What you should know about your gubernatorial candidates; Know who you are voting for

Election Day is looming upon us, and while many of us are excited about exercising our right to vote, it is important to make sure you know who you are voting for. While most people hear a great deal about the presidential elections, there is less publicity garnished over the also important race for the office of Washington State governor. This article is a general overview of where the candidates stand on major issues that will hopefully help you decide when you vote on November 6.

Rob McKenna, the Republican candidate for governor, has gained his political experience through almost eight years serving as attorney general. He is endorsed by the Public School Employees Union, The Seattle Police Officers Guild, and many others including ten newspapers across the state such as The Seattle Times and The News Tribune.

Jay Inslee, the Democratic candidate is an ex-congressman who comes with a slew of endorsements from organizations like the American Federation of Teachers – Washington, Washington Conservation Voters, Washington State National Organization for Women PAC, Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and The Stranger.

The majority of students see higher education funding as a focal point in this election. State government has much more direct influence on funding for state higher education than the federal government, and both candidates have outlined a plan to fix this broken system. McKenna plans to slowly increase state funding for higher education until universities and students are able to split the cost 50-50. (The cost split is currently 70-30 with students paying 70 percent) To do this, McKenna plans to cap all non-education funding increases at 6 percent per biennium; as growth and development create more state revenue, this increase will be funneled into education.

Inslee’s plan also hinges on increased revenues under his governorship that will allow for expanded funding for higher education, but he also wants to focus on stopping cuts to the existing budget. He wants to cap loan interest rates at 3 percent, increase the amount of online courses available, and create a better partnership between the state and private colleges. He believes that the state needs to see an increase in engineering and computer science students and wants to make this happen through cutting state university tuition costs and increasing accessibility.

While some dispute a governor’s ability to do much about in-state job growth, both candidates have outlined ways in which they would encourage businesses to employ more people through tax breaks.

Inslee wants to maintain Washington State’s position as a leader in aerospace engineering through education. He also wants to help business and government work together by seeking talent in the private sector to head up government organizations.  He wants to give small businesses tax breaks that involve providing tax credits to those that add employees.

McKenna plans to create jobs through removing regulations from business and increasing small business tax exemptions such as the business and occupation tax. He wants to remove the taxes and processes that are making Washington such an expensive state in which to do business.

Both candidates agree, however, that improving education is a top priority in putting people back to work, as there are jobs available in Washington. We simply have a shortage of candidates qualified to fill them.

The two candidates differ greatly on their approach to healthcare. While Inslee voted in favor of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, McKenna actually joined a group of Attorney Generals who tried to sue for its repeal. Inslee supports a Medicaid expansion; however, McKenna wants to ensure that the state has met its education funding obligations before it increases the program.

As for the social issues that have become a focal point of almost every 2012 campaign, the two candidates overlap and differ on various issues. Inslee fully supports the rights of gay and lesbian couples to marry, while McKenna, for religious reasons, supports domestic partnerships, but does not support same-sex marriage.

Surprisingly enough, McKenna supports a woman’s right to abortion along with Inslee, and he even agrees that pharmacies should sell emergency contraception such as Plan B despite the concern amongst certain pharmacists that this infringes on their religious rights.

While the above is not a fully inclusive report on everything each candidate has ever done or plan to do, knowing where they stand on major issues will allow you to exercise your right to vote in an informed manner.