‘A huge step’: Locals react to Inslee’s historic equity policy package

Governor Jay Inslee announced a multi-million dollar equity-related program, directing state agencies to “center budgetary decision packages and legislation around equity” for the first time ever.

“I firmly believe Washington will be an anti-racist state, and I will be taking actions that hold our state to that commitment,” Inslee said during a press conference Monday. “We need our policies and budget to reflect our dedication toward disrupting the harmful systemic cycle of racism and inequity.

Naima Chambers-Smith, the founder of the Tri-Cities Diversity and Inclusion Council, said this was a step forward.

“Not only is he aware but he is being intentional in his efforts to try to create change and tackle the inequalities that exist,” Chambers-Smith said.

Chaune’ Fitzgerald, the commissioner for African American Affairs, said this was key to making the Tri-Cities a better place.

“Being inclusive means that everyone, every culture, feels welcome and everyone has a sense of the quality of life,” Fitzgerald said. “When we’re able to do that for all races, then that makes a great city.”

She added that the $365 million budget was “a huge step for Washington.”

“We do have a lot of issues that we need to address on a local level because once you can address issues locally, then you can take them to the state level,” Fitzgerald said.

In the press conference, Inslee announced $2.5 million would go to the state Equity Office, an eight-person group that will “develop and implement a five-year equity plan for the state and assist agencies in developing their own diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) plans.”

Inslee also said the legislative and budget proposals would tackle things like:

  • Establish Juneteenth as a legal holiday.
  • Stand up and task the Washington Equity Office.
  • Mandate independent investigations of police use-of-force.
  • Continue to fund the Immigrant Relief Fund.
  • Ban making insurance decisions based off credit scores.
  • Invest directly in communities of color.