This week’s Q&A is all about jobs: The Governor, Senate and House Republicans, House Democrats and Senate Democrats have each introduced their own “jobs packages.” I wanted to find out: What are the philosophies behind (a couple of) them, who would benefit, and where is there common ground. I spoke with Sen. Jim Kastama, a Democrat, and Sen. Janea Holmquist, a Republican.
I always learn something in these interviews, and this week is no exception. Keep reading and you’ll find details on plans that are still in the works, including a BRAC-style government reform commission, a bill to protect Initiative 960 and more.
First, Sen. Kastama. This interview was conducted Wednesday evening in his office.
Q: There are four jobs packages. What are the crucial elements of yours?
Kastama: I think the Senate we have made it pretty clear we are continuing on the economic agenda we set last year.
We have to focus on the here and now. Sixty-five percent of the employment growth that we’re going to get coming out of this is in small business. That’s what our proposal is focused on.
First, work force. We’re going to make sure that there’s money in the budget to educate approximately 6,000 people who are unemployed and could be working in these jobs that are highly in demand. We’re going to make sure that happens.
I just had a proposal in higher education to create a dedicated funding source by converting the lottery’s purpose to higher education specifically. In other states where they have done it, it’s allowed them to market the lottery for the purpose it goes to and they sell far more tickets. In Georgia, it increased sales to $800 million and they’ve sent a million students to college with their Hope Scholarship
Our lottery, unfortunately, has flattened out. We bring in $130 million. We really can’t market it for what it goes toward, which is K-12 education because if we say it’s going to education, local school districts worry their bonds and levies won’t pass. So what they tell people is, buy a lottery ticket and you’ll get a swimming pool or a nice house. They’ll buy a lot more if they think it’s going to an altruistic purpose.
So, we’re looking at the workforce and infrastructure. We had a tax increment financing bill – a minor adjustment to the tax increment financing bill that we passed last year. For very little money — $2.6 million — you can bring thousands of jobs to Washington state.
And we want to coordinate the whole green industry in order to do weatherization better, to emphasize job growth.
Transportation: We will keep the $4 billion that we have in transportation going through the biennium. That’s a good budget item that actually does provide good paying jobs.
We also want to invest in entrepreneurship. We want to make sure that Washington state is a good place for companies to thrive and to start, so we’re putting in place many things that will help. One is that small business assistance will be able to expand services.