April 1, 2019
Fast Facts
Bringing Business Up to Speed
Legislation of Note « All Categories

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.

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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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