Friday Roundup: Growth pays for growth, small downtowns, NAFTA concerns, missing workforce, broadband, Ex-Im Bank

There are always a few items we’ve read during the week that deserve more attention but don’t make it into our regular posts. So we bundle them for the Friday roundup.

Here’s this week’s bundle:

Seattle Times (Talton): Seattle Candidates: Talk about Sustainable City Budget

According to the League’s July report, Seattle’s government spending has grown 250 percent over the past half century, adjusted for inflation…One of the big misconceptions out there is that Seattle’s growth doesn’t pay for itself. Quite the contrary has been true in recent years.

…Instead of more taxes on development, city leaders should be mindful of the dependence on a revenue source that’s sure to slow down, not to mention the risks to other funding, especially federal.

Washington Research Council: Taking vetoes into account, the budget doesn’t balance over four years

On July 28 the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council (ERFC) met to adopt the official budget outlook. Accounting for vetoes and some changes made by the Legislature, the official outlook leaves unrestricted ending fund balances of $925 million in 2017–19 and negative $57 million in 2019–21. Note, though, that total reserves (including the rainy day fund) are expected to be $1.644 billion in 2019–21. Our report on the budget was based on the numbers as passed by the Legislature. 

CityLab: The Next Big Challenge for Small Downtowns

For downtowns in major American cities, these are boom times. The urban centers of New York and Chicago boast record high employment. In San Francisco and Seattle, there’s an explosion of residential construction, dining, and entertainment options, as well as a commercial rebirth in high-end, white-collar employment.

But in many smaller cities, the downtown renaissance doesn’t rest on such solid ground…

A 2015 analysis by Wendell Cox found that just six cities were responsible for about three-fourths of all major-city downtown employment growth from 2010 to 2013: New York, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, and Houston. This shows the disparity between the major business and tech hubs and all the rest.  

The Lens: Washington’s agricultural stakeholders voice concerns over NAFTA revamp discussions

NAFTA has been very beneficial for our growers, packers and shippers, so the ‘do no harm’ approach is very positive at this point,” said Mark Powers, president of the Northwest Horticultural Council (NHC).

According to Powers, Washington exports approximately 15 percent of its apple crop and 20 percent of the state’s pear crop to NAFTA countries each year, totaling $345 million and $97 million, respectively. Also, Washington cherries sent to Canada and Mexico bring in $105 million annually.

Powers told Lens that the state’s agricultural sector is most concerned with the possibility of new taxes that could be added as a result of an updated trade deal.

“Right now, tariffs are at zero and have been for many years; we want to keep them at zero,” he said.

The Columbian: Ex-Im Bank Needs a Leader

The list of local companies supported over the years by the Export-Import Bank is not filled with household names. There is Conquest Consulting Group, and The Neil Jones Food Company, and Northwest Natural Products, among others — each of them providing local jobs while conducting international business with assistance from the federally operated bank.

It is a story repeated throughout Washington. As Kris Johnson, president of the Association of Washington Business, wrote in a recent opinion piece for The Seattle Times: “The bank provides a lifeline to ensure the health and growth of our state’s critical manufacturing sector. … Since 2012, Washington state’s economy has benefited greatly. In total, 174 companies utilized the bank’s services, representing $78 billion in export value to the state.”

Given the importance of the Export-Import Bank in Washington — and in other states — Scott Garrett represents a disappointingly poor selection to head the agency.

E21: The Missing Millions

The economy now has over six million job vacancies, according to the Labor Department,  that’s a record since the Department began tracking the data in 2000. Openings were highest in the Midwest and West, followed by the South and Northeast. Employers are clearly confident and trying to increase hires…

Although the economy is generating record levels of vacancies, the labor force as a percent of the population is still at 1970s levels and has not returned to prior stages.  This lower labor force participation will eventually lead to slower economic growth and steadily higher federal and state tax burdens, even if Congress reduces taxes and modifies Social Security and Medicare benefits for future retirees.

Daily Yonder: Broadband Economic Benefits: Why Invest in Broadband Infrastructure and Adoption?

In non-metropolitan counties, about 6.2 million households (35.4 percent) lack access to 25/3 fixed broadband. These rural residents are missing out on $11.6 billion per year in economic benefits or $113 billion over fifteen years assuming full coverage and adoption.

On the other hand, the most conservative of scenarios, which assumes full access but only 20 percent adoption, would generate an impact of $4.5 billion per year or $43.8 billion over fifteen years in the U.S. In non-metropolitan counties, this same scenario would yield $2.3 billion annually or $22.7 billion over fifteen years.