‘All business sectors could benefit from tax incentives, streamlined project permitting passed for aerospace industry,’ says Kretz

'All business sectors could benefit from tax incentives, streamlined project permitting passed for aerospace industry,' says Kretz

Lingering debate over a proposed $12.3 billion transportation package may lead to fourth special legislative session of 2013

The governor called a special session of the Legislature on Nov. 5 to address tax incentives and permitting changes important to convince Boeing to build its 777X airliner and carbon fiber wings in Washington state. The session adjourned Nov. 9, but the governor may call legislators into another special session by year's end to pass a transportation tax package.

Rep. Joel Kretz agreed with the governor that tax incentives and streamlined permitting are critical to job creation, but believes the same treatment Boeing received should be given to all industries across the state. However, he disagrees with the need to foist new and higher transportation taxes on residents in the current economy.

“Our rural economy is seriously struggling right now and could use some economic development. The aerospace industry isn't a job-creator in our district, but I voted for the legislation because I believe we should do all we can to provide jobs to people in every part of the state, including the Seventh District,” said Kretz, R-Wauconda and deputy House Republican leader. “What is good for Boeing should be good for the iconic industries in our part of the state, too, and I would like to see us address job-creating policies that benefit every sector of the economy when we return to regular session in January.”

In his floor speech Nov. 9 on House Bill 2088, Kretz explained that when a company in the 7th District needed a project permit, it took 19 years and cost $100 million and still no permit was issued.

“The iconic industries in our part of the state consist of mostly mining, timber and agriculture and they could all use help with permitting and tax relief to keep their doors open and expand operations,” Kretz said. “I hope we take this lesson for what we did for the aerospace industry and apply it to all employers, large and small. Our rural districts would then be able to begin to see some positive economic development and good-paying jobs that we desperately need.”

The governor may again attempt to force the hands of legislators to pass a multi-billion dollar transportation tax package, like he did over the Nov. 7-9 special session dates, if he calls his fourth special session this year.

The most recent transportation tax package that is far from agreed upon would increase the state gas tax by 11.5 cents per gallon over three years in addition to the increased fees, totaling $12.3 billion.

“This latest transportation tax proposal is a lot of money to ask taxpayers for right now, and is something I will not support,” Kretz said. “Before we rush to raise the gas tax and a host of other transportation-related fees, we need to take stock of the damage it could do to communities around the state. Additionally, I could never support higher transportation taxes to fund a system that is in need of serious reforms.”

Kretz noted the average income for residents in much of the 7th District is about $22,000 per year. Not enough, he said, to buffer increasing costs to register vehicles and fill gas tanks for long commutes to work.

“In the more rural parts of the state, we drive further to work – meaning we also pay the lion's share of the gas tax,” Kretz said. “People barely scraping by don't see a ten- or eleven-cent increase in the gas tax as a 'modest' hit to their budgets. These taxes, while billed as 'insignificant,' hurt those residents living on the edge of their incomes and on fixed incomes the most.”

Kretz also wants to make sure transportation dollars are more focused on road building, maintenance and repair.

Of the many projects that would have been funded in the failed June $10 billion proposed transportation tax package were three bike paths and wildlife underpasses on Highway 97 in the 7th District.

“I'm not disparaging bike-path advocates, but I think bike paths and wildlife corridors should have an alternate source of funding other than the gas tax. We have a limited amount of tax dollars and folks are struggling to make ends meet. It seems logical that we should focus on priority projects that move agriculture products and help folks get to work faster. These are what generate tax revenue – agriculture exports and folks working and producing,” Kretz said.

As the debate this month moves forward on a transportation tax package, Kretz is urging caution about raising taxes on struggling citizens, particularly before cost-saving reforms within the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) are enacted.

“After situations like the faulty pontoons for the 520 Bridge and a ferry that lists due to design errors, I believe that if we are going to rebuild trust with taxpayers we must institute some major reforms in the state transportation department. Taxpayers need concrete assurances that current and future projects are done right the first time and cost-effectively before being forced to pay higher transportation taxes,” Kretz said.

The Legislature is currently conducting a study of the cost drivers in WSDOT to see where improvements in project delivery and costs can be made. The report is due back to the Legislature by the end of the year.

“I believe reforms and cost controls on transportation projects should be the priority. It only makes sense to wait for the cost study due to lawmakers prior to asking taxpayers for more transportation funding,” Kretz said. “We need to get a better understanding of where we can find savings and what types of changes are needed within WSDOT to make transportation projects more affordable and done correctly.”

Constituents can send written comments to Kretz with feedback on new and higher transportation taxes via e-mail at Joel.Kretz@leg.wa.gov. Constituents can watch Kretz's Nov. 9 floor speech on job creation policies that could benefit the entire state at this link: http://youtu.be/36HA4OqCRgI.



Washington State House Republican Communications