January 2, 2019
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Top Stories

Legislature to convene Jan. 14 for 105-day session; budget, taxes will headline debates

Lawmakers will spend 105 days in Olympia beginning Jan. 14. The long session allows lawmakers time to craft the state's two-year operating budget, the transportation budget and the capital construction budget. The governor took the lead with his proposed $54 billion state operating budget for 2019-21 that would require taxpayers to give state government $3.7 billion more through new and higher taxes, including a 9 percent capital gains tax. With solid Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, all eyes will be on the final spending plan and the tax measures, if any, needed to support it. Hear directly from AWB's Government Affairs team about the session in a pre-session Legislative Session Preview Webinar on Jan. 11.

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Statewide minimum wage hits $12 in 2019; some jurisdictions are higher

As of Jan. 1, employees across Washington state must receive a minimum wage of $12 per hour. However, in some jurisdictions, like Seattle, SeaTac and Tacoma, the minimum wage is higher. The state Department of Labor and Industries has the details of the statewide wage increase as well as information on wage changes for cities with higher hourly wage requirements.

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First phase of statewide Paid Family and Medical Leave program -- premium collection -- took effect Jan. 1

Employers and employees are now required to remit premium deductions for the new statewide Paid Family and Medical Leave program, which began its first phase on Jan. 1. Administered by the state Employment Security Department, the leave program applies to every employee in the state and most employers. The agency has an online toolkit to help employers explain the new deduction from employee paychecks and AWB created a brief video to explain how the premiums are calculated. Applications for the leave program will not be accepted until Jan. 1, 2020.

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AWB's Legislative Day and Hill Climb is Jan. 29, features new format and locations

Registration is open for AWB's 2019 Legislative Day and Hill Climb, a special one-day event that offers new connections between state lawmakers and the thousands of Washington employers that drive the state's economy. New this year: The event will be hosted at AWB's office and at the Capitol.

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Latest economic data shows slower growth ahead, reinforcing the need for state fiscal caution

New economic data released last week points to slowing growth, sending up warning flags as states like Washington prepare to collect and spend record amounts of tax dollars. With Gross Domestic Product, consumer spending and export numbers revised lower, Opportunity Washington advises fiscal caution when lawmakers convene to craft the state's two-year operating budget.

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AWB's statewide Transportation Listening Tour resumes this week in Vancouver

AWB is continuing to meet with employers across the state about transportation issues and to gather input on a possible new transportation package in the 2019 session. Mike Ennis, AWB's government affairs director for transportation issues, will seek input on potential revenue sources and projects from each region of the state, including fish culverts, bridge crossings and more. The series of meetings that began last month will continue tomorrow in Vancouver and next week in Spokane, the Tri-Cities and Yakima.

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Federal Issues

Congressional leaders head to White House for briefing as partial federal government shutdown hits its 12th day

The president invited top congressional leaders to the White House today for a "border briefing," the first meeting between the president and leaders of Congress since the partial federal government shutdown began 12 days ago.

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Tariffs remain worrisome to employers, increase home prices

Businesses are more focused on the impact of tariffs than tax rates, as trade tensions create headwinds for exports, according to an analysis of earnings calls published by the financial research platform Sentieo. Also being impacted by tariffs -- the price of homes.

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Other News

Washington student graduation rate breaks new record, and new school report cards are out

Washington's statewide graduation rate has grown for the fifth year in a row to 80.9 percent, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal says. And Reykdal's office has released new report cards which include new information about spending and educators at the school level.

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U.S. Chamber highlights lost jobs, affordable energy from delayed energy projects, including several in Washington

A new report that focuses on delayed or cancelled energy projects says opposition has led to 730,000 lost jobs and prevented $92 billion in economic activity across the country. The report also highlights four cancelled or delayed projects in Washington, including the Millennium Bulk Terminals in Longview.

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Boeing readies first 777X aircraft to fly

Inside the big doors at Boeing's Everett plant, the first 777X test plane is nearly ready to be rolled out. Engineers and mechanics are prepping the plane for its public debut that may happen as soon as February.

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AWB Events & Resources

Jan. 9: Keep up with legislation that affects your business with AWB's Bill Tracking Webinar

Register today for a Jan. 9 webinar that can help you track legislation as it moves through the lawmaking process in Olympia. AWB is again working with the Legislative Information Center on a webinar that teaches people how to navigate the Legislature's website, www.leg.wa.gov.

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Jan. 11: Legislative Session Preview Webinar will offer look into issues before 2019 Legislature

Lawmakers will convene in Olympia on Jan. 14 for the long, 105-day session, where they will craft the state's two-year operating budget, debate new and higher taxes and tackle other issues that will impact Washington employers. The AWB Government Affairs Team will run down the issues they expect to see -- from education to environment and workplace laws to taxes -- and take questions during a Legislative Session Preview Webinar Jan. 11 at 8 a.m.

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Learn employment law basics for your business with AWB's popular webinar series

An early-bird discount is available for the 2019 installment of AWB's popular Human Resources and Employment Law Webinar Series, which begins in February. These six classes will give employers of all sizes an overview of topics like performance evaluations, wage and hour rules, accident prevention efforts and more. The first webinar begins Feb. 13. Register today for early-bird pricing, which expires Jan. 31.

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Best of the Blog

Capital gains tax rate creep is alarming

The governor's budget, announced mid-December, relies on the enactment of a 9 percent capital gains tax, which continues the trend of ever-larger capital gains tax proposals. And, it justifies the concerns of skeptics who fear that whatever the rate starts at, it will soon escalate rapidly. Read the full blog post here.

Tweet of the Week

Paid Family & Medical Leave Begins First Phase

They Said It

Economic Slowdown Ahead

"...This is a time for caution in state fiscal policy." ~ Opportunity Washington, offering insights into reports that warn of slower economic growth in the near future.

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The Power of Manufacturing
Record Tax Collections

New taxes shouldn't be first approach to state budget

By Walla Walla Union Bulletin Editorial Board

Given that the state of Washington is expected to have a record amount of tax revenue -- $50 billion -- to fund state government over the next two years, the need to raise more cash with new taxes is debatable, if not dubious.

Yet, Gov. Jay Inslee is proposing a $54.4 billion state operating budget, which is roughly a 20 percent increase from the current budget, that calls for $3.7 billion in new taxes.

One of those new revenue sources, a capital-gains tax, is simply unacceptable, as it is essentially an income tax -- and that means it is unconstitutional in Washington state.

Read the full editorial in the Walla Walla Union Bulletin
Civic Engagement is Critical

State government is important, so pay attention

By The Yakima Herald-Republic Editorial Board

We don't want to come off like a ruler-wielding school marm and lecture you about the importance of civics and being engaged in state government. Nobody likes a scold but, well, that's exactly what we are going to do today.

Our plea for engagement in state politics comes in the wake of findings released recently by researchers at Johns Hopkins University. A survey of 1,500 people nationwide exposes just how poorly informed the bulk of the citizenry is when it comes to basics of government in their home states, such as knowing who the heck is serving as their governor.

Read the full editorial in The Yakima Herald-Republic
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