Do you agree with the Supreme Court’s “Janus” decision? Take our survey.

Last week, in a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that public employees cannot be required to pay union fees to support collective bargaining. The ruling overturned a precedent that allowed unions to collect so-called “agency fees” from employees even if the employee declined membership in the union.

Unions argued the fees were necessary to avoid “free riders” who benefited from collective bargaining without paying for it. The court said compelling the fee violated employees’ First Amendment rights. Do you agree or disagree with the court’s decision? Take our one-question survey below.

How would a trade war affect Washington? Take our survey.

Washington is one of the nation’s most trade-driven states, so political and business leaders here watch trade policy closely. Many of the state’s agricultural products and manufactured goods are exported to China and other nations likely to be affected by increased tariffs. As well, retaliatory tariffs can lead to increases in prices paid by producers and consumers. 

Some are concerned that a trade war could jeopardize economic growth. Others believe that the nation’s trade deficit is a result of poor trade agreements that should be renegotiated. The tariff increases are, in this view, a step toward rebalancing trade policy to protect American jobs.

As we noted last week, experts see Washington as one of the states at most risk in a trade war. Do you agree? Do proposed changes in trade policy concern you? Let us know by taking our brief survey below.

Grade the 2018 Legislature: Take Our Survey

Lawmakers left Olympia March 8, on time and without raising new taxes, although both carbon and capital gains taxes were considered. Your evaluation of the session’s accomplishments and disappointments doubtless depends on your priorities and preferences. 

The Seattle Times recently issued its “mixed report card” on the session.  The editorial includes the Hirst water decision and capital budget among “the good.” And the paper dings lawmakers for its hasty budget rollout with minimal citizen input. If you want to know what you may have missed in the budget, the Washington Research Council provides a good budget overview.  

As many have noted, lawmakers moved a lot of legislation through the short, 60-day session.

We’re interested in your assessment of the session. So we’ve prepared a brief survey. Please take a look and let us know what you think. Although the questions touch on just a few topics, each of them leaves room for you to provide additional comments if we missed something important.

SURVEY: Should lawmakers adopt manufacturing tax relief this session?

Policies that contribute to expanded economic opportunity will help extend the run of good economic news in our state. Our 2017 foundation report updated our agenda with specific recommendations in our priority areas of ACHIEVE (education), CONNECT (transportation) and EMPLOY (economic vitality). 

To promote economic vitality, we recommended tax policies that encourage private sector investment. Last year, lawmakers advanced that ideal by passing a reduction in the business and occupation tax rate for manufacturers. Although passed with bipartisan support as part of the budget agreement reached at the end of the session, the tax relief was vetoed by the governor.

Several bills have been introduced this session to reinstate the tax relief lawmakers supported less than a year ago. The Association of Washington Business writes that the vetoed 

…tax relief would have helped roughly 10,000 small- and medium-sized manufacturers invest in their businesses and employees and create jobs.

What do you think? Should lawmakers adopt manufacturing tax relief this session? Let us know by taking our survey below:

Take Our 2018 Legislative Survey

Lawmakers returned to Olympia Monday for the 60-day 2018 legislative session. We’re interested in your priorities and expectations for the session. Please let us know by responding to this brief survey. Thank you for your participation!

Take our Survey: Complying with McCleary

The state Supreme Court recently found that the Legislature had successfully met most of the school funding requirements established in the court’s McCleary order directing the state to meet its constitutional obligation to fully fund basic education. The ruling reviewed each of the “discrete components of basic education,” finding that in all respects that the state complied with the court’s  2012 school-funding order. 

That compliance represents a major bipartisan achievement. Under the two-year budget adopted last session, K-12 education spending will have roughly doubled since 2012.

One sticking point: The court said that the state had missed a funding deadline, one lawmakers had set for themselves. The budget adopted last session does not fully fund salary obligations for the 2018-19 school year. Lawmakers instead delayed full funding until the 2019-20 school year. An additional $1 billion is estimated to be necessary for full funding in 2018-19.

We’re interested in your thoughts on how lawmakers should respond. Please take our survey below, and tell us what you think they should do.

Take our Rural Jobs Survey

Among the 50 states, Washington is an economic leader. Our state is thriving, showing steady population growth, rising personal income, new business ventures, and is home to global leaders in retail, technology, manufacturing, aerospace and more. It’s a success story many states aspire to recreate.

Yet, within our state, many rural communities struggle. The economic data driving the state numbers can largely be attributed to the metropolitan Puget Sound region, where dominant manufacturing, tech and retail firms are located. And that’s where the jobs, investment, and population growth are centered. 

Meanwhile, rural communities face challenging conditions, including population loss, shuttered downtown retail stores, and a dwindling tax base to support public services. Creating and maintaining a sustainable rural economy has become a national challenge, Many of Washington’s business, civic and governmental leaders also see it as problem of neighbors helping neighbors.  Much of this was thoroughly discussed in the Rural Jobs Summit sponsored by the Association of Washington Business.

We are interested in your thoughts on the urban-rural divide in economic vitality. Please take a few minutes to complete the following brief survey:

Take our Survey: Hirst and the Capital Budget

Lawmakers left Olympia July 20 with unfinished business. The Legislature was unable to reach agreement on how to respond to the state Supreme Court’s “Hirst” decision. As a result of the impasse, lawmakers did not adopt a capital budget. Briefly, the issues can be summarized this way. 

The Hirst decision, handed down by the court one year ago, October 6, 2016, concerns water rights, particularly use of private wells. The court’s ruling held that counties planning under the Growth Management Act must certify that new wells will not impair certain rivers and streams or existing senior water rights (rights to withdraw water awarded by state government). Previously, “household” wells were “permit exempt” because of the small amounts of water they used. Many rural counties cannot afford to do the analysis now required to certify new wells. The practical effect of the ruling, then, has been to put a halt on new residential construction in rural areas. 

Republicans in the state Senate proposed and passed legislation designed to restore water rights certainty, essentially returning to the law before Hirst. House leaders proposed a temporary suspension of Hirst through 2018. Despite lengthy discussions between leaders in both chambers, they could not reach agreement. 

Senate leaders, saying a lasting resolution of the uncertainty was of urgent importance to economically struggling rural communities, refused to vote on a largely agreed-upon $4 billion two-year capital construction budget. The budget included $1 billion for school construction and hundreds of other projects, including mental health facilities and parks. Last week, because there was no capital budget, the state began laying off employees whose jobs depended on funding from the construction budget.

We’re interested in what you think about the current impasse. Please let us know by taking this brief survey.