SEATTLE — Washington's candidates for governor outlined different tactics Thursday for how they would alter the state's budget in order to fully fund the state's school system without raising taxes.
In a high-profile debate just a week before ballots go out to voters, Republican Rob McKenna and Democrat Jay Inslee said they had the best plans to limit spending in parts of state government and deal with the shortfalls that are projected to continue into the next biennium.
Inslee said he'd like to find savings in health care growth and improve performance of state government. McKenna would take a more aggressive approach, explicitly capping spending growth in non-education parts of state budget at 6 percent per biennium, and he suggested Inslee's plan wouldn't work.
"It's going to take some real discipline in the budget," McKenna said.
Inslee shot back that McKenna was supporting a gimmick in which the state would take charge of more funding of education while lessening the burden on local governments. While McKenna hasn't specificially outlined how it would work, he has generally endorsed the idea as outlined by state lawmakers from both parties.
Both candidates expect the state to have growing revenues in the coming years. Inslee said part of his plan to fund education is based on stirring stronger job growth, which he would do by trying to cultivate some industries such as clean energy and life sciences.
"We invent, we create and we build in the state of Washington," Inslee said.
Thursday's debate offered the candidates their most prominent stage yet, with the meeting airing live on several TV stations in the region and timed to draw in viewers who had tuned in earlier in the night to the vice presidential debate.
McKenna and Inslee are locked in what is widely considered one of the most competitive races for governor in the country. Both sides have raised about $10 million, and outside groups are also flooding the state with cash, trying to influence the election's outcome.
A recent Elway Poll showed the candidates running about even. The candidates are set to debate one more time next week.