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


  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


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

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