The best way to bounce back from what is widely considered the worst economic recovery on record is to expand opportunity, create better paying jobs and encourage robust economic growth, according to Kris Johnson, president of the Association of Washington Business.
But increasing the minimum wage, eliminating select tax incentives and imposing additional costly environmental regulations would have the opposite effect, he said, reacting to today’s “State of the State” address by Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee.
“The best cure for what ails our state’s economy is creating a consistent regulatory atmosphere and a business climate that encourages innovation, growth and business development,” said Johnson.
“Employers crave certainty. They’re already dealing with the massive confusion, cost and uncertainty surrounding the Affordable Care Act. On top of that, state regulatory and tax policies change every time the Legislature is in session. The rules are always changing. Employers need to know there will be consistent policies and regulations before they think about opening or expanding a business and creating jobs.
“Unfortunately, the proposals outlined in the governor’s speech won’t provide that kind of certainty. A temporary reprieve in the B&O tax for a handful of start-up businesses may help those specific entrepreneurs, but it doesn’t address the greater tax climate in our state.
“The same can be said for the minimum wage proposal. Washington state already has the highest minimum wage in the nation. By focusing on the minimum wage, we’re focusing on the consequences of a bad economy — not the cause. To help the unemployed and the underemployed, we have to deal with the cause of their problems —our stagnant economy. Until we do, we will never have the robust economic growth that creates more opportunities and better, higher-paying jobs,” added Johnson.
“Transportation is another major issue where employers are looking for solutions. Our members are as frustrated as the governor about the time it takes to move people, goods and services in our state. So we share his concern about the issue. In fact, we wish all projects could enjoy the kind of expedited permitting and construction we saw with the I-5 Skagit River Bridge.
“The bottom line for us is that any transportation package has to include assurances that projects will be done on time, and within budget. Recent events suggest we are not quite there yet. So reforms need to be put into place and assurances made that every dollar spent is spent wisely, “said Johnson.
“Our state continues to face tremendous challenges as we work to right our economy. It’s going to take a concerted effort,” said Johnson. “We may not always agree, but we do believe it is going to take all of us working together to find solutions to the challenges we face.
“On behalf of more than 8,100 private employers, we look forward to working with the governor and all lawmakers this session in our collective efforts to move Washington forward.”
About the Association of Washington Business
Formed in 1904, the Association of Washington Business is Washington’s oldest and largest statewide business association, and includes more than 8,100 members representing 700,000 employees. AWB serves as both the state’s chamber of commerce and the manufacturing and technology association. While its membership includes major employers like Boeing, Microsoft and Weyerhaeuser, 90 percent of AWB members employ fewer than 100 people. More than half of AWB’s members employ fewer than 10. For more about AWB, visit www.awb.org.