Op-Ed: Made in Washington: Provide reforms to ease burdensome and costly regulations
If you've ever tried to get a permit to develop land, use water or engage in any construction in this state, you know that it can be a nightmare to jump through all the hoops and move around all the obstacles government has set up.
More than 6,000 water rights applications are sitting at the Department of Ecology as requesters wait for approval. If you're a developer, you'd better hope your plans don't raise an eyebrow of environmentalists, or you could be waiting for years for the state to issue the necessary permits, as in the case of the Buckhorn Mine in Okanogan County that had a 20-year wait before its permits were approved.
The latest unemployment figures now show more than 334,000 people in Washington out of work — 8,209 here in the 39th District. Yes, the recession is certainly a factor in those jobless figures. But I also believe government can take a fair amount of the blame too.
A permit is a permission slip. It gives lenders the green light to provide the cash that pays builders, contractors, electricians, plumbers and providers of the materials needed to develop in our state. Without a permit, nothing happens. With lengthy waiting times, it becomes more feasible and economical to drop the project altogether or look elsewhere. When Boeing was considering building its second 787 plant, South Carolina approved its permits within a few weeks. How much longer would it have taken in our state to approve those same types of permits?
In 2002, Gov. Locke's Washington Competitiveness Council acknowledged how excessive regulations have put our state in the position of being an unfriendly place to do business. In its executive summary, the council wrote: “The current regulatory structure unnecessarily delays projects, creates unnecessary uncertainty, reduces operating flexibility, and increases barriers to business growth. It stirs hostility toward government. It wastes resources, increasing government costs. It leads to angry applicants and it encourages project opponents to manipulate the permitting system.”
What has changed in the eight years since that report was written? Virtually nothing. In fact, in some respects, government has continued to make the problems worse.
This legislative session, my House Republican colleagues and I have made job creation in the private sector one of our top priorities. Part of our “Made in Washington” jobs agenda focuses on “providing regulatory relief by reforming government services to ease burdensome and costly regulations.” We believe that when government reduces the cost of doing business, it frees up resources that allow employers to create new jobs.
To reach this goal, we are introducing legislation that would:
- require agencies to issue permit decisions within 90 days or the permit is automatically granted;
- require new state agency rules be reviewed by the Legislature before being adopted;
- put burden of proof in agency rule disputes on the agency instead of the citizens; and
- give employers 48 hours to correct mistakes before an agency can issue a fine or penalty.
If we want to keep important family wage jobs in Washington and invite employers to expand and hire, we must change our state's regulatory atmosphere, streamline the permitting process, and address the cost of doing business here. During this 60-day legislative session, we have an opportunity to make a difference and lower our near double-digit unemployment rate. Let's move forward to remove the barriers that stifle job growth, declare our state “open for business,” and get Washington working again!
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. His office address is: P.O. Box 40600, Olympia, WA 98504-0600.