State can, should jumpstart economy by implementing pro-jobs agenda

Right now, political leadership in Washington must say what employers need to hear: We appreciate you and we want you to remain in our state providing the much-needed, good-paying jobs that support families and entire communities. Thank you for risking your capital and offering your innovation so that Washingtonians have jobs that offer hope and a good future.

However, the plight of employers has continued to be ignored, and that has hampered our state’s ability to recruit new companies and the jobs that come with them. We can turn this around, but decisive leadership on key government reforms is critical in the 2010 legislative session.

Every good job is needed, whether union or non-union, part-time or full-time, and large or small employers alike. That’s why I believe state leaders and agencies must begin to show a willingness to address critical barriers that are hurting Washington’s ability to preserve and recruit jobs by supporting a pro-jobs agenda in the 2010 legislative session.

My colleagues and I are proposing common-sense, pro-jobs solutions such as: addressing the high costs of hiring staff, cutting the state agency red tape, creating a health care marketplace that fosters an affordable and accessible system, and enacting policies that ensure fiscal prudence in the budget.

We can begin these reforms by changing the culture in state agencies to focus on customer service. By that I mean state agencies should look at employers as customers, not piggy banks. Lawmakers and state agencies must make a strong effort to get rid of confusing and duplicate regulations, streamline paperwork and willingly assist employers with navigating the myriad of state agencies’ forms, rules and regulations.

We must focus on retaining and creating jobs by addressing the rising cost of hiring workers. The state-run unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation systems are some of the costliest programs in the nation, which is hurting our state’s competitiveness to recruit new employers. I support common-sense reforms, such as addressing excessive pension costs in the workers’ compensation system. This would begin to get costs under control and lower employer payroll taxes while still offering stellar benefits to those who need them.

I support pro-consumer solutions to rein in health insurance costs and ensure employers, employees and individuals have access to affordable health care coverage. By allowing innovative and flexible “core benefit” plans, the ability to purchase health insurance across state lines, and offering a business and occupation tax credit to employers for providing health insurance, we can begin to control the rising cost of health coverage and truly help many of those currently uninsured. Our plan also includes lawsuit abuse reform and practical health insurance options for young adults ages 19 to 34.

The last leg in this stool of reforming state government is responsible spending and budgeting. Now is not the time to talk about tax increases to solve our budget shortfall. The $117 million workers’ compensation employer and employee payroll tax increase the state Department of Labor and Industries just announced for 2010 is too much to ask of workers and companies struggling in this recession.

I oppose tax and fee increases to balance our budget or grow state government. Families, individuals and employers have had to cut back and prioritize spending — and so should state government.

Instead of increasing taxes and fees again, let’s find creative ways to attract and retain employers, which will begin the recovery we need in Washington. If we want to build back our once-strong economy, we must start with building up the private-sector employer base that will put people back to work, save jobs and provide new opportunities for the future.

Tenth Legislative District Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton, is the lead Republican on House Community and Trade and Economic Development Committee.

State Representative Norma Smith, 10th Legislative District
435 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7884 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000