Rossi calls for crackdown on government red tape
By Associated Press
OLYMPIA-- Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi called Wednesday for a cabinet-level office to crack down on government regulation and red tape, while Democratic hopeful Ron Sims announced plans to step up talk of tax reform.
Meanwhile, Democratic front-runner Christine Gregoire and her ally, Gov. Gary Locke, said the state has made significant progress in reducing the state's exposure to lawsuits.
As the race to succeed the retiring Democratic governor began heating up, GOP front-runner Rossi said state government is larded with overreaching and oppressive regulations and paperwork requirements that dampen the state economy, particularly small businesses that can't afford armies of compliance officers.
"The test should be, is it moving the economy forward or is it moving us backward?" Rossi said in an interview after unveiling his regulatory reform plan at the GM Nameplate Co. in Seattle.
Rossi said if he's elected, he will create the Governor's Office of Regulatory Reform. The cabinet-level office would scrutinize regulations from every agency, looking for any that curb economic growth, contradict or duplicate each other, or are "just plain unnecessary," he said.
He said he's not talking about regulations that are necessary for public health, safety and welfare. Repeal of some rules and regulations might take legislative concurrence, he said.
The state needs a new uniform standard for regulations. Before they go into effect, proposed regulations would have to pass a cost-benefit study to make sure they won't hurt jobs or the economy, he said.
The office also would help businesses navigate the regulatory maze.
Rossi said he wants the state to aggressively recruit and retain businesses and wants the trade agency to "pre-permit" potential development sites.
Rossi's plan is patterned after one instituted by New York Gov. George Pataki.
"This is scary stuff from Dino Rossi," said state Democratic Chairman Paul Berendt. He said Rossi is trying to import a New York approach that has been criticized for endangering health and safety through arbitrary decisions.
"On paper, the purpose of the office is to remove unnecessary government regulations, but in practice, important safety measures have been thrown out at the insistence of corporate interests," state Democrats said in an e-mail to reporters.
"This sort of secretive, corporate-led backdoor governing is just like Dick Cheney and his energy commission," Berendt said. "That's not what we need here in Washington."
Rossi's spokeswoman, Mary Lane, replied, "Oh, please. More nonsense from status-quo Democrats who apparently think it's OK to have a terrible business climate and one of the worst unemployment rates in the nation. To the Democrats, anyone who's involved in business is evil."
Sims' campaign, meanwhile, announced a new interactive "Build Your Own Tax Reform Plan" Web feature. It's part of his main campaign site, www.ronsimsforgovernor.com.
Sims is developing his own proposal, including a graduated state income tax, coupled with elimination of the gross receipts tax on business, lowering property taxes and reducing or eliminating the state sales tax.
The income tax could be created only by constitutional amendment, requiring a two-thirds vote in both houses of the Legislature -- and public approval.
"He intends to roll out specifics to his tax reform platform as he engages in a conversation with the public," said campaign director Tim Hatley.
Sims also will hold a series of town hall discussions on tax reform and ways to improve the economy, beginning with one at 10 a.m. July 10 at the Ballard Community Center in Seattle.
Gregoire has said that issue is a nonstarter and that the new governor should move on to other approaches, such as closing tax loopholes.
Rossi said Wednesday that Sims is quite sincere, but that the public isn't buying. "People I've talked to mostly see it as just another avenue for taxation," he said in an interview.
Gregoire, who enjoys the implicit backing of Locke, joined him in his conference room at the Capitol to jointly announce "measurable improvements in the way state government manages liability risk."
Said Gregoire, "The bottom line is that risks inherent in the operation of state government are down, citizens are better protected and we are saving tax dollars as a result."
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