January 7, 2019
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New year begins with $12 minimum wage and first collection of Paid Family and Medical Leave premiums

Jan. 1 means that Washington's minimum wage increased to $12 per hour for workers age 16 or older. That was part of Initiative 1433, passed by voters in 2016. The state Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) announced the new wage. The agency pointed out that the cities of SeaTac, Seattle and Tacoma have their own minimum wage rates and encouraged employers in those cities to contact city officials for more information.

The initiative set a schedule for Washington's minimum wage to increase over a four-year period. As a result, in 2020 the state minimum wage will climb to $13.50. For the following year, L&I will calculate the minimum wage by using a formula tied to the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers.

Jan. 1 also marked the start of premium collection for Washington's Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) program.

Paid Family and Medical Leave is an insurance program funded through premiums paid by employers and workers. The initial premium will be 0.4 percent and can be adjusted annually after 2020 by ESD, according to rules set by the statute. Employers began collecting premiums on Jan. 1. The next phase – acceptance of applications to access the leave program – begins Jan. 1, 2020.

To support employers in communicating what the program means to employees and the new payroll deduction, ESD prepared an online Employer Toolkit available in several languages and has additional resources on its website. Along with the toolkit, the agency created infographics in English and Spanish explaining the PFML program.

AWB created a short video explaining the PFML program and the premium calculations.

Employers that are not in compliance with the new law, have questions about it, or would like to learn about applying for a Voluntary Plan, are encouraged to contact ESD at paidleave@esd.wa.gov.

For more information on the PFML program and changes to other workplace laws, contact AWB Government Affairs Director Bob Battles at 360.943.1600.

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Legislative Day and Hill Climb Preview
Supporting Rural Areas

Let's work together to prioritize rural economic revitalization

By AWB President Kris Johnson

The mission of the Association of Washington Business is to bring people together throughout the state to promote economic prosperity -- from the urban centers to the most rural corners.

We know that parts of Washington have boomed since the end of the recession, but other areas -- particularly the rural communities that exist in each of our state's 39 counties -- have not realized the same economic opportunities.

Our state's overall success depends on not just talking about the many barriers holding back economic growth in rural regions but finding and implementing solutions discussed at the AWB Rural Jobs Summit in the Legislature and at the local level to move every community forward.

Whether urban, rural or somewhere in between, we're all in this together.

Read the full column in the Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business
Taxing Employers

Legislature's return to work presents a challenge for business

By Bill Virgin

Laments from the business community about taxes, regulations and the high cost and frustration of doing business around here are typically met with two responses: "It can't be that bad, look at our booming economy," and "If you don't like it, leave" (the latter usually accompanied by a snide remark about Texas or the South).

To those points: The current success of the tech sector, however loosely that's defined, certainly fueled economic growth in the region. But other sectors are struggling for reasons of their own (retailing) or related to the boom (industrial businesses dealing with high costs). Tech's boom has papered over a lot of ills, and if the sector ever has another moment like the dot-com bust, that facade will be gone...

Eventually businesses reach a point at which the cost/benefit analysis tips from staying to going.

It hasn't happened in great numbers and it won't happen at the same time for all businesses. But those tipping points are out there. In 2019, we'll find out see how enthusiastically the Legislature pushes the region closer to them.

Read the full column in The News Tribune
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