Chamber Report: A bumpy session ahead for businesses
Special to the Chambers of Commerce
On Jan. 11, the Washington Legislature will convene in Olympia for a scheduled 60-day session. It's shaping up to be possibly one of the most difficult sessions for businesses, jobs and the economy.
The state's unemployment remains one of the highest rates in two decades. Businesses are struggling to stay afloat. Consumers still aren't spending. Many working families have tightened their belts, trying to hold on through this economy. And yet government bureaucrats still don't seem to be paying attention to the realities beyond the marbled walls of the Capitol.
In just the past few months, here's how Olympia has treating employers in this economy:
- The Department of Labor and Industries increased workers' compensation rates by an average 7.6 percent for 2010. Employers and employees pay into this system.
- The state has increased unemployment insurance taxes. The average tax rate in 2010 will be an estimated 2.38 percent, up from 1.55 percent in 2009.
- The State Building Code Council has adopted new stringent energy codes which require a 30 percent reduction in energy consumption for buildings by July 2010. This could add thousands of dollars to the price of a new home, putting a further crimp in the housing and real estate markets.
- Gov. Gregoire plans to push hard for state climate change regulations so egregious to businesses that they will beg for a federal cap-and-trade program that would be less economically damaging. (Read about the governor's chief of staff memo on this issue at: www.washingtonpolicy.org/pressroom/pressreleases/Governors_EO.html)
We're entering the legislative session with a budget shortfall of $2.6 billion. The governor has proposed an all-cuts budget that eliminates the state's Basic Health Plan, closes residential care centers, and slashes early childhood education, among other things. She's going for the most painful, emotional cuts to make people more willing to accept tax increases. The governor plans to propose tax increases to “buy back” up to $700 million of these cuts. The sales tax, business and occupation tax, and property tax are options for possible increases.
I have serious concerns about these issues and how more taxes and regulations would prevent our state's economy from recovery.
While the governor and her agencies will likely seek ways during this legislative session to protect and bolster state government, my emphasis will remain on protecting taxpayers and bolstering the economy through policies that will help employers create jobs.
My fellow House Republicans and I will be unveiling a jobs legislative package when the session begins. Our solutions are based on regulatory relief, access to affordable health care, clean and low-cost energy, and responsible state spending. These reforms would reduce the cost of doing business in Washington and help put our state back on the road to economic recovery.
Your input is vital to this process. I urge you to stay informed and become involved. Here are a couple of Web sites to help:
How to get involved: http://hrc1.leg.wa.gov/get-involved
Detailed legislative reports (includes bill tracking): http://dlr.leg.wa.gov/home
I also invite you to contact me with questions, comments and suggestions:
Rep. Dan Kristiansen
P.O. Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600
Phone: (360) 786-7967
Toll-free legislative hotline: 1-800-562-6000
E-mail me through my Web site at: houserepublicans.wa.gov/Kristiansen
EDITOR'S NOTE: State Rep. Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, represents the 39th Legislative District, and also serves as chairman of the Washington House Republican Caucus. He can be contacted at (360) 786-7967 or e-mail him and sign up for his e-newsletter at: houserepublicans.wa.gov/Kristiansen.