The "virus" of Wisconsin will not be coming to Washington with Jay Inslee as governor, the democratic candidate said during a visit to the Richland Labor Temple on Tuesday.
Earlier this month, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker survived a recall election after he took away union rights for most public employees and required them to pay more for health insurance and pension benefits.
Washington needs to make sure it values its hard-working middle class, Inslee said.
He spoke to about 35 people, including representatives of the 15 unions at the Hanford nuclear reservation, listening to comments and taking questions.
Never miss a local story.
Fred Rumsey, the political committee chairman for the Hanford Atomic Metal Trades Council, thanked Inslee for working to protect the pensions of Hanford workers and standing up for work force safety rules.
A woman standing in the back of the hall thanked him for his support of women's rights.
Inslee told her that he didn't believe any insurance company should be allowed to tell a woman she shouldn't have access to insurance if she is a breast cancer survivor. Coverage for pre-existing conditions is part of the federal health care reform act opposed by many Republicans that the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on soon.
There are two options to build the economy, he said. Those taking the low-road see the solution as cutting pensions, health care and other compensation, he said.
But he wants to create the next technology revolution in Washington in areas such as clean energy and biotechnology, and use the highly skilled work force of Hanford in Eastern Washington and Boeing in Western Washington, he said.
He is proposing starting an Advanced Sustainable Biofuels Center of Excellence led by Washington State University to work as a partner with industry and government to help develop biofuels from research to commercial-scale production.
He also is proposing policies to make it easier to move research out of the laboratory, including at small businesses and at Washington's universities, and bring it to the marketplace, he said.
He's aware of the challenges facing Hanford workers, including layoffs that came with the end of Recovery Act spending in fall 2011 and job cuts at the Hanford vitrification plant, he said.
"We need a governor who will hold Uncle Sam's feet to the fire on the consent decree," he said. A court-enforced consent decree sets legal deadlines for accomplishing work at Hanford, including the start of operations at the $12.2 billion vitrification plant being built to treat waste from past weapons plutonium production.