Inslee Agenda Will Steamroll Remaining Small Businesses

Date: December 18, 2020

NFIB begins lobbying efforts to block governor’s harmful proposals

OLYMPIA, Wash., Dec. 18, 2020—The state’s leading small business association today announced it will oppose major elements of Gov. Jay Inslee’s budget and legislative agenda when the Legislature convenes in January.

“With thousands of small businesses closed or on the brink of ruin, and their employees out of jobs as a direct result of the governor’s mandates, our state simply cannot afford his reckless new tax increases and oppressive regulatory proposals,” said Patrick Connor, Washington state director for NFIB.

Labor & Economy

It is insulting that while one in four small businesses fear they will be forced to close their doors within the next six months, unless they either receive significant assistance or are allowed to safely resume full operations, the governor’s fix for the economy begins with a pair of huge new fines on any business owner who dares defy his orders or expects workers to actually show up for work.

As if nearly $10,000 fines for a business operating beyond the governor’s comatose recovery phases, and thousand-dollar penalties for mask violations, weren’t severe enough, the governor seeks to impose additional daily penalties on struggling small-business owners who contest his orders.

The governor also seeks to hit employers with another nearly $10,000 fine for furloughing or terminating employees who refuse to report for work alleging some safety or health concern, real or imagined. The Department of Labor & Industries readily admits the rise in these worker complaints is entirely COVID-related. It makes no sense to impose a costly, new, permanent fine in response to a temporary and changing problem.

In a cynical ploy to buy small-business support for his misguided and unwelcome legislative agenda, Gov. Inslee proposes to skim tens of millions of dollars of workers’ compensation taxes paid by employers to create another state “small-business assistance” grant program. This one would be run by the Department of Labor and Industries.

We have already witnessed what a dismal failure Governor Inslee’s small-business assistance grants have been. Nine months into this pandemic, thousands of small businesses are still waiting for meaningful assistance. The latest round of state grants is unlikely to arrive until after the New Year. Worse yet, the dollars already allocated to this program have not only been insufficient, but the number of businesses aided is dwarfed by the number that have permanently closed due to the governor’s edicts.

What makes his new proposal all the more laughable is that the same agency responsible for levying huge fines on businesses failing to abide by the governor’s emergency decrees would start handing out checks to ease the cost of complying with those very same regulations, but won’t provide a dime to struggling Main Street mom-and-pops until the next disaster is declared.

We will reserve judgment for now on the governor’s plan to finally address a looming unemployment insurance calamity, until the details are released. It appears the governor intends to lessen the jaw-dropping, multi-year unemployment tax hikes his Employment Security Department is forecasting by stretching out the increases over a longer period of time, and bridging the gap with federal loans.

Slightly easing the pain by extending it longer might be better than nothing, which is what we’ve heard from the governor thus far, in response to employer pleas for help to avoid this particular job-killing tax hike. We must, however, question the likelihood for success given the abysmal track record of ineptitude and misinformation displayed by the Employment Security Department and its commissioner. If anyone deserves to be unemployed, it is Commissioner LeVine and her top lieutenants.

Climate

Once again, the governor is proposing an unworkable package of government mandates and giveaways that would have no measurable impact whatsoever on global climate change, but instead hit working families and small businesses with huge added fuel, heating, and power costs.

Like a broken record playing the same tired tune over and over again, Gov. Inslee is once more calling for carbon taxes that the voters of this state and the Legislature have turned down repeatedly.

We’ve seen how this racket would work. Certain big businesses would be assessed taxes or fees on their carbon output. Then, they simply pass along those costs to consumers. Meanwhile, they and state bureaucrats would have access to carbon-tax slush funds doled out to reward supporters, fund pet projects, and provide so-called help to a sliver of the population who will be paying more every single time they fill a gas tank or turn on a light. 

Add to that yet another attempt by the governor to impose a low carbon fuel standard (LCFS), which makes gas and diesel more expensive and less effective as fuel sources. A carbon tax and LCFS mandate would be a double whammy of cost increases on every family that drives to work, heats their home, and tries to keep the lights on. Low-income consumers will be the hardest hit while carbon “polluters” keep passing the buck.

A carbon tax and LCFS mandate would be a double whammy of cost increases on every family that drives to work, heats their home, and tries to keep the lights on. Low-income consumers will be the hardest hit while carbon “polluters” keep passing the buck.

The climate proposal includes a number of incentives to speed the conversion of the transportation system from fossil fuels to electricity as well. While there may be some merit in electrifying the state’s ferry fleet to reduce harmful impacts to orcas, more tax credits to drivers who can afford a Tesla is poor tax policy indeed. Moreover, a thorough analysis of the likely impact to the power grid is essential to avoid California-style brownouts due to a surge in electric vehicles on the road without adequate increases in generation capacity.

The governor has also announced his intention to make homes and businesses “fossil fuel free” by imposing stricter building regulations, and ostensibly outlawing certain energy sources. Anyone who has suffered a days- or weeks-long power outage knows the perils of relying solely on electricity. Natural gas and propane appliances, furnaces, and fireplaces allow people to stay warm, make hot meals, and take warm showers even when the powerlines are down. Limiting consumer choices – at home and at work – is another shortsighted, unworkable, and unnecessary government intrusion that will do nothing to address climate change in any meaningful way.

Health Care

A $40 cost increase on every health insurance policyholder in the state is the governor’s primary method to boost public health funding by $400 million. Every increase to already unaffordable health insurance premiums makes it that much more difficult for people to get the medical care they need.

The coronavirus pandemic has certainly demonstrated a number of glaring deficiencies in the public health system, not the least of which is the continued misreporting as COVID deaths instances of overdoses, accidents, and old age.

However, increasing the cost of health insurance for everyone largely to enhance government agency communication and technology systems, improve its response planning, and expand some testing and reporting, is very bitter pill to swallow.

Furthermore, before receiving hundreds of millions of new tax dollars, the governor, state Department of Health, and some local health officials need to rebuild trust with the public who rightfully questions the shuttering of businesses, schools, and churches, and directives to stay home to stay safe, based on inaccurate, unreliable, and often changing data.

Contact: Patrick Connor, Washington State Director, patrick.connor@nfib.org
or Tony Malandra, Senior Media Manager, anthony.malandra@nfib.org

Keep up with the latest Washington state small-business news at www.nfib.com/washington or by following NFIB on Twitter @NFIB_WA or on Facebook @NFIB.WA

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For more than 75 years, NFIB has been advocating on behalf of America’s small and independent business owners, both in Washington, D.C., and in all 50 state capitals. NFIB is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, and member-driven association. Since our founding in 1943, NFIB has been exclusively dedicated to small and independent businesses and remains so today. For more information, please visit nfib.com.

NFIB Washington
Suite 505
711 Capitol Way South
Olympia, WA 98501
360-786-8675
NFIB.com/WA
Twitter: @NFIB_WA

 

 

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