Union Demands ‘Repeal or Complete Reform’ of ObamaCare



April 25, 2013 – 


It’s huge that a staunch union supporter of President Obama since 2008 has launched an effort to rid the nation of his signature legislation. The union clearly has buyer’s remorse over ObamaCare.

Implying that ObamaCare is not a true “Affordable Care Act,” the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers insists on a “repeal or complete reform of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA).”

The union and its president, Kinsey M. Robinson issued what they label as their “political action” statement.

“Our union and its members have supported President Obama and his administration for both of his terms in office,” acknowledged Mr. Robinson. “But regrettably, our concerns over certain provisions in the ACA have not been addressed, or in some instances, totally ignored.”

Mirroring opponents’ complaints

The unions’ objections mirror that of other ObamaCare opponents.

“In the rush to achieve its passage, many of the act’s provisions were not fully conceived, resulting in unintended consequences that are inconsistent with the promise that those who were satisfied with their employer sponsored coverage could keep it,” he added.

“These provisions jeopardize our multi-employer health plans, have the potential to cause a loss of work for our members, create an unfair bidding advantage for those contractors who do not provide health coverage to their workers, and in the worst case, may cause our members and their families to lose the benefits they currently enjoy as participants in multi-employer health plans,” explained Mr. Robinson.

Employer-partnership success

The union president remembers the past.

“For decades, our multi-employer health and welfare plans have provided the necessary medical coverage for our members and their families to protect them in times of illness and medical needs,” he pointed out. “This collaboration between labor and management has been a model of success that should be emulated rather than ignored.”

So he throws down the gauntlet:

“I refuse to remain silent, or idly watch as the ACA destroys those protections. I am therefore calling for repeal or complete reform of the Affordable Care Act to protect our employers, our industry, and our most important asset: our members and their families.

My sense is that he’s right. Roofers have among the most-dangerous jobs in America. The workers and their families deserve their true, affordable healthcare.

The remaining questions are: Will other unions do the right thing? Will ObamaCare supporters rescind this hugely detrimental law?

From the Coach’s Corner, see these healthcare-policy articles:

“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies.”

-Groucho Marx


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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.

 





Washington Taxpayers Lose Economic Freedoms under Ruling Class, Inslee



Washington state’s ruling class was at it again in March 2013. After less than four months in office, Gov. Jay Inslee has already violated a major campaign promise he made on taxes to get elected in 2012.

“After a year of pledging that higher taxes won’t be needed to fix Washington’s budget woes, Governor Inslee has broken his campaign promise with his budget that would raise $1.2 billion in new revenue to pay for increased government spending,” wrote Erin Shannon, director of the Center for Small Business at the Washington Policy Center (www.washingtonpolicy.org).

Moreover, she wrote “Inslee’s budget proposes the  largest increase in government spending” in several years. That’s an 11 percent increase – the largest since 2005 when Gov. Gregoire’s proposed an 18 percent hike just after she was elected.

Governor’s disingenuous claim

At the least, Gov. Inslee is disingenuous. He claims extending the tax hikes are not tax increases.

“Part of Inslee’s budget would roll back a series of tax breaks for businesses and individuals, and would make permanent tax increases that were supposed to be temporary and set to expire this year,” wrote Ms. Shannon.

“Those temporary taxes were part of SB 6143, an $890 million tax package passed by the Legislature in 2010,” she explained. “Included in the bill were increased Business & Occupation taxes and an increased tax on beer, among other tax increases (increased taxes on soda and bottled water were subsequently repealed by voters via I-1107).”

Legislators’ broken promises

Voters were told the tax increases wouldn’t be forever. Lawmakers claimed the taxes would end June 30, 2013.

“When debated, lawmakers promised the controversial tax increases would be temporary increases in revenue. Then Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown gave rousing floor speeches on March 7, 2010 and April 12, 2010 promising the taxes would be temporary,” Ms. Shannon remembers.” Senator James Hargrove is also on record reassuring opponents the tax hikes would not be permanent.”

Are you amused? There’s more.

“By extending these taxes, Governor Inslee would impose an additional $661 million tax increase on Washingtonians in 2013-2015,” observes Ms. Shannon.

“When Inslee first indicated he might extend the tax increases (his second day in office) he explained that allowing those temporary tax increases to continue is not breaking his no-tax campaign promise because it is not an actual tax increase…”

Sure. And the reasons for the tax increases have nothing to do with over-spending.

My question is: How long will it take for voters to realize they’re responsible for continuing to elect a ruling class.

From the Coach’s Corner, as it is, in a ranking of economic and personal freedoms, Washington residents languish 29th in the nation, according to an academic study.

The study’s data range from fiscal policy and regulatory policy to personal freedom in the Freedom in the 50 States 2013 study by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

To bring Washington in line with national norms, researchers recommend several policy improvements:

  • The state should stop over-spending (spending is too high in proportion to tax revenue).
  • Reduce government employment.
  • Reduce spending on unemployment and workers’ compensation.
  • Protect the property rights of landowners by with eminent-domain reforms and either “repealing or amending the Growth Management Act and the Shoreline Management Act.”
  • Stop relying on sin taxes.

THE RULING CLASS…now even the deviancy of the old nobility is becoming more commonplace…as once they were given land by the sovereign, upon which to live well…now they are given government pensions and benefits.

-Frequent Biz Coach Reader

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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.

Even Paul Ryan’s Budget Uses Wrong Map in ‘Path to Prosperity’

March 24, 2013- 

Sadly, all the fiscal focus — to address the nation’s budget crisis — is between the proposals from Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.).

Not to be facetious, but Ms. Murray’s proposal is based on the same old, tired ideas that caused the problems in the first place. It’s not worth a second look because it’s not a serious attempt.

Respectfully, considering his budget-hawk credentials, Rep. Paul is really off track in his federal budget proposal, which he calls “The Path to Prosperity.” His budget ideas are unrealistic.

Fiscally, the government is a nightmare. The deficit is approaching $17 trillion. There are multiplier ramifications. For example, a Harvard study shows government spending causes companies to cut back.

This means politicians must prioritize objectives with the money at-hand. But that appears to be too much to ask.

The House of Representative has done its job on the budget, thanks largely to Rep. Ryan. However, the government hasn’t had a budget since Mr. Obama has been in office, thanks primarily to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. He’s refused to allow a vote on the budget.

So, honestly, how can the U.S. return to prosperity if the government continues to spend more money than it receives from taxpayers? Unfortunately, that’s what Mr. Ryan’s plan would allow.

“Spending would grow by an average of 3.4 percent annually, only slightly less than the rate under President Barack Obama’s plan – 5 percent a year,” wrote Rep. Paul Broun, M.D. (R-Ga.) in a commentary published by the Palm Beach Post in March 2013.

“After 10 years, Rep. Ryan’s target for eliminating the deficit, ‘The Path to Prosperity’ will have spent $41 trillion, whereas the president’s plan would allow spending of $46 trillion,” explained Rep. Broun.

All Mr. Ryan’s plan would accomplish would only be to slow the growth rate of the government’s heavy spending.

Proposed savings

To President Obama and many Democrats, Rep. Broun floats an idea they’d surely oppose. He’d eliminate some federal agencies and departments.

Rep. Broun’s ideas appear to be solutions for a badly needed balanced budget.

“The departments of education and energy, for example, are two bloated bureaucracies that we don’t need,” he explains. “Their core functions would be absorbed by the states through block grants, saving taxpayers at least $500 billion over the next decade.”

Rep. Broun argues that the government should stop interfering with the 50 states and keep its mitts off of K-12 education.

“A Heritage Foundation study showed that in 2010 the average salary of an Education Department employee reached $103,000, nearly double the average public-school teacher’s salary,” he pointed out.

“Let’s phase out a large portion of the department’s roughly $70 billion budget,” suggested the Congressman. “We can transfer the remaining dollars directly to the states, where they will be used more wisely.”

Next, he targeted Energy Department.

Obama’s green-spending failures

“Without unending government backing, the Energy Department would have ceased to exist long ago because of its ineffectiveness, corruption and poor investment strategy,” he wrote. “Taxpayers are now on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars squandered because of federal loans given to failed green companies such as Fisker Automotive and Solyndra.”

Cronyism is an issue here.

The list of failed companies – from batteries to solar energy – all backed by the Obama Administration – is long. Previously, I’ve pointed out that those companies that received the Energy Department loans were headed by executives who’ve also been donors to Mr. Obama’s campaigns.

But what would Rep. Broun do about the regulation of atomic weaponry?

“The only constitutionally necessary service provided by the Energy Department is regulation of the nation’s stockpile of atomic weapons, a function that can return to the Department of Defense,” suggested Rep. Broun. “Eliminating this bureaucracy would be a large, permanent spending cut, and would restore energy-related venture capitalism to its natural home, the private sector.”

Gas taxes

The federal government shouldn’t be allowed to manage the federal highway-financing system, wrote Rep. Broun, who argues in favor of the states administering the gas-tax receipts.

“States would then be free to determine their own transportation needs and to explore creative funding ideas for roads, such as public-private partnerships,” he added.

Healthcare

Rep. Broun, as a 30-year family doctor, has the credentials to address the pitfalls of the government’s role in healthcare.

“I recently co-sponsored legislation that would convert Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program into state-managed programs through a single federal block grant,” he wrote.

“This would save approximately $2 trillion over 10 years by capping federal funding at 2012 levels for the next 10 years and giving states an incentive to seek out and eliminate waste, fraud and abuse,” he explained.

ObamaCare

Of course, Rep. Broun is aware of the dangers of ObamaCare.

“We must repeal ObamaCare – including the associated taxes, which the Ryan budget leaves intact by assuming the enactment of tax reform later on,” he asserted.

“We’ll replace it with a market-based health-care system devoid of government involvement and managed by patients and their doctors,” recommended the physician. “If we put Medicare in patients’ hands, by increasing contribution limits to health-savings accounts, it will transform Medicare into a more flexible premium-assistance program.”

It’s worth noting that Medicare is abusive to doctors and hospitals. The plight of doctors adversely impacts you. In addition, healthcare has become complex for the elderly.

So candidly, I don’t agree with him on Medicare, but I do agree regarding ObamaCare. I’ve written several articles about the ObamaCare issues. Nearly every businessperson I know is deeply troubled by ObamaCare.

Now, comes opposition from the International Franchise Association. Its members employ 9.1 million full-time workers; more than 33 percent of whom – 3.2 million people – will have their hours slashed or their jobs eliminated.

Ask anyone. It’s widely accepted that a 40-hour workweek is considered fulltime, but not to proponents of ObamaCare.

The law mandates that anyone who works just 30 hours a week must be considered fulltime to be covered under ObamaCare. Franchisees can’t afford it. That’s why the 3.2 million workers face unnecessary hardships.

See the association’s state-by-state breakdown regarding the harmful effects of ObamaCare on franchisee employees.

Balanced budget

Rep. Broun insists that Congress become fiscally responsible.

“To cap all this off, I have proposed a balanced-budget amendment that would force Congress to stick to the principle of not spending more than we take in,” he wrote.

“Passing a constitutional amendment is no easy task,” he admitted. “While it’s a large undertaking, I’ll continue to fight for its passage.”

But there’s been positive baby step after political coercion.

“Only a few weeks ago, the House put enough pressure on the Senate to force it to produce a budget, something Majority Leader Harry Reid, (D-Nev.), hadn’t attempted in more than four years,” he wrote.

Rep. Broun’s proposals are likely to be opposed by President Obama, Senators Murray and Reid as well as other Democrats. But to save America, the solutions must be implemented. Otherwise, businesspeople and consumers will continue to suffer losses in economic and political freedoms.

From the Coach’s Corner, see related articles in the public-policy category and economic analysis in the Op Ed section.

“A politician is just like a pickpocket; it’s almost impossible to get one to reform.”

-Will Rogers

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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.

‘Ruling Class’ Beats Voters – Thanks to Washington Supreme Court

Feb. 28, 2013

“The Ruling Class — now, even the deviancy of the old nobility is becoming more commonplace…as once they were given land by the sovereign, upon which to live well…now they are given government pensions and benefits.”

-frequent Biz Coach reader

Washington state businesspeople and consumers, alike, have been dealt a blow by the state Supreme Court. In a 6-3 ruling, the court threw out the voter-approved mandate requiring a two-thirds legislative vote in order for lawmakers to raise taxes.

The court dubiously ruled such voter-approved initiatives are unconstitutional. The ruling followed a lawsuit by left-leaning Democrats and groups opposing the will of the taxpayers. So, the “ruling class” won.

Washington’s “ruling class” — including many lawmakers, bureaucrats and public employee unions — marches forward with deficit spending and lucrative pensions for state workers. Washington state’s unfunded pension liability is $52 billion, according to Retirement Benefit Solutions (http://www.usrbs.com/unfunded.html).

The two-thirds requirement was passed by voters to require the Legislature to honor voters’ wishes in five elections:

  • 1993
  • 1998
  • 2007
  • 2010
  • 2012

But each time the Legislature circumvented the voter-approved wishes. Under state law – if legislators wait two years – they can violate the will of the people by changing the initiatives with only a majority vote.

“Our holding today is not a judgment on the wisdom of requiring a supermajority for the passage of tax legislation,” the majority opinion said.

“Such judgment is left to the legislative branch of our government. Should the people and the legislature still wish to require a supermajority vote for tax legislation, they must do so through constitutional amendment, not through legislation,” added the majority opinion.

The bad news: So once again, tax increases can be imposed by a single vote of the Legislature’s two bodies, the House and Senate, and a signature by the governor.

Some good news

A silver lining: The state Senate is controlled by Republicans. They’re on record – vowing to oppose tax increases.

The GOP took charge of the Senate, thanks to two Democrats: Tom, D-Medina, and Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch. This year, they began caucusing with the Republicans.

Generally, Democrats are looking forward to raising taxes according to published reports. As a result of too-much spending, Washington perennially has a budget deficit. This year, the deficit is $1 billion.

Think tank’s permanent solution

“For the past 20 years the voters have consistently made clear they want their lawmakers to reach a broad consensus on the need to raise taxes or include the voters directly on the decision,” said Jason Mercier of the Washington Policy Center (WPC), www.washingtonpolicy.org.

“Today, the Supreme Court invalidated this taxpayer protection but did not negate the fact that on five separate occasions the voters have demanded this requirement most recently with statewide passage of I-1185 with a 64 percent vote and approval in 44 of the state’s 49 legislative districts,” he added.

“With voters and lawmakers repeatedly enacting the supermajority vote for taxes requirement over the past 20 years, what could be more representative of the public will than allowing a vote of the people on a constitutional amendment such as SJR 8205 to help resolve this debate once and for all?” he asked.

“There is nothing for lawmakers to fear by sending SJR 8205 to the voters but the will of the people,” he asserted.

Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver and Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, in joint resolutions, are calling for the state’s constitution to be amended – to stop the chicanery and violation of voter wishes. The amendment would not allow legislators to shelve the law in order to impose tax increases.

Conclusion

The WPC’s advocacy for a constitutional amendment makes sense.

In addition, here’s a common-sense question: How long will voters allow the “ruling class” lawmakers to stay in power?

From the Coach’s Corner, if you want to track the state Legislature’s bills, visit: washingtonvotes.org.

“The problem with political jokes is they get elected.”

-Henry Cate VII

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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.

Small Businesspeople Are Depressed by Their Prospects – Study


Small business optimism has plummeted to one of its lowest levels in history, according to a nationwide study by the National Federation for Independent Business (NFIB).

NFIB’s small business optimism index dropped by 5.6 points to 87.5 in November 2012. It was a stunning development. The consensus forecast by most economists was 92.5.

“Something bad happened in November,” NFIB’s chief economist, Bill Dunkelberg, said in a statement.

It had little to do with Hurricane Sandy.

“The storm had a significant impact on the economy, no doubt, but it is very clear that a stunning number of owners who expect worse business conditions in six months had far more to do with the decline in small-business confidence,” he explained.

There were red flags in these categories: Capital investments, earning trends and expansion. The only bright spot was in planned employment increases.

“Nearly half of owners are now certain that things will be worse next year than they are now,” said the economist. “Washington does not have the needs of small business in mind.”

What are the specific concerns?

“Between the looming ‘fiscal cliff,’ the promise of higher health care costs and the endless onslaught of new regulations, owners have found themselves in a state of pessimism,” he explained.

As written on this business portal’s Public Policy section in many articles, economic policies have been dysfunctional and will only continue to be so.

A few examples:

Further, ObamaCare is a mega threat to businesses and the nation. Countless companies – small, medium and large – have indicated they’re alarmed at ObamaCare’s ominous impacts.

In talking with businesspeople, it was the re-election of President Obama that severely depressed them.

The federal budget deficit has been a big black hole during his administration. Each year, it has been $1 trillion or higher, and it’s likely to continue. Further, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has not even allowed a vote on the budget since 2009. Businesspeople couldn’t possibly operate successfully without a budget.

Federal expenditures on healthcare, public-employee pensions and social security have jumped by $666 billion.

Increasing taxes on couples earning $250,000 is bad policy. Many are small-business employers. The aggregate taxes – local income, payroll and state in states such as Maryland and New York – are already approaching 50 percent.

Little wonder small businesspeople are depressed.

From the Coach’s Corner, the antidote for depression is action. See the Marketing/Sales section for more than 150 business-coaching articles.

“One who gains strength by overcoming obstacles possesses the only strength which can overcome adversity.”

-Albert Schweitzer

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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is also 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.

ObamaCare Has Cost Economy $27.6 billion, Eliminated 30,000 Jobs – Study

Oct. 10, 2012

If you’re wondering why the U.S. economy seems stagnant, ObamaCare isn’t helping. In fact, a study by a nonprofit issue-advocacy, American Action Forum (AAF), shows the economy has been devastated by $27.6 billion in unnecessary regulatory costs and in 30,000 lost jobs, as a result of ObamaCare.

“This analysis barely scratches the surface of the regulatory impact of this law,” Sam Batkins, AAF’s director of regulatory policy was quoted in a published report. “Not only is there still over a year until the law is fully implemented, but we only looked at data that the Administration itself has made public.”

The economic impact of ObamaCare, which is officially known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA), imposes 85 new regulations.

“By looking only at the Administration’s own numbers, they are essentially conceding the fact that the ACA will place billions of dollars in regulatory burdens on the private sector and further strain states’ budgets,” asserted the researcher.

Regulatory Costs

Costing $24.4 billion, the study indicates the 10 most-expensive regulations:

  • Operating rules – $5.9 billion
  • Community First Choice Option – $5.7 billion
  • Establishment of Exchanges –$3.4 billion
  • Rules for Health Care Electronic Funds Transfers – $3.3 billion
  • Adoption of a Standard Health Plan – $2 billion
  • Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP; Transparency – $1.7 billion
  • Menu Labeling – $757 million
  • Medicaid Program Eligibility Changes – $580 million
  • Medicaid Program and Community Based Services – $580 million
  • Group Health Plans and Insurance Issuers – $275 million

The study points out that the regulations have also cost more than 60 million hours in paperwork. It also considers 2,000 hours is equal to a 30,000-job loss.

California has been hit the hardest – $3.4 billion in regulatory costs and 2,917 lost jobs.

Texas is second on the hardest-hit list – $1.8 billion in costs and 1,292 lost jobs.

There’s another ominous indicator:

“With still 15 months until full implementation there’s sure to be more regulatory costs,” concluded researcher Batkins.

From the Coach’s Corner, related articles:

 “And the biggest, coldest power play of all in ObamaCare came at the expense of the elderly.”
-Paul Ryan 

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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.

Do Survey Results Mean More Dysfunction by Washington State Politicians?

Updated Jan. 12, 2013

The Washington State Legislature is about to convene its 2013 session — on Monday, Jan. 14. But 51 percent of queried Washington state legislators, and legislative and gubernatorial candidates failed to respond to a respected think tank’s survey on voter wishes regarding tax increases — and Initiative 1185.

Passing handily in November 2012, the initiative requires a supermajority approval in the state Legislature before lawmakers could pass any tax increases.

As a result of the survey’s results, any businessperson concerned about the state’s economic climate has reason to be concerned.

“With voters and lawmakers repeatedly enacting the supermajority vote for taxes requirement over the past 20 years, what could be more representative of the public will than allowing a vote of the people on a constitutional amendment to help end this debate once and for all?” he asks.

Ostensibly, WPC sent politicians  its survey because of the four disingenuous end-runs by the Legislature on each of the four tax initiatives approved by voters the past two decades.

The WPC survey question:

“If Initiative 1185 is adopted, would you vote to allow the people of Washington to have the opportunity to vote on a state constitution amendment to require a supermajority vote in the legislature to raise taxes?”

But more than half of the politicians didn’t bother to respond to WPC’s survey (see how each politician responded and who of the 51 percent didn’t).

The summary of responses:

  • 101 answered “Yes”
  • 12 answered “No”
  • 6 said they do not answer surveys
  • 1 ended his campaign

“Of the 101 who answered ‘Yes,’ 94 were Republicans, four were Democrats and three were Independents. All 12 “No” answers were submitted by Democrats,” according to the study.“Also answering ‘Yes’ was gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna (candidate Jay Inslee did not respond).”

So whom do we blame for this apparently continuing dysfunction? You might think it’s the Democratic majority. Perhaps, but the voters keep electing these people into office.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are more thoughts:

“Everything is changing. People are taking their comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke.”
-Will Rogers

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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.

Former Washington Auditor Who Championed Good Government, Wins National Honor

April 13, 2013 

The man had a vision and now he’s being recognized for it.

Former Washington State Auditor Brian Sonntag, who is in retirement this year after superb performances in five terms, has won a prestigious national honor. That would be induction into the Heroes of the 50 States: The State Open Government Hall of Fame.

Mr. Sonntag stood out as the epitome of state-government transparency. Yes, as an elected official, he had an unparalleled vision.

Count me as a fan – not only as a citizen and business consultant, but as a columnist who interviewed him on multiple occasions as the “Biz Coach” on KING5.com and two other Washington media Web sites; as well as the host of “Washington Business Weekly,” the Association of Washington Business radio program.

It can’t be over-stated. He was a conscientious public servant dedicated to doing the right thing for taxpayers.

WPC weighs in

His award drew praise from a state public-policy think tank, Washington Policy Center (WPC).

“Sonntag has also been a strong advocate for Washington Policy Center’s proposed legislative transparency reforms,”said Jason Mercier, director, for WPCs Center for Government Reform. “NFOIC’s acknowledgment of Sonntag’s long-time support for open government is well deserved.”

His selection was announced by the National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC) and the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ).

The State Open Government Hall of Fame is a joint venture by SPJ and NFOIC. It was developed by leaders in both organizations as a way to recognize long-term contributions of individuals to open government in their states.

Induction into the State Open Government Hall of Fame recognizes “long and steady effort to preserve and protect the free flow of information about state and local government that is vital to the public in a democracy.” The award is intended to honor individuals – living or dead – whose lifetime commitment to citizen access, open government and freedom of information has left a significant legacy at the state and local level.

When Mr. Sonntag announced his intention to retire, it was a sad day for the state.

To review history and a record of his achievements, here’s what I wrote here on this portal:

No Lame Duck, Washington Official Enhances Economic Public Policy

Oct. 20, 2011  

Like all inspiring great leaders, he and his staff are tenacious in delivering value for all of Washington. Who? State Auditor Brian Sonntag.

Mr. Sonntag is a favorite on this portal, a sagacious Democratic, who has consistently delivered value to state residents, and has always been available to answer questions. Admittedly, I was a bit melancholy about Mr. Sonntag’s announced retirement in 2012.

He has served constituents well, particularly, with his agency’s performance audits and initiatives in improving state-government performance.

And to the end, he continues to do what’s best for the state. He’s working to enhance entrepreneurship, which will help put the state on sound economic footing.

Another favorite entity is Washington Policy Center (WPC). The think tank also provides noteworthy analysis and timely updates.

blog by Jason Mercier is how I learned Mr. Sonntag has been focusing on business regulations to enhance Washington’s economic environment for the creation of jobs. 

Mr. Mercier cites a salient assessment of the state’s regulatory processes in the state auditor’s March 2011 report.

A few highlights:

The complexity of Washington State’s regulatory system creates costs for governments and businesses alike. Not only are there many regulations, but many requirements change every year or two based on new legislation or state agency amendments to existing rules. The Office of the Code Reviser reports that in 2009 alone, state agencies proposed more than 14,000 pages of new or revised rules. 

  • Many regulatory costs to business are fixed, with larger firms able to spread those costs over a greater number of employees, meaning that small businesses bear a disproportionate part of the regulatory burden. A 2007 Department of Revenue study on the business survival rate in Washington found that ‘taxes and costs of complying with government regulations are factors that contribute to business failure because most small businesses are not profitable in the early years.’ (BSSUG, 2007

This is a noteworthy conclusion:

  • Improving the effectiveness of Washington’s regulatory regime through streamlining, clear rule writing, reducing the administrative burden, and other innovations will benefit businesses, state government and taxpayers in general. Clear, fair and efficient regulations will keep Washington competitive in the global economy.”

In his blog, Mr. Mercier indicates we can look forward to five Sonntag performance audits:

  1. Agency efforts to streamline their administrative rules
  2. Agency permit process time
  3. State regulations in excess of federal regulations and the value added for the extra regulation
  4. Agency inspection process and coordination amongst agency inspections
  5. Effectiveness and opportunities for improvement for the state’s one-stop portal for business regulations.

As a result of WPC’s September 2011, the Legislature is getting feedback from small business (What Do Small Business Owners Need from Washington State Policymakers?).

The state’s small businesses want the following:

  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)

So a Biz Coach tip of the hat to Mr. Sonntag and his team, as well as to WPC. It’s past time to evolve from an adversarial state government-business relationship to one of effective public policy for economic development.

Frustration is trying to find your glasses without your glasses. 

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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. 

Common Sense Needed for Washington State Pension Reform

Updated March 19, 2012

It’s no secret that Washington state has a nightmarish budget deficit. Lawmakers have consistently failed to solve the red ink, which is exacerbated by lavish public-employee pensions.

My two salient concerns:

1.  Public-sector pensions are on average about 74 percent higher than the private sector.

2.  The Legislature has been delinquent in funding them in the billions of dollars.

But lawmakers aren’t exactly shy about high spending and taxes.

Fortunately, I’m not alone in sounding the alarm. Concerned analysts also include Jason Mercier of the Washington Policy Center, www.washingtonpolicy.orgin a 2010 Op Ed in The Seattle Times.

“According to the state actuary, two of Washington’s nine pension plans are already in the red with unfunded liabilities totaling nearly $7 billion,” he reminded readers. “This does not include an additional $8 billion in unfunded post-retirement benefit liability, primarily for retiree health care. Unlike pensions, however, these other retirement benefits are not a contractual right, meaning the Legislature has the ability to make changes as necessary.”

He, too, understood the adverse pension impact on the state’s budget.

“Already our state is facing nearly a $6 billion projected budget shortfall for 2011-13. Included in these projections is the need for additional pension contributions” Mr. Mercier wrote. “The state’s Office of Financial Management projects that an additional $700 million in pension payments above the base will be required in the 2011-13 biennium.”

The forecasts proved to be accurate.

He further stated that pension costs will continue to grow – to $1.2 billion during the 2013 to 2015 budgeting cycle.

“To help avoid kicking the pension liability can further down the road while putting the state’s credit rating in jeopardy, it may be time to pass a constitutional amendment that forces state officials to make the required pension payments and creates a higher threshold to provide enhanced benefits,” he observed. “While funding these past pension promises may crowd out other spending, the alternative puts taxpayers in a worse position.”

He offered another vital solution:

“Meanwhile, legislators must stop enhancing retiree benefits until all the state’s pension plans return to healthy status,” Mr. Mercier explained. “Exacerbating taxpayer exposure while billions in unfunded liabilities exist is the height of irresponsibility. It may also be time for additional reforms to help minimize future pension liabilities.”

It’s also worth noting that constitutional pension reforms were advocated by State Treasurer Jim McIntire.

Amen.

From the Coach’s Corner, here’s another piece on pension reform: Washington Labor Leader Is Right – It Is ‘Class Warfare’.

“Pension reform can be hard to talk about. In the long run, reform now means fewer demands for layoffs and less draconian measures in the future. It’s in the best interest of all Californians to fix this system now.” 

-Jerry Brown

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Columnist Terry Corbell is also 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 Happened to the Locke, Obama Trade Plan?

Updated – Sept. 30, 2012

The Obama launched two international trade plans — without success. But is there new hope? There are new developments in China. It’s declining economically, which prompted me to write this column: Will Manufacturing Jobs Return to U.S. from China?

Obviously, U.S. exports, which would enhance the nation’s economy. With much publicity, you might recall the Obama Administration in 2010 re-launched its plan to create 2 million jobs and dramatically increase exports.

In addition, Congress held hearings on the manipulation of the Chinese currency, yuan. The then-Commerce Secretary Gary Locke visited Seattle to pitch the trade plan, Chinese officials vowed to increase trade with Washington state during a trade mission by Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire.

Now that Mr. Locke is the U.S. Ambassdor to China, what happened to the trade plan?

The trade plan was well-intentioned but is unfeasible, according to one of the nation’s most-widely quoted economists, Dr. Peter Morici. Ironically, the Obama Administration trade push follows some recent heavy criticism from the economist. (Note: This Biz Coach portal regularly publishes his Op Ed commentaries.)

“The Administration is correct to target China and India but these initiatives don’t address the reasons U.S. businesses don’t sell enough in those countries,” says the economist in referring to China’s currency manipulations and other trade-protectionist practices.

Dr. Morici speaks from experience. He was the chief economist at the U.S. International Trade Commission in the Clinton Administration and currently teaches business at the University of Maryland.

Before leaving as Commerce Secretary, Mr. Locke implemented the administration’s five-year plan to double exports and create jobs.

It also sought to accomplish these goals:

  1. Promote free trade
  2. Provide more credit for small to medium sized business
  3. Enforcement of international trade laws

“The Commerce Department initiative merely consists of redoubling existing efforts and not addressing the fundamental issues – the undervalued Chinese yuan and high tariffs, and other regulatory barriers that block U.S. exports in much of Asia,” argues Dr. Morici.

“Of course, these initiatives are helpful and could increase net exports by several billion dollars; however, those will not double exports, which now total $1.7 trillion or appreciably reduce a trade deficit of $440 billion caused by $2.1 trillion in imports,” adds the economist. “The trade deficit is likely to grow in 2010 and drag on the economic recovery.”

There are no published cost estimates but it is a multi-billion dollar plan.

It would increase “…Export-Import Bank funding for small businesses from $4 to $6 billion; boosting Commerce Department personnel that assist exporters at U.S. embassies and consulates in China and India; and strengthening enforcement of trade laws and agreements,” Dr. Morici indicates.

“China is the larger and faster growing market, and maintains an undervalued currency that makes Chinese products artificially cheap, whether at the Wal-Mart or competing with U.S. exports in China,” he explains. “It imposes huge tariffs and administrative barriers to U.S. exports. Conditions are not much better in India.”

Dr. Morici says the U.S. imports $330 billion in goods from China but only sells $88 billion in products to the Asian power.

“Without a revaluation in the yuan large enough to end China’s persistent purchases of U.S. dollars, the bilateral deficit is simply not coming down,” he asserts. “Without strong U.S. action to offset China’s currency market intervention, which exceeds $400 billion a year, China simply is not going to change its currency and trade policies, and the U.S. unemployment will stay close to 10 percent or higher.”

I’ve quoted Dr. Morici over the years and sometimes his views conflict with my free-market philosophy. However, he’s right in that something needs to be done to persuade China.

Moreover, what seems to have been lost in the discussion about the Obama Administration’s trade plan is a fundamental concern: Relatively little is manufactured in the U.S. any more. Consumer products are made abroad.  Even Boeing jet parts are made elsewhere.

As a management consultant, I recall Mr. Locke, as Washington’s 21st governor from 1996 to 2004, was innovative and practical. He was the nation’s first Chinese-American governor.

As a Biz Coach columnist, I’ve praised him because he implemented two valuable policies that ostensibly are not used today – he wanted consulting projects to be accountable with benchmarks for returns on investment and he implemented priorities in government budgeting instead of just taxing and spending.

So, if anyone in the Obama Administration is astute enough to assess the problems, he’s the one. Let’s pray he’s successful in strategy and implementation.

America is heavily in debt to China. That threatens our national security, and our individual economic and political freedoms. Unless, the Obama Administration is successful in trade, someday soon America’s official currency will be the yuan.

Meantime, what happened to the trade plan?

From the Coach’s Corner: Two related resources:

Things may be cheaper over the hill, but there is a cost to the community in buying over there, instead of here.”

-Margaret House

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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.