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.

State Transportation Department to Test Per-Mile Fee

Would you replace the gas tax with a pay-per-mile fee? Saying fuel efficiency and electric cars are making the gas tax an unproductive revenue source for highway maintenance and construction, the state transportation department will soon be pilot testing an alternative, sometimes called a road-usage charge.

In the pilot test beginning early next year, drivers will pay a mock fee – no real money yet – of 2.4 cents per mile. WSDOT officials say that’s roughly the equivalent of what the drive of a car with average fuel efficiency would pay in gas taxes.
 
What do you think of the idea? Take our brief survey below and tell us your thoughts.

How do you rate the recent legislative session?

After a record-long three special sessions, the Washington Legislature left Olympia July 20. Lawmakers boasted of major new investments in public education to satisfy the state Supreme Court’s “McCleary” school funding requirements and a new paid family leave law. Others fault the Legislature for not passing a capital budget to fund school construction and other local building projects and for failing to pass water rights legislation to address the court’s Hirst decision that has resulted in many rural property owners being unable to develop on their land.

We’re interested in your view of the recently-concluded session. This brief survey takes less than five minutes to complete.

Thank you for participating and for your interest in Opportunity Washington.

What issues are you watching in 2017?

The holiday season means the 2017 legislative session is just around the corner. Lawmakers will have big hurdles to climb — most importantly, passing a biennial budget and addressing the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision. Many more issues will surface during the long session, and we want to hear from you.

What issues are you watching in 2017? Take our Legislative Survey below: