By Reps. Joel Kretz and Shelly Short
It’s not rocket science to figure out that folks need work. Our state’s unemployment rate is now a staggering 9.2 percent. More than 310,000 people are out of work in this state – not counting folks who have simply given up looking for a job. Likewise, the Seventh Legislative District’s unemployment rates are incredibly troubling:
County Unemployment rate Okanogan 7.1 percent Ferry 11 percent Stevens 10.5 percent Pend Oreille 11.3 percent Lincoln 7.2 percent Spokane 7.9 percent
If we are committed to turning this economy around, state leaders must focus on helping employers keep their doors open so they can retain and hire employees. Our simple philosophy is: healthy employers generate taxes that pay for essential state services. Employers create the jobs that give citizens income to spend, which also produces tax revenue. So, before the governor and her majority party in the Legislature reach for taxpayers’ wallets again to plug the $2.6 billion budget deficit, we hope they consider the impact new or increased taxes will have on employers, struggling families and our economy.
That’s why we, and our House Republican colleagues, are again proposing common-sense, pro-jobs solutions next session. Our bills would:
• Address the high costs of hiring staff;
• Cut state agency red tape;
• Create a health care marketplace that fosters an affordable and accessible system;
• Ensure affordable and abundant energy; and
• Enact policies that ensure a fiscally responsible budget.
To address the rising costs of hiring employees, our pro-jobs agenda includes critical reforms to the state’s workers’ compensation system. Not only would the reforms begin to lower payroll taxes, but it would put money back in the pockets of workers, since they pay 28 percent of the premium. By introducing competition into the system, we could lower costs, shed some government bureaucracy and still offer the benefits employees and employers expect.
Our government reform bills would cut state agency red tape and bureaucracy. One bill would expedite the permitting process for projects. This would save employers time and money that could be put to better use creating jobs and beefing up staff wages and benefits.
We also have a plan to address the rising cost of health insurance coverage. Our proposals would: allow innovative and flexible “core benefit” plans, provide the ability to purchase health insurance across state lines, and offer a tax incentive to employers for providing health insurance. These reforms can begin to control the rising cost of health coverage and truly help many of those currently uninsured. Our plan also includes lawsuit abuse reform and practical health insurance options for young adults ages 19 to 34.
An integral part of any successful company is abundant and affordable energy. We will work to defeat measures at the state level – such as cap and trade – that will increase the cost of energy on every consumer in the state. Higher costs will only further erode our job base and hurt already cash-strapped citizens. We must take full advantage of our hydropower – it’s a low-cost, clean and innovative source of energy.
Last, we will not support any new or increased taxes or fees. Citizens, including employers, have had to make sacrifices in these difficult financial times, and so should government. We will continue to advocate for a budget that spends within current revenues, is transparent to the public and funds the most vital services, such as education, first.
The Legislature must do all it can preserve and recruit private-sector jobs in Washington by supporting this pro-jobs agenda in the 2010 legislative session. We welcome your feedback on this agenda or any other legislative issue of concern to you. We can be reached by calling the toll-free legislative hotline at 1-800-562-6000 or by contacting us directly. Our contact information is as follows:
Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, serves as the deputy leader for the House Republicans. Rep. Shelly Short, R-Addy, is the ranking Republican on the House Ecology and Parks Committee and is serving her first two-year term in the Legislature.