Competitiveness Caucus Launches in Olympia

Bipartisan group focuses on regulatory issues, jobs in letter to governor 

OLYMPIA—Republican and Democratic lawmakers joined forces today in Olympia to focus on issues that will protect and enhance Washington state’s competitiveness in global trade.

The newly launched Competitiveness Caucus is a collaborative effort welcomed by Keep Washington Competitive, a coalition of business, labor, agriculture and trade groups working to highlight regulatory and trade issues essential to the state’s long-term future.

“We have a unique opportunity today to bring so many different interests together around a common issue: our economy,” said Kris Johnson, president of the Association of Washington Business and a member of the KWC advisory board. “Employers all over Washington are looking for consistency when it comes to the regulatory process. Currently, there’s too much inconsistency —they need that certainty to expand and hire more people. Keep Washington Competitive and the new Competitiveness Caucus will help maintain state-level focus on regulatory issues and the roadblocks that stand to have deep, sustained impacts on our jobs, our trade status and our economy.”

“Today more than ever before, our industry must have attainable environmental standards to continue to manufacture and export products,” said Larry Brown, Legislative and Political Director, International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers, Local 751 and a member of the KWC advisory board. “We need regulatory policies that foster job growth and encourage production and export of our products. Other states are hungry for the kind of jobs and products we offer in Washington state. We need to be positioned to compete in a rapidly changing, global marketplace.”

Co-chairs for the new Competitiveness Caucus include Senate co-chairs Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, and Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, along with House co-chairs Brian Blake, D-Aberdeen, and Susan Fagan, R-Pullman. As leaders of the new Competitiveness Caucus, the four legislators will maintain a focus on the state’s regulatory environment and trade growth. This includes:

  • A timely regulatory review process lasting no longer than 18 months for proposals meeting Washington state’s high environmental standards.
  • An environmental framework that is predictable and obtainable, focusing on the needs of communities where projects are to be built, rather than speculative impacts.
  • A commitment to promoting trade growth and the diversity of employment opportunities that sustain Washington’s middle class.

“Agriculture is the second largest export category in Washington,” said Tom Davis, director of government relations for the Washington State Farm Bureau. “More than $15 billion of agricultural products were exported from our ports in 2013. It’s an economic imperative that we have the ability to move our products from farm to market and to our port facilities in a timely and reliable manner. Sound policies are needed that promote and ensure this outcome.”

Seattle Port Commissioner Bill Bryant underscored the valuable role Washington’s ports play in our state’s economic vitality. The cargo moving through the ports of Tacoma and Seattle touch about one-third of the state’s gross domestic product — and about 200,000 jobs statewide.

“Across Washington, thousands of family wage jobs depend on our ports,” said Bryant. “Unpredictable policies and permitting processes can undermine our ability to keep and attract employers that provide middle class jobs, and undermine our ability to generate more good jobs in communities across Washington.”

“Keep Washington Competitive, with the help of the newly formed Competitiveness Caucus, will maintain a much-needed focus on ensuring we adopt policies that both protect our environment and communities while generating jobs.”

As part of today’s announcement, Johnson and members of the Competitiveness Caucus delivered a letter to Gov. Inslee signed by representatives of business, labor, agriculture and trade highlighting regulatory and trade issues in Washington state. To view the letter, click here.


Video of the entire press conference is available online here.

Individual remarks are also available from KWC Advisory Board Members Larry Brown and Kris Johnson, as well as Competitiveness Caucus House Co-Chairs Reps. Susan Fagan and Brian Blake.