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It has been clear thus far that there is a genuine willingness among Republicans and Democrats in Olympia to discuss ways to compete and help secure this opportunity to keep Boeing’s economically important jobs in Washington state.

But truthfully, it’s not out of the question that Washington state will be one of several regions that can meet Boeing’s publicly stated criteria for choosing the location of the newest production facility for the next generation 777 jet aircraft.

In this contest to keep Boeing, any ties will likely be broken by one factor – the conditions under which Boeing will have to negotiate with labor to alleviate long-term cost pressures such as gold-plated pensions and the increasingly expensive cost of providing health insurance benefits.

But the elephant lurking in the corner of the Legislature is the question of what weight labor relations has in Boeing’s decision. Labor costs are the largest single cost factor for Boeing as it determines how to thrive in a competitive global marketplace. Our elected government officials have no direct control in managing disputes between Boeing and its unions, thankfully, but in that sense any wheeling and dealing over tax incentives and transportation packages could become a Melville-esque voyage with Captain Ahab on the Pequod.

The long-term labor costs the aerospace giant could expect to bear as a result of sticking it out in the state of its birth could still vastly outweigh any short- and mid-term benefits created through government action. In short, the Legislature could deliver everything Boeing desires yet still watch the company take one more step away from Washington because of the one thing they cannot.

Barring a decision by voters to prioritize making Washington a so-called “right to work” state, it seems obvious now that we are in a beggar’s role.

After the recent machinists union’s rejection of an offer by Boeing – one that reflected economic realities regarding changes in health insurance coverage requirements and the fiscal instability of guaranteed benefit pension systems. Knowing what is at stake, the machinists’ union chose what they felt is the best course for their members, though it is almost certainly not a good course for the state economy or for the creation of additional job opportunities for union workers.

The unions most certainly have the power to influence officials in Olympia, but is there anyone who has the power to influence them? Political leaders, including Gov. Jay Inslee, tried and failed. To be fair, even if the governor and others were able to broker a deal it would likely be one achieved under some duress and the ultimate message to Boeing would still be clear: a much-needed era of rapprochement between the company and its workers is unlikely to occur in Washington.

Democrats, who have been the primary beneficiaries of union support, must certainly realize now that the relationship cemented with campaign cash and electoral assistance is not a two-way street.

Yes, Union Way is a one-way route, one that could lead off a cliff for the majority party in the Legislature in next year’s elections if Boeing elects to do what seems to be the smart thing, to settle into a more amenable place when dealing with its employees, as was a major factor in its decision to build the second 787 production line in South Carolina.

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Rep. Norma Smith, R-10

Rep. Norma Smith, R-10

It’s the Sunday paper, and you’re supposed to be relaxing. So, why read a column about an issue that makes people’s eyes glaze over? Because it matters. What is it? Regulatory reform, its relationship to job creation, the critical need to understand the role it can play in accelerating our economic recovery, and what we can do about it.

Think about the diversity of Washington state’s economy and how blessed we are to have a broad spectrum of robust industry sectors, including agriculture, aerospace, high-tech and biosciences, marine trades, health care, energy, tourism and natural resource industries.

Now consider our state’s economy as a three-legged stool: research and development, service and production. All are dependent upon one another to create vibrancy and synergy critical to economic growth.

Yet, in Washington, our regulatory business climate threatens growth and is a key competitive disadvantage as we compete to promote job creation across all sectors. Economists tell us certainty is essential to recovery. The uncertainty created by an adversarial and unpredictable regulatory climate is palpable. No bureaucrat can measure the “weariness factor” a small-business owner experiences when significant sums of money and time have been spent trying to make multiple agencies happy on a straightforward issue, only to face indecision or a default “no.”

This has not gone unnoticed. We’ve received national attention because of our poor ratings. In addition, our own state auditor published findings, as did our Washington Economic Development Commission (WEDC), noting our “overly burdensome” climate, and that it must improve as one of five key strategies for long-term success.

This is essential in light of the disturbing headlines of economic decline in other regions of the country. Why? Because in the crosshairs of costly, duplicative and confusing regulations and rules is the production sector of our economy — manufacturing, growing, building, processing, and creating the products and commodities that are essential for our economic viability and recovery.

Production jobs provide many of the best opportunities for stable, family-wage jobs that offer a hope and future for Washington families — especially those struggling to make ends meet and who long for a better life for themselves and their children. More than 60 percent of working Washingtonians do not have a four-year college degree. With training opportunities, the production sector of our economy provides excellent opportunities for wages, benefits and advancement. And for all of us, a vibrant economy is dependent on production.

In Olympia this year, something significant took place. I finally saw an encouraging bit of “sea change” and an improved momentum regarding this issue. The state auditor’s recommendations report from 2012 and the WEDC strategies paved the way.

I began working in late fall to draft four pieces of legislation based on their findings. Meetings with the impacted agencies were insightful, and involving them was critical to success. Our new governor spoke about the need to improve our business climate and lent weight. Colleagues from both sides of the aisle co-sponsored and supported the proposed legislation. I partnered with Sen. Sharon Brown from the 8th District, who introduced bills in the Senate and worked tirelessly as an advocate — increasing the opportunity for their passage. All four bills (House Bill 1591/Senate Bill 5679), (HB1818/SB5765), (HB1757/SB5718) and (HB1403/SB5680) were signed into law.

Regulatory reform is about doing the job of government in a smarter way that costs taxpayers less, so that hard-earned dollars can be used for reinvestment and job creation. It allows for the unleashing of creativity and inspiring confidence in the American Dream.

Some see the issue as “code language” for lowering our standards for public health, safety or environmental protection. That is simply not true. Washington state is an international leader in demonstrating that a sustainable, robust production sector can be at home in an extraordinarily beautiful environment. While we will always be improving, we will continue to lead by example.

The four bills I mentioned will not fix our state’s massive “overly-burdensome regulatory system.” Our job creators have been slogging through the matrix for decades, fighting for fairness, clarity and predictability. But the legislation does take significant steps in the right direction — sending a clear message that, with courage and diligence, we can make improvements to our business climate, celebrate the job creators, and continue to build a stronger economy that offers hope and opportunity for every hard-working Washingtonian.

Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton, serves as the ranking Republican on the House Technology and Economic Development Committee. She also serves on the House Capital Budget, Government Accountability and Oversight and Higher Education Committees.

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SEATTLE (AP) — Washington state’s unemployment rate dropped to 7.6 percent last month, the second month in a row with a state jobless rate below 8 percent and the lowest rate in four years.

The state’s Employment Security Department said Wednesday the seasonally adjusted rate for November was 7.7 percent. That was the first month since January 2009 when unemployment in Washington was below 8 percent.

Employment Security Department officials caution, however, that the recent drops in unemployment can be tied, in part, to unemployed job seekers who have stopped looking for work.

Read more from the Kitsap Sun

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From The Herald

OLYMPIA — Washington gained 5,000 jobs last month, but the unemployment rate still increased slightly to 8.5 percent, state officials announced Wednesday.

The numbers released by the Employment Security Department show that the July unemployment rate increased from the June rate of 8.3 percent, though the department stressed that both the jobs and rate figure are preliminary and subject to future revisions as more data come in.

The state’s unemployment rate is slightly higher than the national rate for July, which was 8.3 percent.

Officials said that the increase in the unemployment rate was due in part to a decline in the total workforce combined with a small increase in the number of unemployed people who are actively looking for work. Read More→

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Highlights from a Policy Brief from the Washington Policy Center

Final compromise budget:

Enacted budget (4/11/12) Total spending – $31.121 billion (includes $120 million in expected agency reversions); Total reserves – $319 million (includes $238 million accounting change)

The final budget adopted is very close to the one Representative Ross Hunter (Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee) proposed on April 4th, the last Democratic House budget proposal listed above. In reviewing the timeline, one trend quickly emerges: Proposed spending increased and estimated savings decreased as various budget proposals came closer to final agreement.

State Spending Trends

Depending on how state spending is measured, the 2011–13 budget represents either an increase or decrease in spending over the 2009–11 budget. Looking at state revenues spent through the Near General Fund State (plus education-related Opportunity Pathways account) spending will increase by $970 million in 2011–13 compared to 2009–11. However, when temporary federal stimulus fund (state bailout) spending is counted in the 2009–11 base, spending will decrease by nearly $1.6 billion in 2011–13 compared to 2009–11 levels.

Accounting for total state operating spending, including the transportation budget, spending will increase by $772 million in 2011–13 compared to 2009–11.

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