Opinion

GUEST OPINION | Let’s get Washington working again

Several days ago, financial guru Jim Cramer’s Web site, The Street, listed its pick of the best and worst states for small business. Surprisingly, the New York-based Web site listed Washington the fifth best in the nation for small business.

“Washingtonians and their businesses enjoy a lack of taxes for personal income, individual income, corporate income and corporate capital gains. It also boasts low electric utility costs,” the report said.

But unlike Forbes Magazine’s glowing 2007 report on Washington that Gov. Gregoire cites ad nauseam, The Street noted our state also has shortcomings: “Washington has high unemployment taxes, very high consumption-based taxes, a large number of health insurance mandates and a high state minimum wage.”

Both publications’ listings are further skewed by the fact they don’t factor in Washington’s exceptionally high gross receipts (business and occupation) taxes.

If Wall Street continues to point at Washington as a great place to do business, why is our state still suffering from nearly double-digit unemployment rates, including 9.8 percent in Snohomish County? Why are more than 325,000 people in Washington looking for jobs? And why are we losing more jobs than we are creating?

Maybe it’s because, as one small businessman told me, these Wall Street publications have never actually come here to start a business, employ people, pay the fees and taxes, and comply with the excessive regulations and permits required by Washington.

I agree we live in one of the most beautiful states in America. I think the fact that Wall Street looks to Washington state shows we have great potential. Rather than citing these reports and ignoring the problems that have led to high statewide unemployment, we need to fix our problems and do everything possible to get Washington working again. Only then can we reach our full potential.

While the Legislature struggles with a multi-billion dollar budget deficit, the primary focus of this scheduled 105-day session should be on private-sector job creation.

Employers didn’t lead us into this down economy, but given the opportunity, they can lead us out. The Legislature needs to give them that opportunity.

My House Republican colleagues and I have made private-sector job creation our top priority this session. Legislation we are proposing would address those shortcomings holding back Washington’s economy. Some of our solutions include:

• reforming our workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance programs to reduce costs to employers;

• doubling the small business business and occupation (B&O) tax credit and providing a two-year B&O tax exemption for new or expanded businesses;

• placing a moratorium on most new regulations;

• eliminating all state health insurance mandates not required by federal law;

• providing a training wage for new workers (for employers with 50 or fewer employees); and

• streamlining the state’s permitting process to remove barriers for small businesses looking to expand or locate in Washington.

The long-term solution to our state’s budget crisis is getting people back to work. When people are employed, they are spending money, which in turn provides more revenue for state and local governments. That’s why our focus should not be isolated to the state budget. It should be on jobs.

As this legislative session progresses, I invite your ideas on how we can get Washington working again. Contact me through my website at www.houserepublicans.wa.gov/Kristiansen or find your legislator online at www.leg.wa.gov. Together, we can address our state’s shortcomings and reach our full potential as the best place in the nation for businesses and jobs.

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 website at www.houserepublicans.wa.gov/Kristiansen.

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