Opinion

You don’t fuel economic recovery with taxes, regulations

Recently, Washington’s chief economist said the worst of the state’s recession may be over. However, he noted “the recovery is still fragile, and fraught with risk.”

Days after his remarks, the latest unemployment figures were released showing more people unemployed in Washington than the previous month.

As one columnist noted, “a jobless recovery is no recovery at all.”

If we are truly to set Washington back on the road to a recovery with jobs, we need to change the way the state treats its employers.

Yet even as nearly 320,000 people in Washington are unemployed and looking for work, some state leaders seem to be looking the other way as they add more job-killing regulations.

For example, employers were shocked to learn their workers’ compensation premiums could spike in 2010 by as much as 20 percent — the highest increase since 2003.

Preliminary rates were filed in June.

An employer’s ability to save and create jobs rests on its labor costs.

A combination of unemployment insurance premiums, business taxes and this proposed workers’ compensation premium increase could be a crushing blow to many employers who are just barely surviving.

The Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) is reviewing data and will propose a final rate change before holding public hearings toward the end of October.

In the meantime, my House Republican colleagues and I have drafted a letter to Gov. Gregoire, asking her to oppose the rate hikes.

I urge employers to watch for the public hearing announcements on the L&I Web site at www.lni.wa.gov and to attend and testify at those meetings.

I’m also concerned about actions the governor is taking that could further hurt Washington’s opportunity for a strong economic recovery.

In May, she issued an executive order to implement cap-and-trade legislation (climate change) that failed to pass the Legislature during the 2009 session.

And although the Legislature approved Senate Bill 5854, which incrementally seeks to increase energy efficiency building codes with the goal of a 70 percent reduction in energy consumption by 2031, the governor has asked the Washington State Building Code Council to accelerate the timeline with a 30 percent reduction for buildings by July 2010.

If the council adopts this accelerated timeline, it could add huge costs to the price of new homes, further damaging the slumping housing industry, hurting jobs, and putting affordability out of reach for many home buyers.

In March, the governor said she wanted her new commerce director to have “a laser focus on keeping the companies and jobs we have, and bringing new jobs and companies to our state.”

We need to keep that focus. Now is not the time to be adding new job-killing regulations.

We need to get government off the backs of employers so they can do what they do best -- provide jobs.

State Rep. Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, represents the 39th Legislative District,

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