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Fast Facts

Monday, March 3

With less than two weeks left, the budget race is on

TOP STORIES
With less than two weeks left, the budget race is on

The state Senate overwhelmingly passed (41-8) a balanced supplemental budget Thursday that adds $96 million to the state’s operations. The budget uses a slight uptick in state revenue to fund increases in K-12 education and college programs. The House, meanwhile, wants to increase spending by $270 million by adding taxes to bottled water, recycled energy used within refineries, out-of-state shoppers and prescription drug warehouses. The money would pay for a new preschool program and would give teachers cost-of-living adjustments. It would also pose a threat to Washington businesses, particularly small businesses that are struggling to compete with cross-border communities. The budget battle is a precursor to what is likely to be a bitter fight next year as the state runs into its education funding obligations under the McCleary decision.

Transportation plan emerges from the Senate Majority Coalition, but will it get a hearing?

The Senate Majority Coalition Caucus has put its transportation proposal into bill form, releasing a formal proposal on Friday. House bills 6577, 6578 and 6579 include compromises with Democrats: more money for mass transit, a continued diversion of some construction sales tax into the general fund, and setting up prevailing wage reforms only on new projects, not existing ones. The bills include language making it clear the Legislature wants to retain control over any attempts to impose a low-carbon fuel standard. The legislation faces an uncertain path in the waning 10 days of the legislative session, The Olympian (tiered paywall) notes.

Business leaders discuss long-term unemployment with U.S. Labor Secretary

Gary Chandler, AWB’s vice president of government affairs, joined with other leaders from the business and labor communities this morning to discuss the problem of long-term unemployment with U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez. Gov. Jay Inslee called for the meeting to discuss one of the biggest problems resulting from the Great Recession. In Washington state, 34 percent of those unemployed have been out of work six months or longer. Business leaders expressed their commitment to support efforts to tackle the problem, and Inslee said he would be following up with employers to help develop policy aimed at addressing the issue.

Inslee pushes for legislative fix as feds prepare to pull $44 million in education funds

Gov. Jay Inslee began pushing last week for lawmakers to change a single word in state law, thus guaranteeing $44 million in federal funding targeted at urban schools. After meeting with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Inslee said the legislature must require that student test scores play at least a small role in teacher and principal evaluations. Current state law only says test results “can” be used. The U.S. Department of Education says scores “must” be used, or the state loses a key waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act. Democrats, under heavy pressure from the state’s biggest teacher’s union, played a “game of chicken” with the feds, The Olympian wrote, calling it a “foolish gambit.” Negotiations continue on a legislative fix. Meanwhile, The News Tribune’s Peter Callaghan offers some facts to ground the heated debate.

Levy swap will be part of the negotiations to fill McCleary hole, Rep. Ross Hunter says

The Legislature will end on time, Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, told AWB’s Friday Phone Briefing, but the lead Democratic House budget writer said there is a lot of work to be done before them. Hunter, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, discussed education funding, tax incentives and announced that he would revive his previous plan to help fund the McCleary education gap using a relatively painless process called a levy swap. We’ve got two calls left this session. Register online today.. You’ll receive a call-in number and code good for the rest of the legislative session (email will come from our call vendor, AccuConference). Contact J-Anne Nepomuceno if you need help registering for the call or accessing your membership on awb.org.

Report: Health care costs continue to climb, costing jobs

Health insurance premiums have nearly doubled for small businesses since the Affordable Care Act passed in 2009, and businesses are hiring part-time workers or independent contractors because of the skyrocketing costs. That’s one conclusion from a new survey by the National Small Business Association. The Puget Sound Business Journal concludes, “So far, Obamacare isn’t working for most small businesses.”

Washington has nation’s fourth-highest rate of union membership

Washington’s rate of union membership continues to increase, and the Evergreen State is the fourth most unionized state in America, according to a new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2013 Washington had 546,000 union members, accounting for 18.9 percent of wage and salary earnings in Washington. That’s up from 18.5 percent in 2012. The national average last year was 11.3 percent.

PRIORITY LEGISLATION
Call your lawmakers today and ask them to support high-tech incentives!

These important incentives are set to expire on Jan. 1. If your industry does research and development for advanced computing, advanced materials, biotechnology, electronic devices and environmental technology then you will see an immediate tax increase if these incentives are allowed to expire. If your bottom-line and reinvestment is hurt by these incentives expiring, then email or call your legislator today at 1.800.562.60001.800.562.60001.800.562.60001.800.562.6000 and tell them to pass SB 6430 and HB 2685 before adjourning. Without action, these incentives will expire! Lawmakers in the House are not convinced that the investment in this industry in necessary and discount the $8.7 billion of annual R&D investments and hundreds of thousands of high paying jobs. The Senate has partially funded an extension. Please contact your lawmaker today.

House budget plan would increase taxes and public competition against private enterprise

AWB Government Affairs Director Amber Carter testified in the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday against components of the House budget bill, HB 2185. Carter testified against tax increases a proposal for the state to offer a public retirement plan that would compete with private offerings. She also spoke in favor of R&D tax incentives that are part of the Senate budget but are not in the House proposal. Carter asked for funding for the One Stop Business Portal project, a high-tech way to help businesses pay taxes and comply with regulations.

Bill would lower liquor taxes to avoid chasing customers out of state

A bipartisan bill introduced Wednesday would gradually lower the state’s liquor sales taxes from 20.5 percent to 6.5 percent over the next eight years, The Associated Press reports. The state’s 2011 initiative privatizing liquor sales has tax rates so high that prices have risen by 11 percent, chasing many consumers over the border to stores in Idaho and Oregon.

After AWB member testimony, regulatory reform bill passes Senate committee

The Senate Trade & Economic Development Committee passed HB 2192 on to the Ways & Means Committee Friday. This regulatory reform bill, sponsored by Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton, would require agencies to give an estimate to applicants about how long the permit process is expected to take. Agencies would also need to track how long the permits actually take. AWB Government Affairs Director Mike Ennis and Carl Gipson of AWB member Frontier Communications testified in favor of the bill Thursday.

Career and college readiness standards pass Senate education committee

HB 2383, which would integrate career and college readiness standards into K-12 and higher education policies and practices, passed the Senate Committee on Early Learning & K-12 Education last week. It now awaits action by the Ways & Means Committee. The AWB-supported bill would help guide middle and high school students as they identify career and college pathways, helping them align their classes with these goals. Contact AWB Government Affairs Director Sheri Nelson for more information.

Paid sick leave bill has Senate hearing, but bill has little chance of passage

The Senate Commerce & Labor Committee heard HB 1313 on Wednesday, but the bill faced a skeptical audience from the panel. The bill requires employers to pay for sick and safe leave, marking the first time the state would mandate employers paying their workers not to work. AWB has consistently opposed this bill, saying the administrative costs and big-picture policy issues of a de facto employee head tax are troublesome.

OTHER NEWS
Passages: Joe Dear, former L&I director and chief state investment officer, dies at age 62

Joe Dear, the former head of the Washington Department of Labor & Industries and Gov. Gary Locke’s chief of staff, died last week of prostate cancer. He was 62. Dear also served as head of Washington’s investment board, eventually leaving Washington to work as chief investment officer of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the nation’s largest public pension fund.

Hundreds of businesses and groups urge U.S. House to pass immigration reform

Failure to act on immigration reform is not an option, 636 businesses and organizations told the U.S. House of Representatives in a letter last week. AWB signed the letter, which urged the House Republican Conference to take action this year on reforms that will help the country and its economy. “Immigration reform is an essential element of a jobs agenda and economic growth. It will add talent, innovation, investment, products, businesses, jobs, and dynamism to our economy,” the letter noted.

Deadline is Friday to take McGladrey Monitor survey and unlock customized benchmark report

A highlight of AWB’s annual Manufacturing Summit is the presentation of the year’s new McGladrey Manufacturing & Distribution Monitor. It’s time to participate in the survey that will inform this year’s Monitor, and as usual, AWB members who participate will have access to a number of valuable business insights and benefits. This customized benchmark report will compare your responses to other businesses, including those like your own. You’ll also receive:

• Data to help you plan and execute your strategic objectives.

• An industry advocate who will provide insights to congressional and administrative representatives on your behalf.

For a hint of what the Monitor provides, take a look at last year’s report and its presentation at the Manufacturing Summit. Friday is your last day to participate! All responses will be kept strictly confidential. Click here to take the survey.

AWB EVENTS & RESOURCES
AWB now accepting nominations for new board members

Is there a business leader that you’d like to nominate for AWB’s board of directors? If so, please send your nominee’s name and contact information to AWB’s Bonnie Millikan at 360.943.1600360.943.1600360.943.1600360.943.1600 or email no later than March 31. The new board members will be selected at AWB’s Spring Board Meeting on May 14.

Are you interested in speaking with the media? AWB seeks “voices of business”

Newspapers, television stations and radio broadcasters regularly ask AWB for help contacting employers who can talk about the real-world impacts of government decisions, from the $15 minimum wage and paid vacation leave to the workers’ comp system. If you’d be willing to “go on the record” about your experiences, we’d like to add you to our media contacts list. Please send your name, phone number, type of business and areas of experience/policy interest to AWB Vice President of Communications Jocelyn McCabe or call us at 800.521.9325800.521.9325800.521.9325800.521.9325.

Sign up now for Spring Meeting and a chance to hear from honoree Gary Locke

In Washington, we know Gary Locke as our former governor, but he’s better known today as America’s first Chinese-American ambassador to serve in China. While there, he earned the respect and affection of the Chinese people. He ended his tenure as ambassador last week. Secretary of State John Kerry calls Locke “a champion of human dignity and a relentless advocate for America's values.” AWB will honor his service to our state and nation by presenting him with the C. David Gordon Award at our Spring Meeting in Spokane. The theme of this year’s Spring Meeting is “Balancing State Policy with Global Competition.” The event will be held May 13-14 at the Davenport Hotel. Learn more and register here.

Final notice: Social media law seminar coming this Thursday to Seattle

If you’ve ever wondered if you can discipline an employee for what they post about your company on Twitter or Facebook, we have the answers to that question and so much more. Plan now to attend “Social Media: Dos and DON’Ts for Employers” this Thursday in Seattle. This 90-minute class by labor and employment attorney Selena Smith will guide you through the ever-changing legal landscape surrounding social media in the workplace. You’ll learn how — and what — you can include in your workplace policies and your discipline for online employee misconduct. Register and learn more here.

From earthquakes to volcanic eruptions: how to prepare your business for the worst

If you want your business to survive and thrive even after a disaster, the time to prepare is now. AWB and disaster planning expert Joe Teeples will give you the ideas and tolls you need to organize your emergency management system, continuity of operations plan and a recovery template for surviving – then getting back to business when the worst is over. “Preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse... And other disasters” will be held March 26 in Tacoma from 8 to 4 p.m. Details and registration are available online.

Licensing, Buying and Selling Technology Webinar

Who owns a mobile app that a business paid a developer to create? Is Bitcoin tangible or intangible property? How could the state treat the alternative crypto currency for tax purposes? Technology is changing fast and businesses need to keep up. Join us at 10 a.m. April 22 for a webinar examining issues that businesses may face with technology transactions. Garry Fujita and Rick Leitner, both partners at Eisenhower Carlson, PLLC, in Tacoma, will start with a general overview of technology transactions and then more particularly address issues related to license and ownership, the cloud, mobile apps and the recent emergence of Bitcoin. Details and registration are available online.

THEY SAID IT

“Maybe we should call for a sweeping environmental review of overwhelming hypocrisy.” ~ An editorial in the (Casper, Wyoming) Star-Tribune accusing Washington environmentalists of selective judgment in calling for a sweeping environmental review of coal export terminals but not other big projects that they happen to support.

BUSINESS #TRENDING: Minimum-wage proposal a $15 paradox for the poor

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