Budget Debate: Will Legislature Read Seattle News Media Headlines?

Nov. 28, 2011

The headline on the Seattle PI Web site was startling. It read: “FACT CHECK: Has Wash. cut budget by $10.5B? Hardly.”

The headline and accompanying story questioned what appear to be misrepresentations by Gov. Chris Gregoire when she claimed Washington has slashed $10.8 billion from the state budget in the last three years. The cuts were her justification for proposing a sales tax increase to balance the budget.

My hope in the budget debate is that the Legislature will read such Seattle media headlines, as they meet in a special session this week to debate the budget deficit.

(Actually, the story appeared in the Seattle PI an hour after it first appeared in the Seattle Times. But, inexplicably, the Seattle Times deleted the story less than an hour after the PI story appeared.)

Reporter Mike Baker documented how the hundreds of so-called cuts are really spending increases that haven’t been implemented.

For example, the alleged cuts include:

  • $682 million in cost-of- living increases for education employees
  • $344 million in cost-of-living hikes for pensions
  • $1 billion in education cuts, but it hasn’t really been slashed because of student tuition increases
  • $128 million for an education apportionment payment, but the payment has actually been doled out
  • $69 million for state parks, but in reality the state took in that amount from user fees

Mr. Baker also reminded us that the state is ready to spend around $30 billion from the general fund budget. That’s more money than was spent in the more-recent budget cycle.

Because it was an Associate Press story, it soon appeared on 54 media sites.

The sales tax proposal is controversial for good reason, and why the sales tax debate erupted in Washington state.

Public officials have long violated good government standards on transparency and in spending. On multiple occasions, this column has called for reform and wondered why not transparency for good, open government in Washington state?

We need better public policy – here are a couple of examples:

  • Proposing to cut $160 million from state colleges and universities is unconscionable.
  • Special interests such as the Washington Federation of State Employees should be reasonable and agree to renegotiate labor contracts.

It’s easy to conclude from the Associated Press story that Washington state has a spending problem, not a revenue problem. For example, the State Auditor revealed state government spends $1.8 million for nearly 6,700 unused cell phones is only one example. We need more public officials to create a favorable economic environment.

Given the economy and continuous budget crises, Washington legislators should finally start compromising, stop the longtime practice of shell games and launch legitimate reform. Only then, will thoughtful businesspeople and voters trust Washington state government and consider a sales tax increase.

So, in the budget debate: Will the Legislature read the Seattle news media headlines? It’s time for good government.

From the Coach’s Corner, furthermore, the state can create more tax revenue if it encourages entrepreneurship to create jobs. Here’s What Small Business Owners Need from Washington State Policymakers.

Here’s another no-brainer: How Washington Fails in Filmmaking for Economic Development.

“Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.

-George Washington

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Columnist Terry Corbell is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services (many are available online). For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule Terry Corbell as a speaker, why don’t you contact him today?

What Do Small Business Owners Need from Washington State Policymakers?



Updated Feb. 1, 2012


Washington state legislators are getting an earful from small-business owners. But will lawmakers listen in the 2012 legislative session?

Washington state’s small-business owners have voiced their concerns over six major public-policy issues, as a result of a Seattle-area conference held by respected think-tank Washington Policy Center (WPC). Their economic-related issues range from workers’ compensation to mandatory paid sick leave.

A detailed analysis was presented in a report to the Legislature.

“Nearly half of Washington’s work force is employed by small businesses,” said WPC President Daniel Mead Smith.

“These are the businesses struggling for survival right now, and they came to us with practical recommendations for how policymakers can make it easier for them to not only survive but grow and create jobs,” added Mr. Smith.

The conference held breakout sessions at Bellevue College.

“The result is a list of priority solutions, selected by small business owners, for solving the major problems with the state’s business climate and moving towards economic recovery,” wrote WPC Communication Director John Barnes.

Here’s the list of small-business owners’ issues:

Workers’ Compensation

  1. Revisit voluntary settlement agreement, as passed in the state Senate in 2011
  2. Do not raise rates for 2012 since L&I funds are in the black
  3. Increase the fraud prevention and investigation efforts

Unemployment Insurance

  1. Reform the displaced worker retraining program
  2. Implement a web-based portal to allow employers to access current claims data, including current contact information for unemployed workers (similar to the system used by the Department of Labor and Industries)
  3. Educate small business owners about the “shared work program”

Regulatory Reform                                          

  1. Review environmental regulations to ensure that Washington rules don’t exceed federal regulations
  2. Legislature should not grant general rule making authority to agencies, but rather be specific about rules to be put in place
  3. Legislature should listen to and follow up on State Auditor Office reports on regulatory reform (tie)
  4. Sunset provisions for regulations (tie)

Health Care

  1. Tort reform
  2. Limit the number of state-required health mandates
  3. Repeal federal health care law

Transportation

  1. Do no harm — don’t reduce lane capacity
  2. Protect highway tolls and taxes for highway purposes
  3. Make congestion relief a policy goal (tie)
  4. Performance-based spending on transportation (tie)

Mandatory Paid Sick Leave

  1. Legislature should not follow Seattle and should not enact statewide paid sick leave
  2. State should pre-empt local government regulations on labor laws
  3. Business impact statements on laws like mandatory paid sick leave should be required

“The conference was co-sponsored by Verizon, Regence, Wells Fargo, Walmart, the Puget Sound Business Journal, Berntson Porter and Co., Columbia Bank, the Washington Health Foundation, NCM, Associated Builders and Contractors of Western Washington, Baldwin Resource Group, and Noteworld Servicing Center,” Mr. Barnes indicated.

”More than 30 chambers of commerce and trade associations from around the state co-presented the conference,” he added.

This was WPC’s fifth conference hosted since 2003. Rarely has the majority of the legislators listened to small business. Let’s hope they start now for economic development and the creation of jobs.

From the Coach’s Corner, in the past I’ve written about the results of the WPC conferences. I’ve also voiced similar concerns in this portal’s Public Policy section.

“People try to live within their income so they can afford to pay taxes to a government that can’t live within its income.”

-Robert Half

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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.