AWB announces initial 2016 candidate endorsements, ballot measure stances
Employers back candidates for state Legislature and lieutenant governor, oppose carbon tax, minimum wage, and campaign finance measures
SPOKANE — The Association of Washington Business, Washington’s oldest and largest business organization, announced an early round of candidate endorsements Thursday, as well as positions on three ballot initiatives going before voters this fall.
Meeting in Spokane for its annual Spring Meeting, AWB’s board voted Wednesday to oppose initiatives 732, 1433 and 1464.
Initiative 732, creating a carbon tax, would immediately impact consumers and employers with higher food, fuel and energy costs.
"We’ve discussed Initiative 732’s carbon tax proposal with our members, the Legislature, proponents and opponents, and it’s clear that anything that makes it harder to live, work and create jobs in this state is a policy we cannot support,” said AWB President Kris Johnson. “Raising the cost of energy and other basic needs of families is the wrong direction, particularly in light of the slowing and uncertain economy and considering that Washington is already one of the greenest economies."
The association also opposed Initiative 1433, increasing the state minimum wage to $13.50 per hour over four years and mandating paid sick and safe leave for all employees.
"Our board was overwhelmingly concerned over the cost of Initiative 1433 and how it would impact job retention and growth, particularly for young adults who are in minimum wage jobs,” Johnson said. “We already have one of the highest minimum wages in the nation, and what we see is a growing gap in teen and young adult employment and wage compression for long-time workers. We are also concerned about the impact this would have on small businesses in border communities, who will be placed at an even greater competitive disadvantage by this measure."
The third initiative considered, 1464, requiring state taxpayers to fund political campaigns through a voucher system paid for with a new tax, was opposed due to the ability for well-funded campaigns to game the system.
"Because the $50 vouchers would be given out on a first-come, first-served basis, a well-oiled campaign machine could get the lion’s share of the funding, leaving candidates that are just starting out or new to the political system to raise solely private funds in their bid for elected office. It’s undemocratic and unfair," Johnson said.
AWB’s board voted to endorse current state Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, for lieutenant governor, a day after the organization hosted a debate featuring eight of the 11 candidates running for the open position.
"Sen. Steve Hobbs has worked with the business community throughout his time in the Legislature and was particularly helpful in supporting the transportation package that AWB worked to pass last year,” said Johnson. “His ability to work across the aisle for the betterment of the state makes him a good choice for the office."
The AWB board also voted to give early endorsements to three legislative candidates:
District Position Name Party
- 16 Senator Maureen Walsh R
- 17 Senator Lynda Wilson R
- 30 Rep. Pos. 2 Teri Hickel R
"As a small-business owner, Rep. Maureen Walsh understands the issues 92 percent of AWB members face when it comes to state regulations and policies,” Johnson said. “That puts her in a unique position to share not only her experience in the Legislature but also the experiences of the majority of our members."
"Having worked alongside Rep. Lynda Wilson over the past two years, she has shown a willingness to help build broad coalitions to help find solutions to the issues that impact employers statewide," Johnson said.
"As one of the newest members of the House, Rep. Teri Hickel has a wealth of experience at the local level that puts her uniquely in touch with how additional state regulations impact job creation in communities of all sizes,” said Johnson. “We need more lawmakers who see the entire picture, not just the view from Olympia."
AWB board members will take up additional political endorsements at the annual Policy Summit in September.
"We hope that the 2016 election cycle will be a vote for employers,” Johnson said. “We have a lot of opportunities to grow the economy – in every community – and shore up the cornerstones, like manufacturing and maritime, that create good-paying jobs. But, we must have people in elected offices and solid policies that recognize the need for job creation and opportunity statewide, not just in central Puget Sound."
About the Association of Washington Business
Formed in 1904, the Association of Washington Business is Washington’s oldest and largest statewide business association, and includes nearly 8,000 members representing 700,000 employees. AWB serves as both the state’s chamber of commerce and the manufacturing and technology association. While its membership includes major employers like Boeing, Microsoft and Weyerhaeuser, 92 percent of AWB members employ fewer than 100 people. More than half of AWB’s members employ fewer than 10. For more about AWB, visit www.awb.org.