Sheldon Says State Can Boost Business Climate



Even in the face of economic misfortune, state Sen. Tim Sheldon believes there are steps the state can take to improve its business climate.

In fact, Sheldon told the Olympia Rotary Club on Monday that the state could potentially benefit from similarly dire economic circumstances in other states. Sheldon pointed to the state of California's $40 billion budget deficit, noting proposals there to both increase income tax rates for the highest wage earners, and to end tax exemptions on manufacturing.

"That could make Washington a real attractive place for California entrepreneurs who want to stay on the West Coast," said Sheldon, the conservative Democrat from Mason County who often teams with Republicans on business and economic issues.

To capitalize on such opportunities, he said, the Legislature this session should consider a whole raft of bills to, among other things, provide manufacturing incentives and sales tax credits to businesses that would create jobs in the state.

With the state's own $2.4 billion budget deficit, any move to reduce tax revenue could be in for a rocky reception. Sheldon admitted as much, taking issue with the Office of Financial Management's long-time policy of counting tax incentives as a loss to the state general fund.

"In my mind it's not a loss," Sheldon said. "These are business that are coming here, they are providing money to our community."

In fact, Sheldon has plenty of like-minded colleagues in the Senate this year, though more are on the Republican side of the aisle. Today, Senate Republicans will move three bills aimed at improving the business climate -- though none include tax incentives, which could prove a tougher sell in the Democratic House of Representatives.

"As a state, we should reward the hard work and innovation of our people by making it easier for them to create jobs," said Sen. Bill Finkbeiner, R-Kirkland, sounding much like Sheldon.

As chairman of the Senate's Economic Development and Telecommunications Committee, the only Democratic chairman in a Republican-controlled chamber, Sheldon said he is poring over the budget of the Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development.

While Sheldon said he thinks the agency has good programs for spurring development, he complained that there are perhaps too many, spreading resources too thin and not focusing state dollars on a few areas where significant business improvement could be achieved.

"It's a mile wide and an inch deep," Sheldon said. "We need to be focused on what helps."

Sheldon also expressed support for an economic stimulus plan from Gov. Gary Locke that aims to create up to 13,000 private sector jobs through state bonding for construction projects, mostly at universities and community colleges. He proposed that the spending be spread further, into rural communities and sewer systems and other infrastructure improvements.

"If you spend money on infrastructure during a recession, you make money," Sheldon said


Related story:

LEGISLATURE: Sheldon to serve on rural economic board

Bremerton Sun staff

February 11, 2003

State Sen. Betti Sheldon, D-Bremerton, has been appointed to the Community Economic Revitalization Board, which helps fund rural economic development projects.
Lt. Gov. Brad Owen appointed Sheldon this week as one of four legislators on the 19-member board.

CERB provides low-interest loans to public entities such as cities and port districts to help with construction of buildings, bridges, roads, water and sewer systems as part of an effort to create jobs and promote economic development.

One of CERB's recent projects was funding the construction of a building at the Port of Bremerton that will allow an avionics business to expand operations.


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