This editorial was originally published in the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin:
Washington state taxpayers should not be contributing, albeit indirectly, to Gov. Jay Inslee’s presidential campaign. Yet, they are — and the de facto contributions are all within the law. Inslee, a Democrat, and his campaign are doing nothing wrong.
Still, some folks — mostly those who don’t embrace his progressive politics — are irked.
But our objection is not based on political ideology or partisan concerns. We simply believe elected officials who seek higher office should cover all additional costs of traveling outside the state, including the State Patrol security detail.
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, also a Democrat, recently agreed to have his campaign pay for travel, lodging and meals of his state security detail when it accompanies him on out-of-state campaign trips, according to Montana Public Radio.
Inslee is not.
The Seattle Times and public radio’s Northwest News Network reported that between March 1 and the end of July, the governor was out of the state for all or parts of 90 days out of 153, or nearly 60 percent, according to an analysis of his official calendar.
Inslee’s campaign continues to be partly subsidized by taxpayers, who are paying for the Washington State Patrol security detail, which accompanies him wherever he goes, The Times reported.
From March through June, the Executive Protection Unit racked up $313,000 in travel expenses, including airfare and hotels, and worked nearly 3,500 hours of overtime at a cost of $268,000, nearly all attributable to the governor’s out-of-state trips, according to the patrol.
The security unit was expanded this year, at a cost estimated at nearly $4 million over two years if Inslee stays in the presidential race.
Inslee is far from the only governor or elected official in America who runs up expenses while on the stump. This approach is not out of line with mainstream American politics. U.S. presidents — of both parties — have long done it, and President Donald Trump does it now as he campaigns for re-election and for others. Sure, a percentage of the expenses are repaid by the campaigns, but they don’t come close to covering the full cost.
Montana’s Bullock is likely far more sensitive about racking up taxpayer-subsidized expenses because his state is politically conservative and its citizens would see the out-of-state travel tab as somewhere between irksome and outrageous.
That’s not the case with Inslee.
In Western Washington, particularly in the urban Seattle area, the added expenses are likely seen as either no big deal or a benefit as Inslee is putting a spotlight on Washington state as an environmentally concerned state. Inslee’s campaign focus is solely on reducing climate change.
Still, although Inslee faces little political peril in Washington, his campaign should pay back the state for the additional expenses incurred by his presidential campaign.