Inslee, McKenna talk health care, budget at forum

SEATTLE (AP) - Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee on Wednesday stuck to his message that restarting job growth will help many ailing sectors in Washington state, from education to delinquent mortgages.

In turn, Republican Rob McKenna honed in on long-standing business interests of privatizing workers compensation and lowering unemployment insurance rates. He added that competitive bidding would save money, and said tying the growth of certain state agencies to inflation and population would free up funds for education.

The two candidates spoke on a number of issues at a Rotary Club of Seattle forum, but overall didn't stray far from their talking points. Both candidates were asked questions, some of them similar, by a moderator.

When asked what he expects from the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the Affordable Care Act, McKenna said he thinks the country's highest court will strike the insurance mandate provision of the law but keep the rest of it.

"That means we'll be implementing the health insurance exchange ... which allows low-income people to buy health insurance with a subsidy," McKenna said. "And that's what we want. We want people to own their insurance policy."

The attorney general added he expects Medicaid to expand if the mandate is struck down.

Inslee made a point to remind people that McKenna was one of the attorneys general who sued the federal government over the law. The lawsuit could mean the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the entire act. Inslee added that a small-business tax break in the act would be lost, along with other beneficial provisions for patients.

The former congressman repeated his pitch that biotech and clean energy industries will prove vital to boosting Washington's economy, and he said the state should provide a research and development tax credit. He used that message to answer a question about what he would do differently on the state budget from fellow Democrat Gov. Chris Gregoire.

Inslee said he would look to get more military spending in the state to help the local economy. He also said he wants to make it easier for universities to monetize research.

"I'm not running against any of the previous 22 or so governors," he said. "I'm running to create a vision for job creation that is equal to the optimism of the state of Washington."

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.