worthy research fund — but tone down rhetoric

The governor did the right thing by saving the Life Sciences Discovery Fund — but because it deepens next year’s school-funding problem, his criticisms of the legislative inaction ring a bit hollow.

Seattle Times Editorial

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GOV. Jay Inslee did the right thing when he restored funding for the Life Sciences Discovery Fund.

The innovative state program uses state tobacco-settlement funds to make grants in health and biotech research — some $80 million since 2008. The money dries up in 2017.

In the session that just ended, lawmakers decided to terminate the program three years ahead of schedule in their quest for money to satisfy the state Supreme Court’s demand for additional K-12 funding in its McCleary decision.

The governor made short work of that idea. When the supplemental budget reached his desk Friday, Inslee used his line-item veto to block the transfer of money to the schools.

That means the program survives — the $20 million that was budgeted for grants over the next year, and presumably the $53 million that was going to be spent on grants during the 2015-2017 biennium.

It’s a smart move. The fund has been a brilliant success, stimulating one of the most innovative sectors of the economy, leveraging the program’s account with a whopping $450 million in private investment and generating about 3,000 jobs. Biotech execs, lawmakers and others mounted a letter-writing campaign to convince Inslee to save the fund.

Now the bothersome part: Inslee sure could have been smoother about it. He could have told budget-writers during the session he wanted it saved, which might have spared the fuss and bother.

And you have to marvel at his chutzpah. At his bill-signing news conference, the Democratic governor excoriated lawmakers for failing to make much headway on the multibillion-dollar school-funding problem. When he says that, he’s pointing the finger at the tax-averse and largely Republican majority in the state Senate. And yet he made next year’s problem $73 million bigger.

“At one moment he’s chastising the Legislature for not putting enough money into education, and then the next he takes money out of education,” says Senate budget chief Andy Hill, R-Redmond. Memo to Olympia: We’re all in this together.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Erik Smith, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).

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