Photo by Steve Shay
Robinson Newspapers interviewed Washington State Republican gubernatorial candidate, Attorney General Rob McKenna. He weighted in on health care, and the health of our Port business.

Attorney General Rob McKenna: "As Governor, I will fight to keep Port business in Washington State;" Clarifies health care position

Washington State Republican gubernatorial candidate, Attorney General Rob McKenna shared some thoughts with Robinson Newspapers on his campaign run. Last week we featured his opponent, Democrat Jay Inslee, former 1st District Congressman. Each wants to replace Governor Chris Gregoire, who retires at year's end.

McKenna, 49, was born in Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas, the son of Robert, a career Army soldier and a schoolteacher, and Bonnie Jean (Olson). Rob served as student body president at the University of Washington where he graduated and then earned his law degree at the University of Chicago. He and his wife Marilyn then moved to Bellevue. They have four children.

McKenna was a three-term King County Council member beginning in 1995, and won his first of two terms as Attorney General in 2004. He was re-elected in '08 with 59.5 percent of the vote. His counterparts elected him President of the National Association of Attorneys General.

Believes he appeals to both parties

"We're an unusual state as voters split their tickets, cross the aisle. I've always voted for Brian Sonntag for State Auditor for example. (Sontagg leads the campaign organization, 'Democrats for Rob', or 'D4R'.) In 2008 more than 400,000 voters who voted for Obama also voted for me. That's why I was able to receive almost 60 percent of the vote statewide, a higher percentage of the vote than President Obama received. I received 54 percent in King County.

I think my appeal to both parties is broader than my law and order stance. I think people like the priorities I establish and the fact that I keep my promises. I have gotten a lot done as Attorney General and going forward as a candidate for governor I have a very clear vision of what we need to do to encourage job creation, to improve public schools and to reform our state government.

Affordable Care Act

"It's clearly better to have health insurance coverage, but the new federal health care law is really a top down approach. Most people think the mandate is a requirement to have 'some' health care. But in fact, if you have certain kinds of health insurance you might be told it's not adequate, and that you have to buy what government regulators tell you to buy. For example, you're probably not going to be allowed to have a catastrophic policy with a $10,000 self-insure (deductible). Regulators will want people to buy the more expensive, full-coverage, policies. I'm very concerned about that aspect of the law because consumers clearly want more choices.

"The Supreme Court agreed by a 7-2 vote that Congress cannot unilaterally force states to pay whatever amount for an expanded Medicaid program that Congress decides. That means we can now look at how much Medicaid that Washington State can afford. From talking to many doctors and hospital administrators around the state, I've found they don't know how they are going to apply the additional care. They don't have the capacity. Also, the new health care law is going to add more than a trillion dollars to the federal deficit over the next 10 years according to the Congressional budget office."

McKenna wrote a recent Op-Ed piece on the Olympia-based "Washington State Wire" website. He wrote, "Rather than letting the government define a one-size-fits-all insurance plan, 77 percent (Rasmussen poll) think individuals should have the right to choose between plans with a mix of higher deductibles and lower premiums or the reverse(...) We should encourage more consumer-directed health plans which feature incentives for cost-conscious behavior like using generic drugs when appropriate and avoiding unneeded tests and procedures (...)

"For the health care delivery system, it’s time to set up a system that rewards providers for outcomes, not inputs. Under the current fee-for-service model, there is an incentive for quantity of effort – that’s where the money is made (...) we can cut costs and move the focus from treating problems to preventing disease."

Keeping Washington State Ports Competitive

"I have met with many Port officials statewide. The Ports around the state are deeply concerned about competitive pressure arising from the Panama Canal widening, and the expansion of ports in Los Angeles, Long Beach, and in Prince Rupert in British Columbia, Canada. Ports are under immense competitive pressures to cut their rates because the shipping companies are under financial pressure as well. There are ports in Texas, South Carolina, and Virginia improving their facilities to lure the larger ships coming through the Pana Canal."

(The Panama Canal's "Third Set of Locks Project" expects double the capacity of the Panama Canal by 2014.)

"(As Governor) I will be working with our Port commissioners going forward to try to facilitate more collaboration of support, and strategic partnerships amount the ports in our state. Right now, they are bidding against each other, undercutting each other. We don't want the ports' pricing driven so low that they have to fall back on tax payer subsidies.

"We have many positives in Washington State. We are closer to East Asia than the southern California ports. We have good rail capacity compared to Prince Rupert. Its trains have to cross the Rocky Mountains and the Continental Divide, so they have their own challenges. There is more competition than ever, but there are also more opportunities. Markets in East and South Asia are rising."

Gateway Pacific Terminal near Bellingham

The Gateway Pacific Terminal is a proposed project at Cherry Point near Bellingham witha maximum capacity of about 54 million tons. On February 28, 2011, SSA Marine applied for state and federal permits for the $500 million terminal, triggering formal environmental review. If approved, the terminal would begin construction in early 2013 and operations in 2015, and create over 250 jobs. Environmental concerns include increased train traffic and expansion of coal as a fuel source in general.

"The proposal has a long environmental process to go through and is already controversial because of the number of additional trains that will be running on the tracks. At the same time, there are a lot of people that would love to have the hundreds of jobs produced. Some are pointing out that trains are coming anyway and that the coal will be taken up to Canada to be shipped. The question is where do the jobs go? And, can we mitigate these environmental impacts of these additional trains and other impacts?"

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