Monday, April 30, 2012

Final Legislative Agenda Report

As a seven hour 3rd Special Session ended, the legislative budget and reform policy stalemate received considerable bipartisan process made by all sides.

The legislature adjourned at 7:00AM on Wednesday morning, April 11, culminating a marathon day of negotiations on budget and major policy reform items – the latter as needed to satisfy the Senate Republicans and the three moderate Democrats who sided with them earlier in the special session to gain control of the Senate floor AND the overall negotiations on the budget and the “5 Corner” negotiations.
Late Tuesday, it had seemed as if a more extended 3rd special session was eminent as a sufficient number of votes on several bills. Progress having been made during the day, Governor Gregoire called the legislature directly back at 12:01AM into the third special session.

Legislative rules were suspended to keep all the necessary policy and budget bills alive and in their current form and status. One by one, each agreed to bill was adopted by the House and Senate as sun up approached – 22 straight hours on the floor!
In the end, it all came together as one big agreed to package of compromise pieces of legislation, with each piece’s passage being needed to pass the others. The legislature ultimately passed both a supplemental operating and capital budgets ($1 Billion in construction) with strong bi-partisan votes. The legislature also passed several policy reform bills. Those bills include the following:

Ø  Public employee pension reform – changes the early retirement incentives for post May 2013 hires. 2ESB 6378.

Ø  Jobs now package - $1+ billion (50% new GO bonds for construction on: statewide economic development projects, higher education, water and sewer, and environment rehab projects). SB 5127 (jobs now act) and SB 6074 (capital budget).

Ø  4-Year budgeting requirement. Constitutional amendment coming to the November ballot. SSB 6636.

Ø  K-12 school employee health care benefits payment and structure reform. ESSB 5940.

Ø  Reduce K-12 class sizes - Repeal of I-728. HB 2824.

Governor Gregoire has 20 days (excluding Sundays) to take action on bills.

The supplemental 2011-2013 supplemental operating budget (3ESHB 2127) was passed closing an approximately $500 million deficit. Passed the House, 64-34 and passed the Senate, 44-2. The final budget cuts approximately $300 million from the social services sector and does not cut K-12 education from its current position and maintains the current apportionment scheme (but does establish a working group to address the issue) and does not cut the disability lifeline General Assistance - Unemployeable (GAU) program. The budget is just balanced - $31.12 billion in spending and $31.17 billion in revenue. Resources are:

Ø  $30.7 billion in general fund revenue

Ø  $238 million – delay local government distributions

Ø  $73.7 million – reduce local government liquor revenue

Ø  $70 million – reduce local government solid waste tax (divert from public works trust fund)

Ø  $28 million – dedicated fund transfers

A small reserve of $319 million is maintained. The 2012 June and November revenue and caseload forecasts will have a direct impact on whether this is sufficient to not to get the state through the remainder of the biennium.

The legislature passed a $1.078 billion capital construction budget with the passage of ESB’s 5127 and 6074.

Pierce County Jobs Now Act Projects (ESB 5127):
Pierce County – Supplemental Capital Budget Projects (ESB 6074):

2ESB 6378 (Sen. Zarelli) State Pension Plans – This is the bill that kept them there for the entire month of March. Heavy opposition by Washington Education Association (WEA) and the Public School Employees Association (PSEA) and they will seek the governor’s veto. The savings on this bill is estimated to be as much as $2 billion over 25 years or about $80 million a year. 6378 would eliminate the early retirement factors granted in 2007 pursuant to collective bargaining for new employees.
ESJR 8221 (Sen. Parlette) State Debt – Will be voted upon by the state’s voters in November of 2012. 8221 would amend Article 8, Section 1 of the state constitution. It reduces the state debt limit (currently 8.5% of three year average of state revenue) to 8.5 percent effective July 2014 to 2016, 8.25 percent from July 2016 to 2034 and to 8.0 percent in perpetuity after 2034. It also includes the state property tax levy (constitutionally prescribed for the support of basic education) in the calculation of the state debt limit when it previously had not.
SSB 6636 (Sen. Kastama) Balanced State Budget -- Beginning with the 2013-2015 fiscal biennium, the Legislature must enact a budget bill that leaves a positive ending fund balance in the state General Fund and related funds. In addition, beginning with the 2013-2015 fiscal biennium, the projected maintenance level for the budget in the ensuing biennium may not exceed available fiscal resources. Available fiscal resources are the greater of (1) the official revenue forecast for the ensuing biennium, or (2) an assumed revenue increase of 4.5 percent for each year of the ensuing biennium.
ESSB 5940 School Employee Benefits (Sen. Hobbs) -- School districts must modify their benefits for employees to require every employee to pay a minimum premium for the medical benefit coverage, subject to collective bargaining, and ensure that employees selecting a richer benefit plan pay a higher premium. School districts offering medical, vision, and dental benefits must (1) offer a high deductible health plan option; (2) make progress toward employee premiums for full family coverage; and (3) offer employees at least one comprehensive health benefit plan in which the employee share of the premium for a full-time employee does not exceed the share of premiums paid by state employees (approximately 15 percent).
ESB 6635 Tax Preferences (Sen. Murray) – 6635 contained several tax measures that were part of the final budget agreement. The tax changes include:
Ø    Eliminating the first mortgage B&O tax deduction for out-of-state banks;
Ø    Extending the B&O tax exemptions for manufacturing of fruits or vegetables, dairy, and seafood to July 1, 2015, and are then replaced by a preferential B&O tax rate.
Ø    Extending the timeline for eligible data centers and qualifying tenants of data centers to qualify for the sales and use tax exemption on server equipment and power infrastructure, to those that commenced construction between April 1, 2012, and July 1, 2015.
Ø    Exempting craft distilleries from the license issuance fee of 17 percent of all spirits sales revenues under such a license.
Ø    Codifies that leasehold interests do not include the preferential use of publicly owned cargo cranes and docks and associated areas used in loading and discharging of cargo at a port district marine facility.
Ø    The definition of a newspaper is amended to include the Internet version of printed newspapers and newspaper supplements.
HB 2822 (Rep. Hunter) Local Sales and Use Tax Account – HB 2822 requires the local share of retail sales and use taxes be transferred from the State General Fund into the Local Sales and Use Tax Account on a monthly basis rather than on a daily basis. This is called the Working Capital Reserve and will not result in a decrease of revenue distributions to local governments but allows the state to book the money in the general fund and push the liability into the next biennium. This will be a permanent change in policy. 
3E2SHB 2651 (Rep. Kirby) – Roll-your own cigarette machines. 3E2SHB 2651 requires retailers providing roll-your-own cigarette machines to collect the state cigarette tax.
ESHB 2823 (Rep. Hunter) – Existing revenues put into the state general fund from other sources, aka transfers. ESHB 2823 redirects existing revenues from the Education Construction Fund, the Public Works Assistance Account, the Liquor Revolving Fund, and the Liquor Excise Tax Fund into the State General Fund.
Now legislators can return to their districts and begin campaigning.
For detailed information on these bills click here.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Employment Security’s Shared Work Program Helps Keep Businesses Afloat

More than two-thirds of employers who participated in Employment Security’s Shared-Work layoff-avoidance program in 2011 say the program helped them survive the recession. Another 20 percent of businesses reported that it probably had.

These amazing results show that the Shared-Work Program is one of the most effective tools offered by any government agency to save jobs and businesses. The program allows employers to reduce the hours of their full-time employees by up to 50 percent, while the workers collect partial unemployment benefits to make up for some of the lost wages. This provides business owners with immediate payroll savings without losing skilled employees.

In 2011, 3,176 businesses and more than 38,000 employees were approved to participate in Shared Work, the second-highest year on record. The program also saved an estimated 26,000 jobs and more than $42 million in unemployment-benefit payouts in 2011.

Most employers who responded to Employment Security’s survey reported cutting their payroll by 20 percent or more. Additionally, 52 percent of businesses saved up to two jobs, while 30 percent saved three to five jobs, and another 12 percent saved five to 10 jobs.

Better yet, nearly 100 percent of participating employers said they would apply for the program again and recommend it to other struggling businesses.

If your business is struggling and you’ve been considering layoffs as a way to cut costs, check out Employment Security's Shared-Work Program as an alternative.

Thousands of Washington businesses have used the program to cut costs and hang on to their most valuable resource – their trained employees.

To learn more about the Shared-Work Program, visit, search on “shared work,” or call 800-752-2500.

By Guest Blogger Paul Trause, Employment Security Commissioner

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Volunteer for Tacoma Planning Commission

The City of Tacoma’s Planning Commission has a vacant “Environmental Community” position available for citizens with a background or interest in environmental matters. The term for the position begins immediately after appointment by the City Council and expires June 30, 2013.

The Planning Commission advises the City Council on issues related to the City’s Comprehensive Plan, mixed-use centers development, land use and development regulations, transportation, capital facilities and other long- and short-range planning studies.

The Planning Commission meets at 4 p.m. on the first and third Wednesdays of each month in Room 16, Tacoma Municipal Building North, 733 Market Street.

To apply, contact Cindy DeGrosse, Mayor’s Office, 747 Market St., Room 1200, Tacoma, WA 98402, (253) 594-7848, or visit  To ensure consideration, applications are due no later than Wednesday, April 25, 2012.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Tell It Like It Is!

The Chamber's 27th annual Washington-to-Washington, D.C. delegation will once again carry the local business advocacy agenda to our state's Congressional delegation and federal agencies.

Here is your opportunity to help us set the Chamber's business and community agenda that will be carried to the nation's capital so that we may effectively be your advocates to our Congressional delegation. 

Click here to take the survey now!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Interim Report on Leg Agenda

Successes mark the near completion of the 2012 Legislative Session.  The Chamber’s Legislative Agenda looks like a winner.

The state’s transportation budget contains key funding for three Pierce County projects.  The Legislature passed a transportation budget (ESHB 2190)  containing $5.8 million for an Interchange Justification Report, providing the necessary match for committed federal funds and positioning the Berkeley St., Thorne Lane, Martin Way and Marvin Road  Interchanges for the next round of available Federal funding.

Pierce County’s highest impact project – SR-167, received $3.0 million for expected right-of-way acquisition and NEPA EIS reevaluation. And, $2.5 million for the I-5 Federal Way Triangle Improvements was also appropriated.

Another jobs producing accomplishment in the transportation budget is in Sec. 804. This section, gives several firms greater access to a heavy haul corridor.  Beneficiaries include Chamber members Targa Sound Refining and Schnitzer Steel. Said Louise Bray, Govt/Public Affairs Mgr., Schnitzer, "We really appreciate the support the Chamber gave us in working for passage of the bill to expand the heavy haul corridor.  The Chamber is a great asset to the business community and this bill will help us reduce our freight costs, reduce our environment footprint, and direct more cargo through the Port of Tacoma."

Our area will see additional job growth with the passage of several bills addressing regulatory constraints on small business operations.  ESB6155 places local small business Meracord, a financial processor, under the proper state regulatory scheme, freeing the company to expand its business within its hometown state.  Said Linda Remsberg, CEO, “the Chamber walked its talk, faithfully coming alongside Meracord throughout our recent successful effort to change a law to protect jobs. I publicly thank Tom Pierson and Michael Transue for their support in this critical win for our company.”

Also supportive of green energy development is ESB5575, recognizing the use of biomass for a renewable energy resource.  Simpson expects to benefit and expand under the bill’s provisions and other provisions of the bill will allow expanded use of options like clean construction and demolition debris and pulping liquor as fuel for biomass energy facilities.

The community redevelopment efforts of Pacific Lutheran University and  businesses along Garfield Street will take a big step forward thanks to SB6277, an act providing limited property tax exemptions for multi-family housing projects.  Dr. Loren Anderson sent, “It is a brighter day in Parkland! Thanks for your support of SB6277. So appreciate the Chamber’s support.”

Benefitting the entire metropolitan area is HB2326, necessary legislation supporting the local efforts to return our community to a clean air status.  Passage of the legislation retains local implementation of solutions to achieve attainment rather than surrender the authority to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Chamber is still active in the Special Session since key goals are contained in final action on the state’s operating and capital budgets.  Funding for our local universities and colleges as well as for the Pierce County Skills Center depend on final action.

Chamber members have been involved throughout this process, sharing their legislative priorities, ordering the Chamber’s legislative agenda, walking the halls of the legislature and sharing phone calls, emails and letters on behalf of business friendly bills.   Thanks to all who have supported this highly successful effort.  

Monday, April 9, 2012

Verify Employee Eligibility for Hire

Formerly referred to as the Basic Pilot Program, E-Verify is an Internet-based system operated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in partnership with the Social Security Administration (SSA).

E-Verify is currently free to employers. E-Verify provides an automated link to Federal databases to help employers determine employment eligibility of new hires and the validity of their Social Security numbers.

Employers should consider participating in E-Verify as it is currently the best means available for employers to verify electronically the employment eligibility for their newly hired employees. E-Verify virtually eliminates Social Security mismatch letters, improves accuracy of wage and tax reporting, protects jobs for authorized U.S. workers and helps U.S. employers maintain a legal workforce.

To register online for E-Verify click here for the start page.

For more information about E-Verify, click here for a copy of their customer guide.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Chamber Celebrates Earth Day

Chamber Luncheon Featuring: Environmental Award 

Event Sponsor: Regence BlueShield
Award Sponsor: Taylor-Thomason Insurance Brokers

Earth Day is near and the Chamber recognizes that there are many outstanding businesses in our community working hard to protect the environment and preserve our quality of life.
Join the Chamber for the 10th Annual Tahoma Environmental Business Award as we honor a local business for outstanding environmental awareness and efficiency.  In addition to the awards presentation, we've arranged great speakers on the intersection of business and the environment.
 Rita Schneck: The emergence of ecolabels.

Bill Anderson: The BEST program and the Environmental Business Alliance. 

Meagan Kula: The impact of commute options on the bottom line.

DATE |Friday, April 13, 2012

TIME |11:30 am - 1:00 pm 

LOCATION |Pacific Grill Events Center

1530 Pacific Avenue
Tacoma, WA 98402

PRICE | $20.00 Members Pre-Pay

$25.00 Non-Members Pre-Pay/ Members Walk-Ins

$30.00 Non-Members Walk-Ins

RSVP | Click Here!

2012 Nominees

Ambient Energy, LLC

Bethel School District

McFarland Cascade Pole & Lumber Co.

MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital

NW Furniture Bank

Pierce County Public Works and Utilities' Chambers Bay Golf Course

Propel Insurance

Richlite Company

Tacoma Public Utilities

Tacoma/Pierce County Habitat for Humanity

Tiny's Tire Factory

University of Washington Tacoma

Monday, April 2, 2012

Join 27th W2W Conference

The Chamber will host its 27th annual conference in the nation's capital to allow area business leaders and civic officials to participate in meetings with our Congressional delegation, military officials and federal agency representatives.

The Chamber delegation will advocate on behalf of a number of issues including transportation, international trade, defense installations, health care and economic development.

Linked is an initial outline of the event, the activities and what you should expect – in addition to travel and lodging information – including an air fare discount.

There’s a special new feature – a federal issues panel organized by Tom Pierson!  Please expect more details as plans solidify.