Smell test: How true were claims in gubernatorial debate?

Gov. Jay Inslee and Republican challenger Bill Bryant criticized each other’s political history

Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee and Republican challenger Bill Bryant criticized each other’s political history in their first gubernatorial debate of the campaign Wednesday in Spokane.

They had some testy exchanges, and questioned their opponents’ past decisions.

But how true were their claims? We fact check two of them.

Tuition cut credit

Gov. Inslee so far in his re-election campaign has touted recent tuition cuts at Washington’s colleges and universities as a success under his administration.

But many Republicans complained Inslee isn’t responsible for the price drop, saying the GOP-controlled Senate led the charge on the policy.

The claim: Bryant went after Inslee in the debate for now “trying to take credit” for the price reductions passed in the 2015 legislative session, despite fighting “tooth and nail” against them at the time.

The facts: Senate Republicans in Washington’s Legislature were the first to lobby for the tuition cuts in 2015. Inslee and House Democrats initially opposed the Senate’s measure in its original form.

Inslee and House Democrats sought to continue a pause on tuition increases for two years in their original 2015 budget proposals, while giving more money to financial aid programs.

Tuition raises were routine for universities in Washington in the 2000s, and grew considerably higher during the recession.

“Gov. Inslee has long credited Republicans with coming up with the idea,” said Inslee’s campaign spokesman Jamal Raad, who added Inslee and Democrats successfully argued for changes in the Senate’s original plan along the way.

After the House and Senate came to an agreement on the budget and the tuition reduction, Inslee signed it. In his January state of the state speech, Inslee said, “Isn’t it great we’re the only state in the nation that passed a tuition cut last year? Republicans had a great idea to do that. I gladly give them credit.”

Conclusion: Half-true. Inslee and House Democrats weren’t the first to push for a tuition cut, and opposed it at first. But Inslee did approve legislation authorizing the cuts and has given credit to Republicans.

Lawsuit against minimum wage increase

The claim: In an exchange over whether to raise Washington’s statewide minimum wage, Inslee claimed Bryant “sued to stop the increase of the minimum wage” at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport when Bryant was a Port of Seattle commissioner.

The facts: Alaska Airlines and other groups brought a lawsuit against a 2013 City of SeaTac ballot measure increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour for hospitality and transportation workers. Alaska later amended the lawsuit to include the Port of Seattle as another defendant.

The port subsequently argued it didn’t think SeaTac had jurisdiction to raise minimum wage at the airport.

Bryant supported that part of the larger lawsuit, he said in an interview Thursday. He also opposed raising the minimum wage for all airport workers to $15 an hour in 2014, saying at the time it was a “one size fits all” approach.

Bryant did vote in 2014 to boost minimum total compensation, which includes tips and benefits, to $15.50 an hour by 2017 at the airport for some workers.

Before tips and benefits, the minimum hourly wage under the measure would have been $13 per hour. The vote came before the state Supreme Court eventually found the SeaTac $15-per-hour initiative applied to the airport.

Bryant has said he wants to set Washington’s minimum wage regionally, and supports increasing it in some areas of the state.

Inslee is in favor of a statewide initiative to incrementally raise the minimum wage to $13.50 an hour by 2020.

Conclusion: Half-true. Bryant didn’t bring the lawsuit, but it’s true he and the port supported at least part of it.