Employers can’t afford to sit out election

GUEST COLUMN

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Kris Johnson

As I’ve traveled the state the last few months as part of the Association of Washington Business’ small-business listening tour, I’ve noticed campaign signs for nearly every race and political persuasion, from president to county precinct officer.

It’s tempting in this era of divided politics to dismiss the signs as visual clutter, and to dismiss the races they represent as irrelevant for our daily lives.

Nothing could be further from the truth, particularly if you own or manage a business.

This November, voters will not only cast ballots for the high-profile positions of president and governor, but they will decide on a several ballot initiatives that will directly impact employers, including whether to raise the statewide minimum wage, whether to impose a new carbon tax and whether to create publicly state political campaigns.

It’s worth taking the time to understand the issues.

Also on the ballot: Every seat in the state House of Representatives, half of the seats in the state Senate, and other statewide offices from lieutenant governor, secretary of state and auditor to superintendent of public instruction, public lands commissioner and three state Supreme Court justices. So it’s worth taking the time to get to know the candidates, especially those in your legislative district.

Recently, the AWB board of directors voted to oppose three ballot initiatives: Initiative 732, which would impose a carbon tax on employers; I-1433, which would raise the minimum wage to $13.50 and mandate paid sick and safe leave for all employees; and I-1433, which would create taxpayer-funded political campaigns.

We share the goal behind I-732 – reducing carbon emissions – but don’t believe that raising the cost of energy for some of the state’s best employers is the best way to accomplish it. A better approach is to work with employers, whose innovation has already made Washington state one of the greenest economies in the world, to continue finding ways to reduce carbon emissions without driving up the cost of energy for families and businesses.

We oppose I-1433 because of concerns about how it will impact job growth, particularly for young people. Teen and youth unemployment is already too high and it’s bound to increase if employers are forced to choose between hiring a new, inexperienced worker or someone a few years older with experience.

The minimum wage should be a starting point. Quickly and arbitrarily raising it to $13.50 per hour could have unintended consequences, including driving some industries out of the state, and removing an important rung on the ladder for those seeking to enter the workforce.

We are opposed to I-1464 because the system, which would require taxpayers to fund political campaigns through a voucher system paid for with a new tax, could be manipulated by well-funded campaigns.

In June, AWB hosted a debate featuring eight of the 11 candidates running for lieutenant governor (all were invited to participate). Following the debate, the board voted to endorse current state Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, for the position.

As a state senator, Hobbs has shown that he understands the issues. He’s demonstrated he can work across party lines – a quality increasingly rare in politics.

Finally, the board voted to endorse three legislative candidates: Rep. Maureen Walsh, who is running for the state Senate in the 16th district; Rep. Lynda Wilson, who is running for the state Senate in the 17th district; and Rep. Teri Hickel, who is running for re-election in the 30th district.

The AWB board will take up more endorsements in September as the election draws near. In the meantime, employers and employees can take the summer to get to know the candidates.

Politics is often messy and not always fun, but take the time to become informed.

— Kris Johnson is president of the Association of Washington Business.



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