Governor Inslee’s Misplaced Budget Priorities

Diverse mix of Washington’s economy finds only one bright spot in governor’s proposal

OLYMPIA — Members of the Keep Washington Competitive (KWC) coalition, including representatives from business, labor, agriculture and trade sectors, expressed concern this week that Gov. Jay Inslee’s  proposed cap-and-trade scheme will have a negative impact on the Legislature’s ability to pass a long-overdue transportation package — which would include much-needed investment in freight-mobility projects.

While initial reaction to the governor’s budget priorities has been mixed, one area that has elicited immediate and widespread concern is the governor’s continued advancing of his environmental agenda to the detriment of other state priorities.

“We are concerned about the effect of the governor’s proposal on trade and dedicated funding for freight mobility projects,” said Gordon Baxter, Puget Sound Maritime Trades Council and KWC Advisory Board member. “Washington’s trade-based economy relies on our ability to move goods through and out of the state expeditiously to keep our competitive standing as a global trade leader and the jobs trade brings.”

John Stuhlmiller, CEO of the Washington Farm Bureau and a KWC Advisory Board member, said, “The plan announced by the governor this week is sadly out of step with the needs of our state. If implemented, this plan will deal a blow to our agriculture community by increasing the cost of doing business — a consequence we cannot afford as we strive to remain competitive in our current economic climate.”

Buried in the budget rollout this week was a single bit of good news regarding the governor’s proposal to speed up the permitting process. This expedited review procedure is at the heart of Keep Washington Competitive’s trade-focused issue agenda:

“[The transportation plan] codifies a 7-step permitting process for projects requiring an environmental impact statement under NEPA, and the use of a multiagency permit program as described in HB 1978. This bill also requires the Department of Ecology to undertake rule making and convene a work group to recommend additional improvements to the permitting process.  Working together, we can protect our environment while reducing the time it takes to get critical projects completed.”

Kris Johnson, a KWC Advisory Board member and president of the Association of Washington Business, said the expedited review procedure outlined in the governor’s budget would be a significant step forward for the state’s trade-dependent businesses. But the other parts of the governor’s plan stand to harm Washington’s competitiveness.

“The governor describes his cap-and-trade proposal as a tax on polluters, but it’s really a $1 billion tax increase on every family in the state,” said Johnson. “Anyone who puts gas in their car, heats their home or buys products will pay the price. It’s also a tax on employers, a group that already pays nearly 54 percent of all state and local taxes,” he said.

“Raising taxes on employers now will only hurt the state’s ability to compete in a global economy.”