April 1, 2019
Fast Facts
Bringing Business Up to Speed
Top Stories Legislation of Note Federal Issues Other News AWB Events & Resources Key Hearings/Meetings Tweet of the Week They Said It
Top Stories

Nikki Haley, former U.N. ambassador, to give keynote address at Spring Meeting

AWB's Spring Meeting in Spokane will feature a keynote from Nikki Haley, the former United States ambassador to the United Nations. Prior to serving as America's 29th permanent representative to the U.N., Haley was elected twice to serve as governor of South Carolina. Her keynote address, sponsored by Boeing, will mark the second time that AWB's Spring Meeting has been held in the Davenport Grand hotel's spacious ballroom.

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Senate Democrats unveil $52.2 billion budget plan with new taxes

The Senate majority offered its budget proposal on Friday, setting the stage for final negotiations over the next two-year state spending plan. Senate Democrats would spend $52.2 billion, with new funding from real-estate excise taxes, closing tax incentives, and using a new capital gains tax to lower some other taxes for small employers and families.

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AWB's Clay Hill on TVW's The Impact: Building a budget on capital gains tax is 'extraordinarily reckless'

Clay Hill, AWB's government affairs director for tax and fiscal policy, appeared on TVW last week to discuss the House budget proposal. Hill, speaking on The Impact, took note of the need for Washington to remain competitive, and the costs that come with higher taxes.

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Newspaper ads in Spokane, Port Angeles, Longview and Vancouver tell lawmakers: $5.6 billion in rising tax revenue is enough

AWB and local chambers of commerce joined forces again this weekend to publish a series of newspaper ads questioning the need for new and higher taxes at a time when the state budget continues to grow at a significant rate. The ads note that tax revenues are already up by $5.6 billion, and yet lawmakers are calling for an additional $1.4 billion in new and higher taxes.

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AWB Action Alert: Oppose HB 1110, the costly Low-Carbon Fuel Standard

A Low-Carbon Fuel Standard bill will be up for a public hearing this Thursday. AWB is encouraging employers to weigh in on the LCFS bill, which would increase fuel prices and drive up the cost of consumer goods. To learn more about the bill or to sign up to testify this Thursday, contact AWB's Mike Ennis.

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House Transportation budget hits $10 billion mark for the first time

The House and Senate have both released their biennial transportation budgets. Neither proposal would increase taxes. The House budget crosses the $10 billion mark for the first time. The Senate version would spend $9.8 billion over the next two years on a variety of upkeep and priority projects. They would also allocate money for some culvert replacement.

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Rep. Fitzgibbon shares his passion to address climate change at AWB's final Lobby Lunch

The chair of the House Environment and Energy Committee, Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D-Burien, discussed carbon, energy and other issues at AWB's final Lobby Lunch meeting of the year.

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Legislation of Note

HB 2158: Higher taxes to fund workforce education

A new proposal, House Bill 2158, would create a business and occupation surcharge on service-sector businesses to fund a Workforce Education Investment Account. Over four years, service-sector employers would pay $889 million more in taxes, according to the Office of Program Research. A new "advanced computing surcharge" on the largest tech companies would raise another $152 million. After discussion last week, AWB's Tax & Fiscal Policy Committee decided to recommend that AWB oppose the bill, for reasons outlined in this issue brief. Many other business associations also are opposing the bill. During public testimony last week, AWB hit two key themes: that education is an obligation of society and funding should not single out one industry, and that the tax provisions would increase complexity in tax administration. To learn more, contact AWB's Clay Hill for tax and fiscal issues or Amy Anderson for workforce education issues.

SB 5135: Allowing Department of Ecology to ban chemicals

AWB attended a stakeholder meeting last week hosted by Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D-Burien, over Senate Bill 5135, a problematic bill that would cede legislative authority to ban chemicals to unelected employees of the state Department of Ecology. Unfortunately, the meeting ended without resolution on the main issues of concern and AWB is drafting a new amendment with a group of stakeholders to find a reasonable compromise. Alternative chemicals often require tradeoffs in other areas of safety and performance and AWB believes the proper evaluation of those tradeoffs lies with the legislative body and not agency officials. To learn more, including how you can help, contact Peter Godlewski.

SB 5489: Environmental justice

Another problematic bill, Senate Bill 5489, passed out of committee and continues to move. AWB is continuing to oppose the bill. It would create a task force with the power to rewrite the state's permitting and regulatory process with a nod toward the "preventative principal." This would require the state to ensure that absolutely no harm is caused by any action taken or approved by the state and is an impossible standard to meet. Contact AWB's Mike Ennis or Peter Godlewski to learn more.

SB 5526/HB 1523: Creating a 'public option' health insurance plan

Both House Bill 1523 and its Senate companion, SB 5526, continue to move through legislative committees, with executive session votes scheduled this week. Both bills are included in their respective chamber's budgets at similar budget levels: $2.1 million in the House and $1.7 million in the Senate. While both bills have been amended, AWB is still concerned with the potential impacts of the public option, particularly the increase in cost to group plans and the lack of access due to the proposed low reimbursement levels to health care providers. AWB opposes these bills. Contact Amy Anderson, AWB government affairs director for health care, to learn more.

Federal Issues

Opportunity Zones: Will upcoming proposed regulations be business friendly?

The U.S. Treasury Department is finalizing regulations on the eligibility of operating businesses to qualify for Opportunity Zone (OZ) benefits. Those regulations are expected within the next few weeks. In a new detailed blog post, K&L Gates said these regulations will be the deciding factor on the effectiveness of OZ to incentivize business development in the disadvantaged areas, as was the goal in the 2017 tax overhaul.

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Other News

Governor seeking small business member for Health Insurance Pool Board of Directors

AWB has been asked to help connect a small business owner or operator with the governor's office, which is looking to fill a position on the Washington State Health Insurance Pool Board of Directors.

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Inslee names Charlie Clark director of Department of Financial Institutions

Gov. Jay Inslee has appointed Charlie Clark, an experienced manager and attorney, as the new director of the state Department of Financial Institutions.

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'Careers in Manufacturing Month' campaign recognized with PRSA Totem Award

AWB and the state Employment Security Department have been honored for their work to promote manufacturing careers.

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AWB Events & Resources

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

AWB's popular Human Resources and Employment Law Webinar Series continues on Wednesday, April 10, with a talk on wage and hour law with Priya B. Vivian from Lane Powell, PC. The series continues through the summer with other relevant topics, such as performance evaluations, wage and hour rules, accident prevention efforts and more.

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Webinar: Anti-Harassment Training in the #MeToo Era

Whether this is your first or 21st anti-harassment training, this webinar will provide you with key take-aways for conducting workplace investigations and preventing and responding to harassment. The webinar will be held Wednesday, June 26. Learn more and register online.

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Webinar: Marijuana and Opioids in the Workplace: Employment Law Guidance on Addressing Substance Abuse

Despite striving to maintain drug-free workplaces, many employers are increasingly facing substance abuse issues in their workforces. This May 22 webinar will focus on strategies to prevent and address substance abuse impacting the workplace. Learn more and register here.

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Key Hearings/Meetings

AWB Employment & Labor Committee meets Fridays

AWB's Employment & Labor Committee meets each Friday at AWB from 8-9:15 a.m., with a call-in option also available. Contact Bob Battles to learn more or Tommy Gill at 360.943.1600 for call-in information.

Tweet of the Week

Washington Ag in Japan

They Said It

Budget Debate

"We don't want to spend a lot of floor time fighting over taxes." ~ House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, about the future of his party's proposed 9.9 percent capital gains tax. Sullivan told The Herald that the capital gains tax will have a hearing, but he can't promise what will happen to the idea after that.

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Spring Meeting
A Better Way Forward

Four reforms to rein in state spending, avoid higher taxes

By Rep. Drew Stokesbary, R-Auburn

Last week, House Democrats unveiled their $53 billion state operating budget proposal for the upcoming 2019-21 biennium. Unsurprisingly, their budget dramatically increases state spending -- funded by new taxes on businesses, home sales and capital income -- proving yet again that it's easy to spend money that isn't yours.

All told, their proposal grows spending by more than $8.5 billion beyond current levels. For context, when I was first elected in 2014, the state budget spent $33.7 billion. Between economic growth and new taxes, state revenue will have increased by about 57 percent in five years.

Has your salary grown by 57 percent since 2014? Probably not, as average annual wage growth is hovering below 4 percent.

Structural issues are largely responsible for this alarming rate of budget growth. Each year, lawmakers enact all sorts of new programs and services, predicated on promises of long-term savings and improved social and health outcomes. Once enacted, these programs are almost always automatically funded in subsequent years, with virtually no oversight or review by the Legislature.

The result: spending persistently outpaces revenue, enabling our most essential services to be held hostage in exchange for new taxes.

There is a better way...

Read the full guest editorial in The Seattle Times
Facts From the Tri-Cities

Salmon and dams can coexist

By Kennewick May Don Britain; Pasco Mayor Matt Wakins; Richland Mayor Robert Thompson; and West Richland Mayor Brent Gerry

For more than 20 years. there has been an ongoing debate about the impact of the four Snake River dams on the Pacific Northwest's salmon population. Since the 1970s, billions of dollars have been spent to upgrade the dams and to improve salmon habitat.

The results? According to the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), the average number of returning salmon and steelhead are more than double what they were when counts first began when the Bonneville Dam started operations in 1938. Despite this clear evidence that dams and fish can coexist, the debate continues.

More recently, the struggles of the southern resident orca population have further stoked the debate. No one disagrees that the health and future of the orca population must be preserved. However, the numbers clearly show that removing the dams will not save the orcas...

Ironically, at the same time there is a push for the Washington state Legislature to fund this study on the impacts of removing the dams, there are also several bills to push for carbon reduction. If the goal in Washington is to reduce carbon, the existing clean hydropower resources play an essential role in keeping our air clean. These dams generate some of the cheapest, most reliable, carbon-free electricity in the Pacific Northwest...

Read the full guest column in The Seattle Times
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