May 13, 2019
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A record Spring Meeting is in the books

From a timely talk on economics by forecaster Bill Conerly to a scintillating talk by United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, AWB's Spring Meeting last week in Spokane saw record crowds and engagement.

Haley's evening keynote address packed the ballroom at the Davenport Grand. She spoke about her early years as the child of immigrants in South Carolina, and how she started her first job as a bookkeeper for the family business while barely a teenager. She went on to run for the state Legislature with a business-minded focus after she said she was tired of seeing how hard it is to make a dollar and how easy it is for government to spend it.

Haley later was elected twice to serve as governor of South Carolina. She recounted how she began changing the culture of state government by giving business leaders her cell phone number to call if they had problems. She also instructed state employees to answer the phone by saying, "It's a great day in South Carolina. How may I help you?"

She encouraged employers to be actively engaged with elected officials. After speaking about her life, Haley sat down with Kim Smith, Boeing vice president and general manager of Boeing Fabrication, to answer questions about her experience and perspective.

Earlier in the evening, Haley joined about two dozen AWB members and state leaders for a Women's Leadership Roundtable, an informal and conversational opportunity for employers to talk with Haley about a wide range of topics.

Bill Conerly, who has a Ph.D. in economics from Duke University, opened the day with a lunch keynote address on regional, national and global economic forecast that included practical tips for businesses to employ in the days ahead.

Other sessions in the day's events:

  • A panel of agency directors from the Washington state departments of Labor and Industries, Ecology and Agriculture who answered questions on water quality, apprenticeships, international trade and more;
  • A leadership panel made up of legislators from the “four corners,” moderated by the Spokane Journal of Business Publisher Paul Read. The frank conversation about the budget, last-minute legislating and taxes included plenty of back-and-forth between the lawmakers and attendees;
  • A CEO panel featuring leaders from Numerica Credit Union, Wagstaff and Pearson Packaging Systems, moderated by AWB President Kris Johnson. The Spokesman-Review covered the session.
  • A transportation panel featuring executives from PACCAR, Uber, the Washington State Transportation Commission and the Washington State Department of Transportation, moderated by FedEx.

Take a quick but wide-ranging look at the event through this social media roundup.

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100% Clean Energy Bill

Washington state's new carbon-free law sounds dandy. Making it work will be daunting

By Bill Virgin

SB 5116 is a dog's breakfast of a bill, an unappetizing hash of the latest political realities, enviro fads and opportunities to award favored groups. If, for example, you're in the business of writing or interpreting rules and regs generated by 5116, or consulting on how to comply with or take advantage of said verbiage, Christmas came early for you and will keep coming from now to 2030 and to 2045.

The laborious, painstaking and often frustrating work of building, testing and refining the technologies that will make the glories of a carbon-free grid possible (never mind whether that prospect is desirable) won't be cheap, either. But without it, the next-generation electric grid doesn't happen.

People won't be happy when they learn, in 2030 or 2045, they've shelled out a lot of money to wind up with a developing nation's power grid. We're accustomed to having electricity available when and where we want it; it's what makes our comfortable lives possible. And it's something we know how to build and run. If we need more power, we can build a big central generating station, powered by cheap and plentiful natural gas, plug it into the grid and be done with it.

What we don't have, and what we'll need places like Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland to build, is a grid smart, fast and resilient enough to handle tens of thousands of generating stations (as small as a residential solar panel and battery array or as big as wind-turbine farm) adding to and dropping off the system at a moment's notice, all the while fending off the cybervandals and cybersaboteurs, who will have tens of thousands of additional points of entry to exploit. We're not there yet...

Read the full column in The News Tribune
Midnight Spending

In Our View: State budget process in need of transparency

By The Columbian Editorial Board

Keeping up with the Legislature can be daunting for citizens interested in performing their civic duty by paying attention to the goings on in Olympia. That is particularly true when it comes to the budget, which typically is kept under wraps until the final days of the session.

That brings up the crux of this editorial: Legislative leaders should adjust how they do business, providing more transparency and more debate and more public engagement. Passing spending bills in the dark of night during the final days of the session is no way to run state government.

Yet that is what happened this year. In the end, lawmakers passed a dizzying array of tax increases in putting together the largest budget in state history. Despite a surge in state revenue created by a strong economy, the Legislature was unable to live within its means. The two-year budget, which goes into effect later this year, represents an 18 percent increase in spending over the current biennium.

Much of that increase goes to increases in salaries and benefits for public employees, whose contracts are negotiated between unions and the governor's office before being sent to the Legislature for either an up-or-down vote. As The Columbian has argued editorially in the past, the public should be kept abreast of offers and counteroffers during negotiations with the unions. After all, it is our money that is on the table...

Read the full editorial in The Columbian
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