Private sector incentives will help state rebound, lobbying group says

Mike Benbow
Everett Herald Business Editor -


Everett, WA - Business people have a new ally in their fight to reduce the cost of doing business.
It's, a new Web site rolled out Friday by the Association of Washington Business, an Olympia-based lobbying group with about 3,750 members across the state, and the Washington Roundtable, a public policy group of 40 of the state's CEOs .

The Web site will look at proposed laws, citizen initiatives and executive actions and place them in one of two categories: job maker or job killer. It also turns up the heat on legislators by awarding or deducting points based on their voting records on the two categories.

And it tells people and businesses how to get involved in the public debate by tracking issues and bills, keeping an eye on their legislators and making their opinions known at key points in the debate.

Business association president Don Brunell said Friday that times are tough in the state capitol. "We have some difficult times in Olympia this year," he said at a breakfast meeting of the Greater Marysville Tulalip Chamber of Commerce.

Businesses got nailed during legislative sessions in 1981 and 1993, Brunell said, noting the lawmakers took desperate measures to bail the state out of recession, applying a temporary sales tax on food and prescription drugs and nearly doubling the state business tax.

Noting that Washington businesses already pay 46 percent of the tax revenue, compared to 27 percent in Oregon, Brunell said he doesn't want to see businesses carry more of the burden.

"The way we get out of the economic doldrums that we're in is by growing the private sector," he said. "We want the private sector to lead us out of the recession."

Brunell said his association has a long list of concerns, all relating to dramatic cost increases for businesses. They include unemployment costs, up 16 percent, workers compensation costs, up 29 percent, health care costs, up 25 to 40 percent, liability insurance costs, up 25 to 60 percent and energy costs, up 15 percent.

He noted, for example, that our state, which once had some of the lowest prices in the world for electricity, now is among the highest, crippling operations such as Kimberly-Clark Corp.'s Everett pulp mill, which needs low-cost energy to be competitive.

While Brunell is hoping to avoid devastating new taxes, he knows that businesses can't get everything they want from a cash-strapped state government.

His top request: Reforming the court system to rein in large legal awards that have sent insurance rates for some activities and professions through the roof and changes in the unemployment system.

"There are contractors in this county who can't even get liability insurance," Brunell said.

He also noted that even people who leave their jobs on their own have a great shot at getting unemployment checks in Washington.

"If they leave voluntarily, they shouldn't be eligible," he said. "Unless we make some changes, the hits next year are going to be worse than this year."


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