Still no budget deal as Legislature hits double-overtime; estate tax "fix" rests on shaky ground; toxic cleanup bill will speed work, bring new jobs
Legislature heads into third session with budget deal still elusive
Lawmakers edged closer to a budget deal Friday, but Gov. Jay Inslee is warning (The News Tribune/tiered subscription) of a government shutdown if a deal is not reached by the end of the fiscal year on June 30. The Senate, dominated by a Republican-leaning bipartisan caucus, is holding out for several reforms before approving tax increases requested by Democrats in the House and the governor. Chief among those “reform before revenue” issues is worker’s compensation. And on the topic of revenue, preliminary figures show lawmakers collected $77,000 in per diem reimbursements for the just-finished special session despite passing no laws during those 30 days. Budget negotiators didn’t report any breakthroughs over the weekend, but Senate budget chairman Andy Hill, R-Redmond, said he believes (The News Tribune/tiered subscription) that Tuesday’s revenue forecast will provide the “final logjam breaker.”
Last-minute fix on estate tax puts state budget on shakier ground
The Legislature and governor put together a last-minute bill that retroactively changes a legally flawed estate tax law but sets the state up to depend on revenue that might never materialize. Gov. Inslee signed the bill just after midnight Thursday, only eight hours before the chance to do so would have expired when court-ordered refund checks worth $13 million were to be dropped in the mail. The compromise response to the state Supreme Court’s Bracken Decision will keep the state from losing $160 million in tax revenue over the next two years, supporters say. Opponents say the bill is both unfair and unwise. Supreme Court precedent cast doubt on whether a retrospective tax reaching as many as eight years back will be constitutional, the Washington State Bar Association notes.
Governor signs AWB-backed reforms to toxic cleanup bill
An AWB-backed reform of the state’s Model Toxics Control Act was quickly signed into law Thursday night as part of last-minute give-and-take negotiations on the estate tax. The reforms, shepherded through the Legislature by Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, will increase accountability and focus on immediate work at cleanup of contaminated sites. Senate Bill 5296 will end financial diversions of the voter-approved toxic cleanup fund into the state’s general fund. Such diversions have contributed to a backlog of 5,000 brownfields. The bill will create jobs through cleanup and by opening up redevelopment of once-unusable land.
Why workers’ comp? Perfect question
The Washington State Labor Council sent lawmakers a flier last week asking the question: “Why workers’ comp? What’s the emergency?” Union leaders seem to think that a relatively small amount of unexpected investment revenue has cured everything that was wrong with the state’s workers’ comp system. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. In fact, state officials are still facing a $1.8 billion shortfall, and they will be looking to employers to fill most of it. Contact your legislators and ask for their support of Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5127. For more information, contact AWB’s Kris Tefft.
Inslee abdicates mediator role, blames GOP for budget stalemate
Gov. Jay Inslee stepped completely into the budget fray on Tuesday, ratcheting up the rhetoric on Republicans and lashing out at the bipartisan Senate Majority Coalition Caucus in a partisan attack that no previous governor would have dared, the Washington Wire reports. Inslee “shed any semblance of impartiality” and abandoned the traditional gubernatorial role of a mediator who helps broker compromise, instead taking the side of the Democrat-dominated House, Jerry Cornfield wrote in the Herald. In calling for a second special session, Inslee also said his Cabinet would begin preparing for a possible government shutdown if a budget is not approved by start of the new fiscal year July 1. Former Attorney General Rob McKenna found holes in Democratic cries of obstruction. Washington’s Legislature is beginning to emulate Congress, The News Tribune’s Peter Callaghan wrote (tiered subscription).
Senate transportation plan bumps up funding for highway and bridge upkeep
Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, advanced the debate about a comprehensive transportation plan last week when he issued the Senate majority’s version of a gas-tax and fee-raising plan. His plan, like the Democratic version offered in House, has a 10 ½ cent gas tax increase and boost in vehicle weight fees, The New Tribune (tiered subscription) notes. Both versions fund extensions of state routes 167 and 509 using some tolling. Notably, King’s $1.53 billion plan adds an extra $300 million for maintenance and preservation of roads and bridges by withholding funding for the Columbia River Crossing. Meanwhile, the federal government has released $15.6 million to fix the Skagit River bridge over I-5. The state will have to pay just over $1 million for its share, the AP reports. The temporary spans should be open this week, not quite a month after the span’s May 23 collapse.
Governor cancels trip to Paris Air Show due to budget showdown
As leaders in the South ramp up their efforts to attract aerospace firms and their high-paying jobs, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday that he is cancelling his plans to attend the globe’s biggest aerospace event because of the ongoing budget impasse in Olympia. U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, the ranking Democrat on the House Aviation Subcommittee, is attending the 50th International Paris Air Show in his place, leading a delegation of 52. Twenty-two states are sending representatives. Among them are Alabama, where Boeing competitor Airbus is building an assembly plant, the Puget Sound Business Journal writes. AWB President Don Brunell notes that construction of the 787-10 could take place entirely in South Carolina due to logistical issues.
Seattle City Council limits employers’ ability to ask about criminal history of applicants
Forget about the check box on job applications asking about criminal convictions, at least if you do business in Seattle. The city council unanimously approved a bill last week prohibiting employers from asking about an applicant’s criminal history until after an initial screening. An applicant could only be rejected based on a prior criminal history if there is a legitimate business reason to do so.
Unemployment insurance rates rise along with average income
Washington average wage rose above $50,000 last year, increasing by 3.4 percent to just under $52,600, according to the Employment Security Department. The change means an automatic increase in unemployment checks for workers (the average unemployment check in this state last year was $375, the fifth-highest in the nation, the Washington Research Council notes). Taxes for employers will also increase because of the change. Beginning in 2014, employers will pay unemployment taxes on the first $41,300 paid to each employee, up from $39,800 this year. The state’s average worker salary is also used by L&I to calculate worker’s compensation benefits, so also expect an increase there.
New edition of Washington Business hot off the presses
The latest edition of Washington Business, AWB’s quarterly magazine, has just been published. This edition features a cover story on the need for immigration reform. Other stories focus on mentoring the next generation of leaders, bridging the skills gap through meaningful workforce education, and a quick look at the winners of AWB’s community service and environmental excellence awards. Check your mailbox for our “news with a competitive edge.”
State collecting more money than expected
It has long been predicted that legislators would put off a final budget deal until after the June 18 budget forecast, which could provide them with a boost to protected tax revenue. Figures released last week detailing money actually collected did show an increase of $94.4 million above projections for the first part of the year. This strengthens the belief that lawmakers will have a little more money spend in the 2013-2015 budget by Tuesday, the Washington Research Council wrote.
Immigration reform passes key test vote in U.S. Senate
A landmark immigration reform bill passed early test votes with “deceptive ease” last week, the AP reports, but the future path of this key legislation is anything but certain. Republicans are pushing to add tougher border security, including strict limits that must be reached before the 11 million illegal immigrants in the country could have a chance at citizenship. The proposal would also create new programs for both low-skilled and high-skilled workers to enter the country to work, a key reason AWB has joined the Washington Compact, a wide-ranging coalition pushing for meaningful and comprehensive immigration reform.
Despite improvements, U.S. job market worse than at any time during previous recession
Unemployed workers far outnumber job openings in every U.S. sector, the Economic Policy Institute reported last week after the release of federal employment figures. Overall, even as our economy slowly improves, the ratio of job-seekers to actual jobs is worse now than in even the grimmest days of the previous recession a decade ago. There were 3.1 unemployed workers for every job opening in April. The same ratio at its worst point in the previous recession, September 2003, was 2.9 job seekers for every open job. At the worst point in this recession, July of 2009, that ratio stood at 6.7 job seekers for every opening. The figures show “the U.S. labor market is still in rough shape – despite the considerable improvements in recent years,” the Washington Post wrote.
Longview Fibre’s mill and timberlands sold for combined $3.68 billion
Longview Fibre’s operations are being split and sold in a pair of transfers from an investment company to firms with deep roots in the paper and logging industries. Weyerhaeuser is buying Longview Timber’s 645,000 acres for $2.65 billion. The deal, boosting Weyerhaeuser’s Northwest land base by one third, to 2.6 million acres, will bring its total holdings to 6.6 million acres. It will be the third-largest forestry purchase in North America. The Longview Fibre Paper and Packaging mill is being sold to KapStone Paper & Packaging Corp, a fast-growing Illinois company that has no existing presence west of the Mississippi River, the Daily News reports. The southwest Washington mill has 1,120 employees. It manufacturers multiwall paper, containerboard, corrugated containers and a tough paper used to make cement bags. The prospective new owner said it wants to expand the business and upgrade equipment, including a new paper machine, after the $1.025 billion sale is approved.
Nominations now being accepted for the 2013 Manufacturing Excellence Awards
AWB and the AWB Institute are now accepting nominations for the 2013 Manufacturing Excellence Awards sponsored by UPS. Manufacturers are responsible for more than 70 percent of all private sector R&D, which ultimately benefits other manufacturing and non-manufacturing activities. Two-thirds of our nation’s total exports of goods and services are related to the manufacturing sector. The awards, sponsored by UPS, will be presented in October at the 2013 Manufacturing Summit: Manufacturing Matters Now! in October. Recipients will be featured in a video highlighting their accomplishments. Download the nomination form here. Applications are due by July 26.
AWB Institute surveying effectiveness of training employees by workplace distance learning
For the past two years, AWB Institute has been collaborating with the Workforce Training & Education Coordinating Board, the state's community college system and selected employers to bring distance learning into the workplace. Workplace-based learning is an education model that brings education to where working adults are every day, the workplace. Employers benefit because workers are provided job-relevant education that improves their quality of work; workers benefit because they receive college-level education and training during working hours that they otherwise would not be able to access. The tri-partite partnerships ensure that the latest learning techniques and expertise meet specific job requirements as defined by the employer. To determine the level of interest in bringing distance learning into the workplace, AWB Institute is conducting a very brief survey (five questions). We invite any member who has or is interested in adding work place distance learning to their employee training program to take this brief survey. For questions, please contact Mike Hudson at MikeH@awb.org or by phone at 360.943.1600.
AWB EVENTS & RESOURCES
Accident Prevention Plan webinar set for June 20
An accident prevention plan is a key element in any organization’s safety and health program. In fact, failure to have one can be one of the fastest ways to receive a citation, whether from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration or state jurisdictions. This one-hour webinar is designed for anyone who is responsible for safety and health within a workplace, including risk assessment managers, safety and health directors, personnel or committee members, and human resources department personnel. Topics will include: Developing an accident prevention plan; job hazard analysis; training on the plan; accident investigations; and ongoing review of the plan. Presenters are Bob Battles and Chad Arceneaux from the law firm Eisenhower Carlson. Join us this Thursday from 9-10 a.m. Register online. Members: $35. For more information, contact AWB’s Karlee Glasgow.
At the Speed of Now: Crisis Communications in a 24/7 World webinar July 9
Between the 24/7 news cycle and the abundance of social media avenues, there has never been a more important time to review your company’s strategy for dealing with the unexpected. When and how should you respond to a reporter’s questions? What should you do when a television crew shows up at your facility? Find out answers to these questions and more during a July 9 webinar featuring strategic communication veterans Randy Pepple and Jennifer West. Members: $49. Non-members: $79. Register now. For more information, contact AWB’s Karlee Glasgow.
AWB’s Human Resources Forum will address the impending “talent war” July 16
As the unemployment rate drops, many of your employees will be looking to make a move. A recent survey by FPC, a national executive search firm, found that 88 percent of employees across all industries and all job levels are planning to look for a new job as the market improves. What can you do to retain your current stars as well as attract the best and brightest to your business? Join AWB and special guests for a high-energy discussion on creating a better workplace through innovative initiatives, creative benefits and cultural shifts. Learn from award winning companies as they share their success stories (and challenges) in transforming their workplace environment. The event has been approved for 4.75 (General) recertification credit hours toward PHR, SPHR and GPHR recertification through the HR Certification Institute.
· Top Threats Facing Employers Today, Reid Bates, franchise owner, Express Employment Professionals
· Your People Are Your Brand, Where Science and Comedy Meet to Increase Employee Engagement and Performance: Ken Grant, president, Motivated Branding and Dr. Patrick Hopp, senior consultant, Leadership Development Worldwide
· Ingredients For an Innovative Workplace: Panel of past AWB Better Workplace Awards for Innovation moderated by Ken Grant
· Implementing Innovative Initiatives Successfully, Real World Experience in Making Significant Cultural Changes: Delta Emerson, executive vice president and chief of staff, Ryan, LLC.
The forum is from 7:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. July 16 at the Seattle Airport Marriott. There is a limited group room block at the Seattle Airport Marriott so make your reservation early; call 800.228.9290. Questions contact Karlee Glasgow, 800.521.9325, or register here.
‘Morning Joe’ duo and Time magazine’s economy editor to headline Fall Policy Summit
The line-up for AWB’s 24th annual Policy Summit in September will feature a powerful lineup of speakers addressing national politics and economic issues. MSNBC’s morning show team of Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski will speak at the keynote dinner. We will also hear from:
· Rana Foroohar, Time Magazine columnist and economy editor
· A health care panel featuring Don Conant, an active AWB member and a member of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange Board; Jeff Rowe, executive vice president, Premera Blue Cross of Washington; and Hadley Heath, a senior policy analyst at the Independent Women's Forum and an expert on the Affordable Care Act
The Policy Summit will be held Sept. 17-19 at Suncadia Resort in Cle Elum. Sponsorships for the new Policy Summit App are now available. Contact Anne Haller, AWB’s director of member relations and events, at 360.943.1600 or AnneH@awb.org. Register online. Go here for Suncadia room reservations.
Annual golf tournament set for Rope Rider Golf Course Sept. 17
AWB Institute is excited to be hosting the annual fundraising tournament for Washington Business Week — an educational program that offers students a chance to experience simulated career challenges in a general business setting or in the career-focused pathways of health care, energy, manufacturing and agriculture. The tee time at Rope Rider Golf Course is 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 17, during AWB’s Policy Summit. Golfers will enjoy playing on this spectacular course designed by Jacobsen Hardy Design, one of the nation's most respected course architecture firms. Registration is $140 and opens online June 10. Golf sponsorships are available here.
AWB offers simple 401(k) plan for members
Members can take advantage of an exciting retirement program – MyFuture 401(k) – an easier, more cost-effective plan for your company. Each adopting employer retains control of the vesting, eligibility requirements, matching contributions, profit sharing, and general plan design while decreasing the administrative burden and fiduciary liability. On-site education and enrollment services are provided to your employees by Integrity Financial, a local investment advisor, along with institutional grade investment options and professionally managed risk-based portfolios. For more information, please contact AWB at 1.800.521.9325 or visit www.awbmyfuture401k.com.
THEY SAID IT
“Any talk of a shutdown – it might make great press, but it’s complete nonsense.” ~ Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, dismissing claims by Gov. Jay Inslee that the long-awaited budget would not be finished by the end of the fiscal year, June 30.
This Week's President's Perspective: Portland is an odd-duck on fluoridation