Opinion editorial by Reps. Joel Kretz and Shelly Short: Unemployment levels show need to focus on job creation, not more taxation
It didn't take long for now-Gov. Jay Inslee to backtrack on his campaign-trail promise to voters that he would not support new or higher taxes on hardworking Washingtonians. His state budget proposal has $1.2 billion in tax increases. Following the governor's lead, the House Democrats introduced a similar proposal that will raise taxes nearly $1.3 billion.
As your state representatives, we think that before politicians start reaching for our wallets, they should first make sure folks around the state have an income source from which to pay them – you know, a job. Our proposal, House Joint Resolution 4206, to put the two-thirds vote requirement of the Legislature for tax increases in the state constitution is something we believe needs to be passed and sent to voters for approval. This provision would protect taxpayers from politicians who grab for our wallets at every turn rather than trim government waste. And, it would give employers some tax certainty.
The unemployment rates in counties in the 7th District are some of the highest in the state. In fact, Ferry County, with an unemployment rate of 15.1 percent, is the highest in the state. The remainder of 7th District counties have unemployment rates as follows: Okanogan 12.8 percent, Stevens 13.7 percent, Pend Oreille 14.1 percent and Spokane 10 percent.
We are focused like a laser on balancing the budget within current tax collections and making smart policy choices that put people back to work in good-paying, private-sector jobs.
With regard to tax increases, we don't need them. As of the March 20 state revenue forecast, tax collections are growing by $2 billion, or 6.6 percent. In our estimation, what taxpayers have sent us is plenty and makes the case that we don't need to raise taxes to fund an ever-expanding government.
We believe that getting people back to work is the best economic stimulus. One solution that would help speed up project starts is House Bill 1236. It would require agencies to make a permit decision within 90 days or the permit is automatically granted. We saw what a long, drawn-out permitting failure did for job possibilities at the Buckhorn Mine. Getting answers from state government quickly to spur economic development is critical to our part of the state, and every other region as well.
The state is further limiting counties' options by buying up large swaths of land for conservation. Each year, the state buys up more land in the 7th District. Some counties are as much as 80-90 percent government-owned land. This land is sheltered from economic development and, by default, property tax collections that pay for schools and local services. It's time for an honest debate about the state buying up land that it cannot manage and taking it out of the running for much-needed economic development and job creation opportunities. Local governments are struggling – they need employers to locate in their communities and begin rebuilding their local economies.
The Growth Management Act, or GMA, is also an issue hamstringing our local governments. Spending time and money on land use planning that is geared toward easing urban sprawl like that of downtown Seattle, and which we have none of, is a waste of resources. House Bill 1224 would have allowed small counties that voluntarily opted into GMA planning to opt out of the costly GMA regulations. It was again sidelined by majority Democrats in the House. Our effort to educate urban lawmakers of the impact of their policies on rural parts of the state is drowned out by environmentalists. It's time to set aside social policies and focus on job creation. We're committed to work with anyone and everyone to put in place policies that encourage employers to invest in our residents.
Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, serves as the deputy Republican leader in the House and can be reached at (360) 786-7988 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Rep. Shelly Short, R-Addy, is the lead Republican on the House Environment Committee and can be reached at (360) 786-7908 or email@example.com.