September 23, 2019
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Policy Summit: Coming together from both sides of the aisle to find solutions

AWB's 31st annual Policy Summit last week featured speakers who highlighted advances in STEM outreach for girls, the latest economic trends, and culminated with the evening keynote address from a pair of former White House chiefs of staff. The speakers, who come from differing political parties, showed us that philosophical disagreements can be handled with civility and humanity.

There was also plenty of time for AWB members and other business leaders to make the kind of connections that lead to new relationships in business, civic engagement and political progress.

The event began with a day devoted to trade, exports and education. Former Washington Gov. Gary Locke had a fireside chat-style conversation with AWB President Kris Johnson. Their wide-ranging talk included plenty of discussion about trade and China -- a relevant topic for Locke, who served as the U.S. Secretary of Commerce and also as America's ambassador to China. (TVW video)

Washington Department of Commerce Director Lisa Brown led two panel discussions on trade -- the first with trade representatives from Canada and Japan (TVW video) and the second with Washington employers in the fruit and grain industries who are leading exporters (TVW video).

Tuesday's events concluded with an address from Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal, who discussed the push for career-connected education, among other topics (TVW video).

Wednesday's events began with a keynote address from Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner, who looked at economic trends and the possibility of a recession in late 2020 (TVW video).

The State of Energy panel (TVW video) was especially topical, as a proposal in Seattle aims to curb use of natural gas. Experts in energy supply pointed out that during times of peak demand, more than half the residential energy used in Seattle comes from natural gas. During times of peak demand -- January and July -- the frigid or sweltering weather patterns also mean that the wind isn't blowing, meaning that wind power isn't an option.

The Future Airport Growth panel brought in voices from Sea-Tac, Paine Field and Spokane International Airport to discuss what's happening and what's ahead in their areas (TVW video).

A session on Washington's tax structure asked if there is consensus about a frequent claim, that Washington's tax system is regressive -- and what the impacts would be of adding more taxes, like an income tax (TVW video).

The lunchtime keynote address from GoldieBlox founder Debbie Sterling was a look at how she has worked to "disrupt the pink aisle" and help girls get into STEM education through connecting engineering with storytelling.

A variety of afternoon panels discussed carbon emissions, education, workplace law and much more.

The evening keynote from two White House chiefs of staff was, according to many attendees, one of the best at an AWB event in recent memory.

Reince Priebus, who served under President Donald Trump, and Denis McDonough, who served under President Barack Obama, engaged in a genuinely friendly exchange.

Thursday saw the swearing in of more than 20 new members of the AWB board. Tri-Cities attorney Fran Forgette took over from Tim Schauer as chair of the AWB Board -- but Schauer isn't going too far. He was voted in as chair-elect of the AWB Institute Board last week as well.

For a review of Policy Summit through the eyes of those in attendance, check out this social media roundup.

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Arguments Against a State Income Tax

An income tax is not in our best interest

By Washington Treasurer Duane Davidson

Today, we are at a point where Washington legislators need to reexamine their financial practices and consider the consequences of their actions that have led some to consider establishing a state income tax.

The historically unpopular notion of introducing an income tax is not exactly new to Washington, yet it has seen growing interest from income tax supporters in big city government and from certain state lawmakers who would pass income tax legislation if given the opportunity.

As Washington State Treasurer, four-term Benton County Treasurer, and licensed CPA for over 25 years, I have cultivated an automatic sense of duty to advocate for fiscal responsibility. When I see such disregard for taxpayers, my obligation is to stand up for what is right on their behalf.

Many of the legislature's self-induced financial woes have readily available remedies that do not involve raising taxes or adding an income tax, making it apparent to me that as a state we have some serious financial issues within our legislative practices we need to start addressing...

Taxing income would weaken Washington's thriving economy and reduce our capacity to compete for business. We need to agree on improving our habits and reigning in state debt before considering the addition of new taxes. An income tax is not in our best interest.

Read the full guest column in The Tri-City Herald