Inslee still says no tax hikes needed for state budget

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - Washington Gov.-elect Jay Inslee said Thursday he still believes the state can handle its budget shortfall without broad tax increases, even though lawmakers are searching for some $2 billion to keep things in balance.

The Democrat said he was open to listening to all ideas, including the elimination of some tax breaks and a transportation package that would raise revenue to pay for mega projects. But he stuck with his campaign promise related to general tax increases, saying it's best if the state avoids them.

"I still believe that is the way forward," Inslee said at The Associated Press Legislative Preview. Washington lawmakers this year are trying to handle both a budget shortfall and a court order to increase funding for education.

Inslee said he wants to focus on making government more efficient to get more results out of the resources that the state currently has. He said there was significant work to be done in that area and touted the focus of so-called lean management while announcing five cabinet choices Thursday.

In his most prominent selection, Inslee tapped former state Sen. Kevin Quigley to lead the state Department of Social and Health Services. Quigley formerly worked in a shipbuilding company, and Inslee touted the private-sector experience of his new cabinet members.

"I wanted to go out and find a leader that can bring organizational change," Inslee said of Quigley.

For the other posts, Inslee chose Joel Sacks to lead the Department of Labor & Industries, Dale Peinecke to take over the Employment Security Department, Marcie Frost to head up the Department of Retirement Systems, and Alfie Alvarado-Ramos to direct the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Inslee said he will focus this year on stirring job growth, such as through a tax credit for research and development. He wants to establish a suite of policies that will boost the clean energy industry.

On the issue of gun control, Inslee said political leaders need to work together on developing common sense proposals. He wants to focus on mental health treatments and ways to immediately deal with threats that may exist - though Inslee didn't lay out any specific proposals. Inslee has previously supported efforts to reduce access to high-capacity ammunition, but he said he doesn't want controversy around some ideas to hinder progress in other areas.

"We've all got favored proposal," Inslee said. "I think we need to listen to each other."