February 2, 2017

Regulatory reform, not bike tours, is key to economic growth, say GOP leaders

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House Republican Leader Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish addressing  attendees at AWB's second Lobby Lunch of the year

Regulations and environmental policies designed for metropolitan areas are damaging rural Washington, House and Senate Republican leaders said Thursday at AWB’s second Lobby Lunch of the year.

Senate Caucus Chair Randi Becker, R-Eatonville, House Republican Leader Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish,and House Republican Deputy Leader Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, focused their comments on education funding and the impacts that regulations have on Washington small businesses and rural regions.

Kristiansen opened by quickly referring to the work needing to be done on education funding, saying that one of the biggest issues that legislators face is finalizing K-12 education funding to satisfy the state’s high court.

“I’ve seen a lot of challenges,” Kristiansen said of his more than decade serving in the state House, “but the biggest is McCleary.” He added that House Republicans’ focus in on students, not the adults in the system. “Our focus is on the outcomes for students first; to educate them well and give them advantages” of a good education. And, he said he was pleased to see the Senate pass a long-worked K-12 education funding plan this week.

Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville, speaks at the Feb. 2, 2017, AWB Lobby Lunch. (Photo by Brian Mittge/AWB)

Kretz emphasized the need for sensible policies that lift up rural communities, citing a seven-year regulatory and permitting battle to reopen the Buckhorn Mine in his rural northeastern legislative district.

“What can be done to improve the economy in my district?” is a question Kretz said he and many other rural counties across the state have asked of state lawmakers. The answer he said he gets from urban legislators is “you need to do more bike tours.”

Kristiansen told attendees about his own experience as a small-business owner since the age of 18. He said the layering of regulatory policy does not solve the problems of business, it hinders it.

Becker agreed, saying she believes in the employee, and that she doesn’t think that the solution for businesses is through more policies, but is “achieved through respect.”

The regulations that have been created for metropolitan areas have “totally decimated” rural Washington counties, according to Kristiansen. Kretz is also a small-business owner and said that he has gotten to the point where he didn’t even want to hire anybody else because of regulations, taxes and paperwork.

“Every ‘little regulation’ makes it hard to even hire one employee,” Kretz said. “I would like to see us get back to realizing the American dream, not fighting the government.”

Kretz described dealing with new and expanded regulations, particularly around environmental issues as “death by a thousand pokes.”

Business is not against the environment, he said, “we want to see environmental policies and regulations that actually help the environment.

On taxes, Kristiansen said that he hears a lot about “little taxes” in the Legislature, but what needs to be understood is that all of them add up to a big tax that hurts employers, particularly small businesses.

All three agreed that there is an abundant amount of issues to work out in a short amount of time, assuring attendees that they were up to the task.

Sen. Becker ended the event by saying, “we need to simplify regulation – do that and we all will be doing better.”