Archive for economy

Live from the Capitol: TVW’s opening day show starts 10 a.m. Monday

By | January 9, 2015 | 0 Comments

The Washington State Legislature’s 2015 session begins Monday, Jan. 12. Opening ceremonies start at noon, but tune in to TVW early to catch exclusive interviews with lawmakers, who will discuss key issues for the coming months.

Starting at 10 a.m., The Impact’s Anita Kissee will host the live show from the Capitol rotunda. Gov. Jay Inslee will stop by to talk about his budget proposal and more.

Guests include House and Senate leadership from both sides of the aisle, including Senators Sharon Nelson, Mark Schoesler, Andy Billig, Linda Evans Parlette and Representatives Dan Kristiansen, Pat Sullivan, Joel Kretz and Eric Pettigrew.

Hear about key issues including education, transportation and mental health from Senators Jeannie Darneille, Doug Ericksen, Curtis King, Steve Litzow, Rosemary McAuliffe, John McCoy and Steve O’Ban, plus Representatives Judy Clibborn, Hans Dunshee, Richard DeBolt, Cary Condotta and Sharon Wylie.

We’ll also get insight about the session from Capitol reporters Jim Camden of The Spokesman-Review and Jordan Schrader from The News Tribune.

TVW will carry gavel-to-gavel coverage of opening ceremonies beginning at noon.

Stay tuned to TVW throughout the session for coverage of the state Legislature. Starting opening day of session, Legislative Review will air nightly at 6:30 and 11 p.m. “The Impact” airs Wednesdays at 7 and 10 p.m. and Inside Olympia with Austin Jenkins is Thursdays at 7 and 10 p.m.

Lawmakers offer preview of 2015 session at Washington Policy Center summit in Bellevue

By | January 7, 2015 | 0 Comments

It wasn’t quite a debate, but the differences were clear in presentations on state legislative priorities given by Sen. Andy Hill (R-Redmond) and Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle) at the Washington Policy Center’s Solutions Summit in Bellevue on Wednesday.

Sen. Andy Hill (R-Redmond) and Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle) speak at the Washington Policy Center's Solutions Summit in Bellevue on Wednesday.

Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle), seated, and Sen. Andy Hill (R-Redmond) speak at the Washington Policy Center's Solutions Summit in Bellevue on Wednesday.

Hill made the argument that the surplus in the state revenues would allow for an additional $1 billion in education spending and cover existing expenses over the next biennium.

However, Hill, the Senate Ways & Means chairman, criticized Gov. Jay Inslee‘s proposed new capital gains tax in his $39 billion, two-year budget, which the governor introduced last month.

“We do not have a brutal deficit,” Hill said. “It’s a false choice to say you raise taxes or you make cuts.”

Carlyle, the House Finance chairman, was critical of Washington’s taxing system as a whole, which he says squeezes middle- and lower-income taxpayers as well as small businesses. But Carlyle was also skeptical of the idea that the spending side of a budget should get the most scrutiny. He said many of the state’s tax exemptions to businesses have not been revisited since they were passed.

“I believe the best tax structure would be low rates, broadly applied with few exemptions,” he said.

The Washington Policy Center, a pro-business think tank, hosted Hill, Carlyle and Sen. Curtis King (R-Yakima) and others in a half-day summit that prepared attendees and other supporters for the 2015 Washington state legislative session. The Bellevue event, which drew 400 people, was the second day of a two-day summit on legislative issues. The first day was held in Kennewick on Tuesday.

Other speakers at the Bellevue event included former Attorney General Rob McKenna, former New York Gov. George Pataki, Forbes columnist and former health care policy advisor to Mitt Romney Avik Roy and a small business panel that included former Starbucks president Howard Behar and restaurateur Taylor Hoang, who owns Pho Cyclo restaurants.

Sen. Curtis King (R-Yakima) speaks at the Washington Policy Center's Solutions Summit in Bellevue on Wednesday.

In a transportation forum, King, the Senate transportation chairman, declined to discuss in detail why lawmakers failed to come up with a transportation package that would pay for major road projects in the last session, but said that going forward, the state needs to consider what projects would make the greatest economic impact to the state as a whole.

“We got to take this limited amount of money and use it to address our problems,” he said. “Bike and ped paths are not our problem… They are nice to have, but not our problem.”

King, who was in the panel with Marc Scribner, a research fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, also criticized cities that make local decisions without considering how transportation will be affected, such as in Seattle, where several projects in the South Lake Union area will bring 44,000 people to the area to live and work and bringing further congestion to the area, he said.

“Because Seattle said, ‘Hey, we’ll let you build those towers,’ is that the state’s problem?” King asked.

Community struggling with PTSD, economic recovery in the wake of Oso mudslide

By | November 20, 2014 | 0 Comments

Eight months after the deadly Oso mudslide, people in the community continue to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and are struggling to move forward, local officials told lawmakers Thursday.

There is also a “tenseness” because of the uncertainty of what will happen to the Stillaguamish River during the flooding season, said Arlington mayor Barbara Tolbert at a meeting of the Senate Natural Resources and Parks Committee.

“We have very resilient people in the community,” said Tolbert, who said the region’s next challenge is recovering economically from the disaster. A federally-funded economic review is underway, and the report should be completed early next year, she said.

The Oso mudslide on March 22 killed 43 people, burying dozens of homes and part of State Route 530. The road reopened to two-way traffic in September.

The committee also heard testimony from people involved in the recovery effort at the mudslide. Retired forest service member Peter Selvig listed several problems he encountered in the days after the mudslide as he helped organize efforts on the Darrington side of the disaster.

He said he was twice denied flood lights, and he also received pushback on the number of portable toilets and body bags he ordered. Communications were focused on the Arlington side of the disaster, he said, leaving the Darrington side with minimal services.

“These are some of the confusions that just rip your gut apart thinking that this was happening and there was nobody there to respond,” Selvig told the committee.

Watch the hearing below:

Lawmakers facing budget shortfall, say Initiative 1351 ‘creates a problem’

By | November 19, 2014 | 0 Comments

Economic forecasters said Wednesday the state is on track to collect $36.9 billion in the next two-year budget cycle, about $275 million more than they previously forecasted.

But it is still not enough to cover current government services and K-12 education obligations. Lawmakers will be facing about a $2.2 billion dollar shortfall for the 2015-17 budget.

Initiative 1351, a new measure approved by voters to reduce class sizes, added a significant cost to the budget projections — costing about $2 billion during the same budget cycle.

“If you look at the outlook as it stands today, we’re $2 billion short which matches pretty close to 1351,” said Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond.

“Overall, 1351 creates a problem. But if you take that out of the equation, it is kind of what we expected,” Hill said.

He said it is “too soon to tell” if the Legislature will vote to suspend the initiative. It would require a two-third supermajority vote of the Legislature to change a voter-approved initiative.

“I think we have to figure out, do we have two-thirds to change an initiative that just got passed by the people? There’s typically a lot of reluctance to change those,” said Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina.

Hunter noted the budget doesn’t include collective bargaining agreements for state employees “who have had a 15 percent reduction in real salaries in last six years,” nor does it include half of the state’s McCleary obligations. Looking ahead, the state can expect a $4.7 billion dollar gap by the end of 2019, he said.

Gov. Jay Inslee will propose a budget in December. The House and Senate will each release budget proposals during the 2015 legislative session.

Read the budget outlook from the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council. Watch today’s meeting below:

Categories: economy

Legislative Year in Review

By | March 24, 2014 | 0 Comments

On this special one-hour edition of “Legislative Year in Review,” we recap the highlights from the 2014 session — from opening day to Sine Die. The show includes debate over issues such as the Dream Act, minimum wage, gun control, abortion insurance bill, death penalty, mental health, teacher evaluations, taxing e-cigarettes and the supplemental budget. Plus, a quick wrap-up of several of the bills that passed this year. Watch the show below:

Live in Olympia: TVW’s Sine Die show starts at 8 a.m. Thursday

By | March 13, 2014 | 0 Comments

Washington’s legislative leaders will adjourn the 2014 session Thursday, unless a special session extends the deadline. But before they go back to their districts TVW will air back-to-back live interviews with more than 20 lawmakers starting at 8 a.m. Thursday.

Anita Kissée reporting live from the capitol rotunda for TVW's special edition mid-session show Feb. 18.

Anita Kissée, host of The Impact, will sit down with Gov. Jay Inslee, House Democratic Majority Leader Rep. Pat Sullivan and House Republican leader Rep. Dan Kristiansen

Other guests include Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, R-Wenatchee, Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D-Burien, and Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island. The lawmakers will talk about a range of issues from education to the capital budget to the environment.

Plus, Austin Jenkins, host of TVW’s “Inside Olympia” and reporter for the Public Radio Northwest News Network, and Brian Rosenthal, a state government reporter for The Seattle Times, will stop by to talk about some highlights from the past 60 days and what to expect when the election process begins.

Coverage will be here on the blog, and you can watch live on TVW or via webcast.

Marijuana could bring $51 million to 2015-17 general fund

By | February 19, 2014 | 0 Comments

State officials estimated that legalized recreational marijuana could bring in $51 million to the state’s general fund in the 2015-17 biennium.

It’s the first time that the state has included marijuana in its revenue projections, since Initiative 502 passed in 2012, which legalized recreational marijuana, according to the Office of Financial Management.

The Economic and Revenue Forecast Council discussed the estimate, and projections for the next six years at meetings broadcast on TVW Wednesday.

The forecast for the remainder of the 2013-15 biennium showed general fund revenue coming in $30 million higher than in the November forecast, according to the Office of Financial Management. The general fund revenue over this biennium is expected to be $33 billion.

The state’s general fund collections in the following biennium, 2015-17, are projected to be $35.7 billion, an increase of $82 million over the November projection and including the $51 million expected in marijuana taxes.

The rest of that increased forecast was due to slowly growing economy, said Steve Lerch, chief economist of the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council.

Lerch told lawmakers Wednesday that council staff has been reluctant before this forecast to include marijuana tax revenues in general fund projections because of uncertainties about the retail stores, including when the the stores would launch and the potential for marijuana businesses to have problems with banks.

The projection includes an assumption that marijuana retail stores would not start until June 2015, Lerch said. Initiative 502 earmarks other revenue from marijuana, such as licensing revenue, to a dedicated marijuana fund, which pays for social and health services and research, he said.

According to OFM, the next revenue forecast is scheduled for release June 18.

Categories: economy, Marijuana

Senate committee passes volunteerism for unemployment benefits bill

By | February 7, 2014 | 0 Comments

A bill that would allow people to perform community service to fulfill a requirement for unemployment benefits passed out of the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee Friday morning.

The Employment Security Department requires people collecting unemployment benefits to perform three job search actions a week — either applying to a job or attending an employment workshop. SB 6392 and HB 2690 would allow the option of performing two hours of community service as one of those three activities.

Two high school students, Marissa Martz and Kristen Hoffmann of Snohomish High School, approached legislators with this proposal, according to Jerry Cornfield of The Herald of Everett.


The bill considered Friday was amended from the students’ original version of the bill, which would have required the community service in addition to the existing unemployment benefit requirements.

They testified to Senate committee on Friday and to the House Labor and Workforce Development on Wednesday.

They argued that the requirement could help the unemployed find work.

“Instead of just a piece of paper given to an employer, like a resume, you actually get to show what you’re doing and what you’re worth,” Hoffmann told the Senate committee Friday.

Several people signed in opposition to the bill, including representatives from Legal Voice, Unemployment Law Project, Washington State Labor Council and the Washington Education Association.

Neil Gorrell, Unemployment Insurance Director, said the original bill would have violated federal law, but making the community service optional instead of mandatory takes care of the issue.

The department was neutral on the version of the bill considered Friday, he said.

Categories: economy, unemployment

On TVW this week: Economic forum with Nancy Pelosi, King County legislative forum

By | November 25, 2013 | 0 Comments

Here’s what TVW is covering on this holiday week:

Monday, Nov. 25 at 9 a.m.: TVW is live webcasting the Economic Forum for Women and Families in Seattle. Speakers include U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene and Marilyn Watkins of the Washington Work and Family Coalition. Watch the webcast here.

Monday, Nov. 25 at 7 p.m.: TVW is live webcasting the 24th Annual King County Legislative Forum. The forum focuses on issues for those with developmental disabilities.King County Executive Dow Constantine and statewide elected officials are expected to attend. Watch the webcast here.

Wednesday, Nov. 27 at 7 & 10 p.m.: This week’s edition of “The Impact” looks at the big issues addressed during Legislative Committee Days, including transportation funding and fish consumption. Plus, Sen. Sharon Nelson talks about her new role as minority leader.

Categories: economy, TVW

Washington revenue forecast and job growth remain flat, new home permits down

By | November 20, 2013 | 0 Comments

Economic updates released Wednesday show the state is experiencing flat revenue and job growth, along with a slowing of new home construction.

The Economic and Revenue Forecast Council projected the state will collect about $25 million more in tax revenue through 2015 than expected. The total general fund balance is expected to be $33 billion for the current two-year budget cycle.

“If we look at changes in the forecast, they’re quite small,” said Steve Lerch, the state’s chief economist. “We continue to forecast slow economic and job growth for both the national and state economies.”

Lawmakers use the forecast as a guide when writing the state’s budget. Gov. Jay Inslee will release a supplemental budget proposal in December.

David Schumacher, director of the Office of Financial Management, said the projections make it “difficult for us to spend money on any new incentives or programs.”

“It’s enough to hold steady and not much more than that,” Schumacher said.

On the positive side, sales of existing homes in Washington continues to be strong, Lerch said.

But those homes have become slightly less affordable because of rising prices and mortgage rates, he said.

At the same time, new home construction appears to be slowing. “The thing we’re a little concerned about is we’ve seen a decrease in housing permits since April 2013,” Lerch said.

The latest unemployment figures were also released Wednesday.

Washington lost 9,500 jobs over the last two months, reversing a nearly two-year trend of positive job growth in the state.

Still, the state’s unemployment rate remained mostly the same — 6.9 percent in September and 7 percent in October. That’s compared to 7 percent in August.

September and October jobless numbers were released at the same time because the federal government shutdown prevented the employment agency from releasing the figures on time.

Paul Turek, a labor economist with Employment Security Department, said in a statement the drops are likely a result of “statistical adjustments and some softening of the economy.”

“We enjoyed a very long growth streak, but we should expect there will be ups and downs over time as the recovery gradually strengthens,” Turek said.

The state previously reported 22 straight months of job growth.

TVW taped Wednesday’s meeting of the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council – watch it here.

Categories: economy, Governors Office

Tax revenue up $345 million, but wheat exports down after GMO discovery

By | September 18, 2013 | 0 Comments

Economic figures released today show that Washington state is on a slow path to economic recovery, with strong growth in retail sales, construction activity and car sales.

Overall, the state is on track to collect $345 million more in tax revenue in the current two-year budget cycle than forecasted in June. Of that $345 million, a significant chunk comes from legislation approved during last session.

A telephone tax increased revenue by $110 million, and the state netted another $34 million by redirecting liquor taxes away from local governments and into the state general fund.

Chief economist Stephen Lerch said that after accounting for the legislation, the forecast changes are “not all that big.” Lerch presented the quarterly revenue forecast on Wednesday during a meeting of the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council.

Washington state saw a drop in wheat exports following the discovery of GMO wheat in a field in Oregon last spring, Lerch said. Japan and Korea suspended wheat purchases for several months as federal inspectors examined the herbicide-resistant plants, which were never approved for production.

No other genetically modified plants have been discovered and Lerch said he’s hopeful that wheat sales will increase again.

The forecast does not include any money from Initiative 502, which legalized marijuana in Washington. Retail marijuana stores are expected to open next June. Asked when the state will begin to include tax revenue from marijuana sales in the forecast, Rep. Ross Hunter replied: “When we can actually count it.”

“I believe we will see far less revenue from this source than other people anticipate,” said Rep. Terry Nealey.

Washington’s total revenue for the 2013-15 biennium is expected to be $33 billion, according to the report.

Watch the meeting below:

Categories: economy

Could $231 million in additional revenue break the budget stalemate?

By | June 18, 2013 | 0 Comments

Budget writers got good news today in the form of a revised revenue forecast that shows Washington state will collect an extra $231 million dollars in revenue over the next two years.

Republican budget writer Sen. Andy Hill said that number should be enough to “break one of the final logjams” in budget negotiations.

Legislators have been locked in a stalemate over the budget, and a partial government shutdown could occur next month if they can’t come to an agreement.

Hill said the uptick in revenue — combined with expected savings — is enough to close the budget deficit, put $1 billion into public schools, cut tuition and protect the state’s social services.

Democratic budget writer Rep. Ross Hunter said the additional revenue “closes the gap a little bit” and he expects budget negotiations to end soon.

“We’re lucky it’s up rather than down,” Hunter said.

Not everyone is as optimistic. House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan said in a press release that it “doesn’t solve all our budget problems,” and won’t be enough to fully fund education as mandated by the McCleary decision.

“We’ve been prevented from taking even small steps toward closing outdated tax exemptions and redirecting resources toward schools….so, while today’s forecast may get us closer to a go-home budget, we can’t pretend we’ve solved the long-term problem,” Sullivan said.

The state government can expect to collect $33.7 billion dollars in tax revenue in the next two-year budget cycle that begins July 1, which is $121 million more than previously expected. The state will also collect an extra $110 million dollars in the current budget cycle.

Watch the meeting of the Economic Revenue and Forecast Council below.

The Senate Majority Coalition also called a press conference about the numbers. You can watch it here.

Categories: Budget, economy

House Democrats release $10 billion transportation plan

By | February 20, 2013 | 0 Comments

House Democrats unveiled a $10 billion transportation package on Wednesday that would be fueled by an increase in the gasoline tax and an increase on car tab fees.

The proposal would increase the state gas tax by 10 cents (2 cents a year over five years) and make car tab rates equal to 0.7 percent of the vehicle’s value. The proposal would also add a $25 fee on sales of bicycles over $500.

“Gas tax is about the only revenue stream you have right now,” Rep. Judy Clibborn (D-Mercer Island) said during a press conference Wednesday. “If we don’t have an investment for the jobs and economic vitality I think at some point there is a cost to not doing the gas tax.”

Washington’s gas tax currently ranks the ninth-highest in the nation. The proposal would eventually raise it to 47.5 cents per gallon.

The package identifies new or continued projects and targeted investments into the state’s transportation system, including improvements to State Route 167, funding for the Interstate 5 Columbia River crossing and the state ferry system.

House Republicans, who have been wary of any new tax proposals, were quick to criticize the new plan.

“House Republicans understand there are maintenance demands and new projects needed in the future,” Rep. Ed Orcutt (R-Kalama) said in a news release. “But any debate on transportation must begin with reforms, not tax increases on struggling workers and families, and not new project lists to entice votes in the Legislature.”

Gov. Jay Inslee released a statement saying transportation is “vital to the environmental and economic health” of the state.

“We can’t afford to not take action and this is a job I expect the Legislature to accomplish. I’ll be working with legislators on both sides of the aisle to craft a package that they can send to my desk for approval,” Inslee said.

Categories: economy, tax, transportation

Universal background checks, Inslee’s jobs plan and sex trafficking on ‘Leg Review’

By | February 14, 2013 | 0 Comments

On Wednesday’s “Legislative Review,” we have highlights from a debate in the House Judiciary committee over gun control. The most controversial measure would expand universal background checks to include private sales. We also cover Gov. Jay Inslee‘s press conference in which he announced a $120 million package of proposals to spur job growth around the state.

Last year, the Legislature passed a bill aimed at reducing the sex trafficking of minors. The bill, which was signed into law by former Gov. Chris Gregoire, would have required online escort sites like Backpage to verify the age of the girls depicted in ads. But Backpage sued, and the state ultimately stopped defending the law in court. On Wednesday, Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles introduced a bill that would repeal the previous law, while also imposing a $5,000 fine on people who use the Internet to arrange the sex trafficking of a minor.

Inslee unveils plan to spur job creation

By | February 13, 2013 | 0 Comments

Gov. Jay Inslee

Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday unveiled a $120 million package of proposals to spur job growth around the state.

The plan includes tax breaks for new high tech companies, funding for aerospace training programs and new oversight ensuring the success of  STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) programs. The plan also includes a $50 million investment in clean energy programs.

Inslee also said he expects 10,000 new health care jobs through Medicaid expansion.

He characterized the plan as a “first step” in a broader jobs package. The $120 million price tag does not include funding for transportation projects, he said.

The state’s unemployment rate dropped  to 7.8 percent last month, but the  Employment Security Department has said recent drops in unemployment may be tied to unemployed job seekers who have stopped looking for work.

When asked how many jobs he hoped the plan would create, Inslee did not offer a specific number.

“More than we have today and enough to justify the investment and enough that it would be inexcusable not to adopt these common sense measures,” he said.

Republican leaders who met with the governor earlier to review the plan said they were open to many of the proposals, but questioned the timing.

“I think we are a little behind schedule. If he is going to run out a 75-part plan, I’d like to see it soon,” said House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt (R-Chehalis). “It’s one thing to go out and say you are going to change the world and do something different, but if you miss your timelines that doesn’t work for anybody.”

Republican Senate Caucus Leader Mark Schoesler (R-Ritzville) said they were trying to find common ground with Inslee’s proposals instead of just “throwing rocks.”

“I think we are all very interested in some of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) programs,” he said. “The problem is for our committee chairmen, we are extremely close to cutoff so if they don’t have budget implications they are going to be hard-pressed for time.”

Republicans have also called Inslee’s tax incentive proposals for high tech companies unfair, claiming he is “picking winners and losers.”

The governor defended the tax breaks on Wednesday, saying the plan identifies sectors where there is a potential for significant industrial growth.

“We want to target the companies that can offer innovative ways to do business,” he said.

TVW taped Inslee’s press conference. Watch it here.

Categories: economy

Bill would create sub-minimum ‘training wage’

By | January 29, 2013 | 0 Comments

Lawmakers are considering legislation that would create a new “training wage” lower than the state minimum wage for employers with less than 50 workers.

House Bill 1150 would allow some employers to pay 10 percent of their employees a wage set at 75 percent of the state minimum wage or the federal minimum wage, whichever is greater. It would apply to the employee’s first 680 hours. The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 an hour.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Cary Condotta (R-East Wenatchee), told the House Committee on Labor and Workforce the program would help get teens back into the workforce and off the street.

“I believe it is reasonable. I want a solution to this problem because it has gotten very serious,” Condotta said.

Grant County Prosecuting Attorney Angus Lee agreed, telling committee members the program would help solve the gang problems he sees everyday in his community.

“It benefits people who need a chance,” he said. “I look at it as somebody who cares about my community. This is a bill about saving lives.”

Opponents of the bill say the law would hurt working families who depend on the state’s minimum wage to get by.

“These working families are barely hanging on. I’ve heard of training wheels and training pants but I’ve never heard of a training wage,” said Pamela Crone, a lobbyist with Legal Voice.

Teresa Mosqueda with the Washington State Labor Council called the proposal a “poverty creation bill.”

“This is about all workers and this is taking money off the kitchen table,” she said.

Erin Shannon with the Washington Policy Center told lawmakers the state has one of the highest teen unemployment rates in the country at 28 percent. Shannon said employers need an economic incentive to take a gamble on young workers.

Those feelings were echoed by Pam Pellegrino, owner of Pellegrino’s Italian Kitchen in Olympia.

“When we go to hire to fill a position, at this point we don’t look for teenagers. We can’t invest the time at the minimum wage to train them,” she said.

The committee took no action on the bill Tuesday.

Categories: economy

Bill would repeal state’s Family Leave Act

By | January 28, 2013 | 0 Comments

Opponents of a bill that would repeal Washington’s Family and Medical Leave Insurance Act told lawmakers the state has a moral responsibility to keep the law on the books during a Senate Commerce and Labor Committee hearing Monday.

The 2007 act, which gives new parents paid leave of up to $250 a week for five weeks, has yet to be implemented due to lack of funding associated with the state’s economic downturn in recent years.

“It should never be a matter a luck that a parent can take time with their new child,” said Marilyn Watkins with the Economic Opportunity Institute. “We, as a state, have no greater moral responsibility than to move forward and fund this program.”

Sen. John Braun (R-Centralia), who is sponsoring Senate Bill 5159, argued that the current law is a liability and will never be funded.

“We should stop fooling around with something we don’t ever plan to properly fund and take it off the books,” Braun said.

The legislature delayed funding the program twice – in 2009 and 2011 – and former Gov. Chris Gregoire did not include it in her final budget before leaving office.

The bill  has wide support in the new Senate Majority Coalition, including its two Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom (D-Medina) and Sen. Tim Sheldon (D-Potlach).

Meanwhile, Sen. Karen Keiser (D- Kent) has introduced her own bill which would fund an expanded version of the original act.

Keiser’s proposal would extend the leave time to 12 weeks and pay two-thirds of a worker’s pay, up to $1,000 a week. It would be funded through a .01 percent payroll tax on employees and employers. The program would start paying benefits in 2015.

“At a time when middle-class working families are struggling, it makes no sense to cut this benefit,” Keiser said.

Keiser’s proposal is similar to legislation passed in California and New Jersey.

Next month will mark the 20th anniversary of the  Federal Family Medical Leave Act, which provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid family leave.

The committee took no action on the bill Monday.

Categories: economy, Public Policy

GOP leaders respond to Inslee’s inaugural speech

By | January 16, 2013 | 0 Comments

Senate and House Republican leaders outlined a number of concerns with parts of new Gov. Jay Inslee’s inaugural address during a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

Rep. Richard Debolt (R-Chehalis)

House Republican Leader Richard Debolt (R-Chehalis) said he was disappointed that Inslee was picking winners and losers by supporting tax breaks for programs delivering clean energy.

“State government shouldn’t decide who is successful and who is not. We have to do what we can to help all businesses,” Debolt said.

Debolt said he was also surprised the governor mentioned his support for the Reproductive Parity Act, which would require insurance companies to cover abortions if they also cover live births.

“It was funny that he would take a day of unification and try to make it a politically dividing event,” DeBolt said. “Social issues are not as important as it is getting people back to work again. That should be the focus of our governor.”

Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler (R-Ritzville) said the governor’s speech lacked detail, especially concerning gun control.

“The governor hasn’t given us any specifics on gun safety. We all agree it’s important, but there were no details prior and none today in the speech,” Schoesler said.

All the Republican leaders praised Inslee for the making jobs his top priority and said they plan to help Inslee keep his campaign pledge to not raise taxes.

“We have to have those jobs to get people off public assistance,” Rep. Dan Kristiansen (R-Snohomish) said.

Rep. Kevin Parker (R-Spokane) gave a videotaped official Republican perspective prior to the news conference.

Parker focused on funding education and balancing the budget without introducing new taxes.


Washington’s unemployment rate drops below 8 percent for the first time since 2009

By | December 19, 2012 | 0 Comments

For the first time in nearly four years, Washington’s unemployment rate has dropped below 8 percent, according to figures released Wednesday by the state’s Employment Security Department.

The state’s jobless rate was 7.8 percent in November, down from 8.2 percent in October. The employment department said that’s the largest month-to-month drop the state has seen since 1977.

Gov. Chris Gregoire called the unemployment rate “welcome news.”

“We are clearly heading in the right direction as we slowly emerge from the Great Recession but we cannot rest until every Washingtonian who wants a job has one,” Gregoire said in a statement.

An estimated 270,000 people in Washington were unemployed and looking for work in November.

The industry with the biggest job gains was retail trade, which added 2,500 jobs last month. The construction industry came in second with 1,400 jobs, followed by the leisure and hospitality industry with 1,200 jobs.

Washington state is ‘marginally worse’ in latest economic update, economist says

By | November 1, 2012 | 0 Comments

A quarterly economic snapshot released today shows that Washington state is “marginally worse” compared to the last quarterly report in September, said Stephen Lerch, executive director of the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council.

Lerch said personal income and GDP is growing slower than expected in Washington. He’s also concerned about issues outside of the state, such as the slowdown in Europe and the coming “fiscal cliff” that must be addressed by Congress before the end of the year.

On the bright side, consumer confidence is at the highest level since Oct. 2007. Housing is also doing well — home prices have gone up for four months in row in Seattle. Nationally, prices have been on the rise for the last three months.

Revenue tax collections are coming in $37 million higher than expected, but Lerch attributed that to a “timing issue” and said he expects it to be back on track for the next quarterly revenue forecast on Nov. 14. The previous revenue forecast showed the state can expect to collect about $30.5 billion in revenue in the current two-year budget cycle.

The full economic review is available here. TVW video of the meeting is available online here.

Categories: Budget, economy