Putting Washingtonians back to work!


Jobs week in the Senate

This week, the Senate focused on advancing a pro-jobs, pro-growth and pro-workers agenda to help improve Washington’s business climate and put Washingtonians back to work again. On Wednesday, several of my colleagues from the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus and House Republican Caucus joined together to announce our “Jobs Now!” plan.

The announcement came shortly after the Senate passage of SB 5127, also known as the Worker Recovery Act (WRA). This measure is aimed at making it easier for Washington employers to create and maintain jobs, while significantly improving the state-run industrial-insurance program for injured workers.

The WRA would increase the choices available to injured workers by expanding eligibility for structured-settlement agreements to all workers, regardless of age. This common-sense settlement option is currently available to injured workers – without age restrictions – in 44 other states. 

The other key bill in our jobs agenda is my permitting bill. Senate Bill 6045, if passed, would promote economic development by enhancing the transparency and predictability of state agency permitting and review processes. The bill reflects the state auditor’s recommendations, published in December, on improving the timeliness and predictability of state-agency permitting. Its goal is to provide improved customer service and predictability for Washington job creators.  Providing businesses with better information early in the permitting process and improving overall timelines means cost savings for both the state agencies and the businesses they serve.


Time for a new approach to B&O tax relief, economic development

Washington is one of approximately ten states that charge a gross receipts tax on employers and one of only three states with a broad Business and Occupation (B&O) tax.

Washington businesses are taxed on their gross income – meaning they pay taxes even if they make no profit or even lose money. This is a major burden for our employers, which makes it difficult for the state to attract new businesses and for current businesses to stay afloat.

The answer to this is often to carve out exemptions to the B&O tax – industry by industry, employer by employer. While well-meaning, I find many of these attempts to provide B&O relief disturbing. In the spirit of full disclosure, I have introduced or voted for many of these exemptions myself, but I am always left wondering if there is a better way.

The purpose of the tax system is to raise needed revenue for core functions of government, not to manipulate the free market. Legislators should not use the tax system to pick winners and losers through a series of exemptions, or to unfairly shift the tax burden from one industry to another.

Real economic development comes from creating an atmosphere for all businesses to compete and removing some of the regulatory burdens that kill job creation.

I’ve been working for the past several months with a number of mayors and economic development professionals on a new approach that improves on the traditional B&O tax-relief model. This exciting new economic development plan is based on an idea from Kennewick Mayor Steve Young. It would take government out of the business of picking winners and losers, and direct B&O tax relief toward employers willing to invest back into their local business operations and the community.

Senate Bill 6515, which I introduced this week, would require the Department of Revenue, with the assistance of the Department of Commerce, to create a pilot program that provides an incentive for businesses to create eligible new jobs and invest capital in this state. It would give businesses the flexibility to invest some of their B&O taxes back into their company.

That accomplishes two objectives. First, it gives them “skin in the game” so that they are reinvesting in Washington – in their business infrastructure, tightening their bond with the communities where they are located. And second, through that reinvestment they’re creating jobs – which, of course, is what we really want.

This bill has been scheduled for a public hearing in the Senate Trade & Economic Development Committee at 8 a.m. on Thursday. 

Senate committee hears testimony on my telecom jobs bill

The Senate Energy, Environment & Telecommunications Committee this week held a public hearing on my Telecommunications Jobs Act – Senate Bill 6322.

This bill is about jobs, jobs, jobs! SB 6322 will help to create and retain jobs in the telecommunications industry. Tax incentives similar to this one are already helping to preserve and create new jobs. An Association of Washington Business report showed that manufacturing and equipment incentives created 58,000 new jobs between 1995 and 1999 and added $27.5 billion to our state's economy. 

According to a Department of Revenue report, in 2009 the high-tech sector reported 114,000 jobs tied to the R&D sales tax/deferral incentive. This bill offers a similar sales tax exemption on the purchase of telecommunications machinery and equipment, and any tangible personal property that becomes an ingredient or component of such equipment. 

These incentives make a difference, and we should continue to look for ways to make Washington attractive to new telecommunication employers. Washington has the third-highest sales tax rate on telecommunication investments in the U.S. The current tax policy discriminates against telecommunication investments in our state. By leveling the tax playing field for telecommunication companies that choose to locate in Washington, nearly 9,000 jobs will be created, $1.7 billion in new investments will be made, and more than 100,000 new broadband connections will be added.

This bill also provides safeguards for taxpayers and makes sure that we get the type of job creation intended. The bill requires the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC) to review the exemption based on annual reports filed by taxpayers using the exemption. Under the measure, the Legislature will only extend the expiration date of the tax preference if JLARC determines the number of jobs in the telecommunications industry in Washington has increased by 10 percent compared to the number of those jobs at the time of enactment.


Click here to watch this week's video update!

In closing...

12th man

There's one issue in Olympia that unites us all: Our love and support for our Seahawks!

On Friday afternoon, we showed that support on the floor by passing Senate Resolution 8676, which changed the name of Mt. Rainier to "Mt. Seattle Seahawks."

But we didn't stop there. We also voted to rename Mt. Rainier National Park "12th Man National Park," and gave Sunday, Feb. 2 the official title of "Seahawks Sunday." The name changes are only in effect until Monday afternoon, after the Seahawks win the Super Bowl.

While I reflect your passion for the Seahawks, it is also my job to be your voice in Olympia on a number of issues.

As always, it is an honor to represent you in the State Senate. Your participation in state government helps me do my job better, and I appreciate and look forward to your thoughts, questions and concerns.

Enjoy the game and GO HAWKS!


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