Friday Roundup: NAFTA changes, $250,000 to defend Seattle income tax, economic expansion boosts upward mobility

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 (Reichert op-ed): When North America wins, America wins: Update NAFTA

When NAFTA’s signatories laid down ink in 1994, they did not know that the 10,000 websites and two million dial-up computers in place then would swarm to today’s 45 billion Web pages and roughly four billion internet users. They also could not predict how new regulations and changing economies would affect the cross-border flow of goods and America’s interests. Times have changed, and NAFTA must be updated to reflect today’s world.

…If we do this the right way, a modernized NAFTA will not only strengthen American industries and create jobs here at home, but it will serve as a model for other high-standard trade agreements that will allow American farmers and exporters to reach the 95 percent of consumers outside our borders.

Denver Post: Instead of taxes, Colorado gets fees: How lawmakers learned to dodge the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights

When Colorado voters enshrined the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights into the state constitution in 1992, it had a simple premise: If lawmakers want to raise taxes or issue debt, they should ask voters for permission…

Designed to impose fiscal discipline on government, the amendment known as TABOR also sets a cap on spending growth each year. But 25 years later, policymakers on both sides of the aisle say Colorado government finance has instead become an increasingly complicated exercise in sidestepping those restraints.

The News Tribune (Strickland/Dammeier): Grow jobs in the 253 or stay stuck in traffic jam

Our unemployment rate is shrinking, our property values are rising, opportunities for education have never been better and our labor force is made up of 308,000 well-trained, well-educated workers.

Yet we lose nearly half of our nonmilitary workers to jobs beyond our county borders…

As proud members of The Place for Jobs coalition, we stand with our partners in a commitment to build a healthy South Sound economy. We value economic, social and environmental sustainability, and we believe that together we can find solutions that balance these shared values.

A recent National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper finds that movement from low-wage to high-wage firms is strongly pro-cyclical, more robust during economic expansions and slowing to a trickle during recessions. The adverse effects of lower worker mobility could be felt for years to come…
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The “stuck workers” from the Great Recession are still feeling the effects.  Removing regulatory barriers, reducing compliance costs, keeping the minimum wage low, and reforming taxes that deter investment could make it easier for young, small firms to enter the market and hire more people could lead to more workers climbing the firm ladder. Recessions might be even more harmful for long-term career outcomes than previously thought, and creating an adaptive policy framework that mitigates the risk of economic downturn is even more vital.  

Last month, the Spokane City Council elected to move Initiative No. 2016-06 to the November ballot; it is now Proposition 2, and it would fine rail car owners $261 per car for shipping uncovered coal and crude oil not pressurized to 8 pounds per square inch(psi) through Spokane city limits.

In response, the business community sounded the alarm that the move would harm Washington’s competitiveness and weaken its relationship with the railroads transporting goods to the coast.

Seattle has agreed to pay an outside law firm up to $250,000 to help defend the city’s new income tax on wealthy households.

Multiple lawsuits have been filed against the measure since the City Council approved it and Mayor Ed Murray signed it last month, with conservative heavyweights such as former Republican state Attorney General Rob McKenna lining up against it.

Proponents knew the income tax would end up in court. They see the Seattle measure as a test case that could lead to a fairer tax system statewide and estimate it can raise about $140 million per year.