Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said he singlehandedly is saving lives with his powers as the state’s top executive.
In an interview with TVW’s Mike McClanahan, Inslee gave an in-depth look into his perspective when it comes to navigating the COVID-19 pandemic.
The TV host questioned Inslee, well into his second year of governing by emergency declarations, about dozens of legal challenges to his executive authority.
Inslee responded by giving his decisions sole credit for saving the lives of fellow Washingtonians.
"There is only one person in the state of Washington who has the capability to save those lives right now, and it happens to be the governor of the state of Washington," Inslee said Wednesday.
McClanahan cited a local judge’s op-ed criticizing Inslee for not including the state Legislature in his executive order. Inslee said the Legislature not only gives him the ability, but the responsibility, to enact his executive orders.
“We need to act right now, and we need to act against a pandemic,” he said, noting he has faced around 30 lawsuits challenging his power. “I’m assuming many of my decisions will continue to be challenged.”
Inslee credited his actions with saving lives, comparing Washington to nearby Idaho.
“Not only has it been constitutional, it has saved thousands of lives,” he said. “Had we not taken the actions that we had in the state of Washington, we would have lost thousands of more people to COVID. The reason I know that is, if you compare our death rates to other states. Had we had the same death rates as other states, like Idaho, we would have had thousands of more people lose their lives.”
Critics of Inslee’s orders say he should cede authority to the rest of Washington’s government.
“We are being governed by press conference,” said Jason Mercier, director of the Washington Policy Center's Center for Government Reform. “The executive has to have emergency powers to respond to a crisis, but it should be time-limited, not indefinite. When it is, it leads to what we saw in the governor’s interview where he thinks he alone has the wisdom to determine how everybody should be living without the input of the Legislature.”
Mercier said the state Legislature should assert itself, even if it ends up codifying similar policies.
“This is not about the policies, it’s about the way it’s being implemented,” he said.
Inslee also hinted about new vaccination mandates for the state’s public school students.
“It’s something we will consider,” he said.