Getting Washington working again – a missed opportunity of the 2012 legislative session
It's encouraging to see the state's unemployment rate drop to 8.2 percent in February. That's down almost a full percentage point from February 2011 when unemployment was at 9.1 percent. It demonstrates our state's economy is slowly showing signs of recovery.
Still, the newest figures also mean that more than 288,000 people in Washington remain unemployed and looking for work. To put that in perspective, it's equivalent of nearly the entire population of Skagit County doubled, plus every man, woman and child in the cities of Arlington, Monroe and Sedro-Woolley.
That's why I am disappointed with the outcome of the 2012 legislative session. We had ample opportunity to focus efforts on private-sector job creation legislation during the two-month session which began Jan. 9. Unfortunately, this opportunity was missed as majority Democrats spent much of the session on divisive social legislation, such as passing same-sex marriage legislation, which consumed 35 of the 60 days scheduled for the regular session.
In 2011, my House Republican colleagues and I created a jobs package of legislation we called “Let's get Washington working again.” This year, we worked to refine that package to meet the needs of employers and our state's economy. Our jobs plan included, but was not limited to the following bills:
- House Bill 2290 would have simplified and reduced the number of tax rates for small businesses;
- House Bill 1961 would have required agencies to make a permit decision within 90 days or it is granted;
- House Bill 1125 would have recognized hydropower as renewable energy, helping to provide for lower electricity rates;
- House Bill 1872 would have reformed workers' compensation by addressing final settlement options and other reforms to contain costs to the system, minimize time loss, and protect earnings for those who suffer work-related injuries and illness;
- House Bill 2276 would have enacted major regulatory reforms;
- House Bill 1779 would have modified joint and several liability to alleviate the high risk of tort claims on government and employers, irrespective of degree of fault;
- House Bill 1341 would have delayed implementation of rules until they have weathered the scrutiny of a legislative session;
- House Bill 1156 would have extended the governor's moratorium to suspend unnecessary rulemaking for three years or until state revenue growth shows evidence of economy recovery;
- House Bill 1671 would have required state agencies to determine whether compliance of a proposed rule would have a specified economic impact on jobs and taxpayers before adopting the rule; and
- House Bill 1592 would have suspended the Growth Management Act in counties and cities where the unemployment rate exceeds 7 percent for three consecutive months.
Despite our best efforts to advance jobs legislation during the 2012 session, House Democratic majority leaders refused public hearings on nearly all of the bills, effectively killing them. They introduced their own “jobs” legislation (Senate Bill 5127) that would borrow money to pay for state infrastructure improvements, thus creating short-term jobs, but requiring taxpayers to pay back the borrowed money with interest over 25 years. That's like taking out a 25-year mortgage to buy tires. You're still paying on the tires long after they are worn out. Increasing public debt is not a smart way to create jobs.
I believe it will be small businesses that lead us out of this difficult economy and back on the road to prosperity. Unfortunately, this year, it will have to happen without the Legislature's assistance. As you can see, my House Republican colleagues and I did our best to help local employers. Unfortunately, we were overcome by a majority party who felt their priorities took precedence over providing regulatory and tax relief our small businesses desperately need.
With so many people still unemployed, we have a long and difficult road ahead toward getting people back to work. I believe my fellow House Republicans and I are on the right track and we will not give up. We remain committed toward finding and adopting solutions that will get Washington working again.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Rep. Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, serves as chairman of the Washington House Republican Caucus and represents the 39th Legislative District. He can be contacted at (360) 786-7967 or e-mail him through his Web site at: houserepublicans.wa.gov/Kristiansen. His office address is: P.O. Box 40600, Olympia, WA 98504-0600.