Legislature can help local, small businesses by approving online sales tax collection
By Jan Teague, President/CEO, Washington Retail Association
The Washington State Legislature can truly help struggling, local small businesses by approving online sales tax collections before they adjourn their 2017 session.
Small businesses supporting their local communities throughout the state are currently getting beaten by out-of-state online sellers who unfairly compete by not collecting sales taxes that are due in Washington State. That could change under a budget plan the Legislature is considering. Retailers urge the Legislature and Governor to require these online sellers to collect those taxes.
If something isn’t done soon to address this unfair system, traditional brick-and-mortar small businesses across the state will continue to fail and hurt state and local economies.
It’s important to remember that the proposal, if approved, would not be a new state tax. It would simply require out-of-state online sellers to collect or report owed Washington State sales taxes. Under the proposal, affected retailers of more than $10,000 in sales per year would have the option to collect and remit the sales taxes or report the sales to the state.
Such an outcome would have great impact for at least two reasons.
First of all, traditional brick-and-mortar retailers these days are taking a beating in the marketplace from online sellers failing to collect sales taxes. Sales lost due to the unfair price advantage are forcing layoffs and threaten the survival of law-abiding brick-and-mortar retailers, particularly small businesses. Many of these endangered stores are the ones where the employees get to know your name because they live in the same communities where they work. They sponsor little league teams and support their local schools.
Traditional retailers do not fear equal competition from online sellers. But they are increasingly worried about how long they can hold out in a marketplace of different rules for online sellers.
Some but not all online sellers do collect sales taxes. But if all of them were required to, some estimates are that Washington State could recover as much as $1 billion a year in owed revenues it now is not getting. That’s a considerable second benefit.
Washington is not alone is seeking such legislation. Colorado has a sales tax for online retailers and other states also are considering such a law.
Washington really doesn’t have time to wait on this issue. Legislators have been struggling mightily the past several sessions to find enough revenue to fully fund schools or remain in contempt of a state Supreme Court mandate to do so. Had the state passed an online sellers law a few years ago, legislators might already have solved the challenge to fully fund state schools.
Traditional retailers across the state are depending upon the Legislature to level the competitive playing field so that they can fairly earn sales under the same rules. Retailers urge the Legislature to act quickly, not only for their own benefit but to help the state meet its obligations to taxpayers as well.
Governor orders third overtime special legislative session
Lawmakers still unable to agree on a new state budget
Gov. Jay Inslee today ordered state legislators to start a third special overtime session to adopt a new state budget.
In making the announcement, Inslee warned lawmakers that they would be the first legislature in state history to fail to adopt a new budget on time if they cannot do so by June 30, the end of the state fiscal year. He urged budget negotiators from the Senate and House to meet constantly rather than occasionally to work out a compromise on state spending.
Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said negotiations have been proceeding in good faith and that he expects agreement on a budget before the end of this month.
Inslee gave examples of the consequences of a partial government shutdown if the state enters its next fiscal year without an approved budget: prisons unable to accept new inmates; missing meals on wheel for seniors; closed state fish hatcheries; and the closing of state parks.
“I am a lot more concerned about this than I was three or four days ago,” Inslee said of the impasse. “They (lawmakers) need to buckle down and get their job done.”
Border tax will hurt small businesses, result in job cuts
By Jan Teague, President/CEO
This opinion piece appeared in a recent Puget Sound Business Journal
That’s the message the Washington Retail Association and more than 500 other members of the Americans for Affordable Products coalition are trying to send to Congress.
If you’re not already familiar, the Border Adjustment Tax is a regressive tax that would institute a new, hidden revenue stream – a 20 percent tax on all imported goods into the United States. It is designed to cover the hole left by a huge tax break proposed for highly profitable companies.
At the Washington Retail Association, we represent more than 3,500 retail storefronts from the largest national chains to the smallest independent retailers. Small retailers I speak with say they’re afraid the Border Adjustment Tax will force them to raise prices, cut jobs or worse.
Proponents want you to believe the Border Adjustment Tax will lower costs for consumers. The fact is prices will rise on imported goods such as groceries, gas, medicine and clothing by as much as 20 percent. You don’t have to be a math wizard to understand retailers have to pass the additional costs of the tax along to shoppers just to survive.
At the end of the day, the Border Adjustment Tax could cost Washington state families as much as $1,700 more per year on these household necessities. That’s a big sum of money, especially for the least fortunate of us and our senior citizens. Plus, gas prices could spike by as much as 35 cents per gallon because of the tax, which means people in the U.S. could spend an additional $35 billion a year fueling up their vehicles.
Other retailers say they fear the prospect of laying off their loyal, hardworking employees. The myth being peddled by Border Adjustment Tax supporters is that it will create more U.S. jobs, but that’s not true.
The tax will actually have an excessively negative impact on U.S. retailers, who represent one in four jobs in our country – that’s 42 million jobs, all of which would be placed at unneeded risk.
Even worse, some retailers might have to close their doors. With the Border Adjustment Tax, retailer cost increases will surpass what consumers can realistically afford to pay for basic goods. Retail closures would leave empty storefronts on vibrant retail strips across Washington State and the United States.
When such a draconian tax is being proposed, Washington retailers and consumers can’t help but anticipate these scenarios becoming their new reality.
We are urging the Washington State congressional delegation and all members of Congress to oppose the Border Adjustment Tax.
Please join us by calling your U.S. Representatives and Senators, and ask them to oppose the Border Adjustment Tax. It’s bad for business. It’s bad for consumers. And it’s bad for Washington.
Seattle schedules webinar, improves website to explain new scheduling law
Seattle has scheduled a webinar and improved its website to better explain how its new scheduling law will work. It takes effect on July 1 of this year.
For affected retailers and restaurants with more than 500 employees worldwide, work schedules must be posted at least two weeks in advance. Additional available work hours must first be offered to current employees and records of scheduling adjustments must be kept on file for inspection for a minimum three years.
Click here to register for a June 27, 90-minute webinar about the law that starts at 10 a.m.
The city also maintains a secure scheduling website including frequently asked questions about the law. Click here for a PDF of a full-length presentation about the law and here for an abridged version.
The contact number for questions is 206-684-4500.
Negotiators agree on paid family leave terms
By Tammie Hetrick, Senior VP of Retail Services
There is great news to report toward achieving fair paid family leave across the state.
After many hours of negotiations and discussions on various related issues, five business representatives and five labor officials came to an agreement last week on terms to draw up a bill for consideration this session. I was included among the business representatives.
We were able to agree on major points for drafting legislation. Importantly, small businesses of 50 or fewer employees are exempt from any legal requirements, but they can choose to offer employees incentives. All employees would be eligible once they complete 820 hours of work in four of the past five business quarters. The leave would follow similar federal job protections from excessively burdensome new laws.
I expect the draft of a bill to be available later this week. There remains a lot of work to hash out details of the legislative language, but we have tried hard to be sure compliance will be easy to understand.
I appreciate the hard work of Senator Joe Fain (R-Auburn) in helping business find a solution and Senator Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines) who was the lead for labor in coming to an agreement.
WRA posts ad for new CEO
By Jan Teague, President/CEO
Last November, I announced that I would be retiring at the end of this calendar year.
If you know someone with extensive management and leadership experience, encourage them to review the qualifications. I’ve included the announcement below.
Washington Retail Association
The new CEO of the Washington Retail Association (WRA) will join one of the most vibrant, respected and successful retail associations in the country at a time of significant change for the industry, particularly in the state of Washington. This is an opportunity for a seasoned association executive to lead a large and diverse membership and advance retail’s interests with elected officials, the media, and industry executives state and nationwide. WRA has also distinguished itself through its member services, including a highly successful retroactive ratings program through the Department of Labor and Industries.
Read the full position profile at http://waldronhr.com/searches/washington-retail-association.
The Washington Retail Association was established in 1987 by merchants concerned with advancing and safeguarding the well-being of the retail industry. Today the Association is recognized by businesses, legislators, state officials, and other trade groups as a powerful and effective spokesperson for retail. Its office is located in Olympia, the state capitol.
WRA represents over 3,500 retail storefronts, from the largest national chains to the smallest independent businesses. Members include wholesalers, dealers, professional services, and mall owners/operators. The Association is a valuable source of critical information and provides members and the public with timely updates on important legislative and regulatory issues as well as key retail industry news. WRA members rely on the Association as an effective intermediary with state government and for its business resources and Retroactive Rating Services program (RETRO).
Candidates should have a minimum of 10 years of experience in progressively responsible, hands-on executive leadership roles. A bachelor’s degree or equivalent industry experience is required. Excellent written and verbal communication skills are essential. Prior financial management experience is necessary; oversight of budgets of $1M or more is preferred. A track record of successfully managing high-performing teams and driving entrepreneurial efforts is particularly important. Diverse professional experience is valued and may include the nonprofit sector, trade associations or chambers of commerce, or government or policy organizations.
To be Considered
The Washington Retail Association is an equal opportunity employer and we encourage all qualified candidates to submit both a cover letter and resume via Waldron’s candidate web portal. Cover letters should be addressed to Tom Waldron and Sarah Meyer and thoughtfully crafted to articulate your interest in the position and fit for the role.
State forecasts increases in expected revenues
The state this week released a positive forecast for increasing tax revenues headed for the general operating fund. The Legislature will use this latest forecast to make last-minute adjustments before adopting a new state budget in the coming days.
State economists foresee 2015-17 revenues coming in $81 million higher than a forecast issued in March. They further expect an $87 million increase for the 2017-19 biennial budget period. The current general fund budget is expected to finish with $38.3 billion in spending. That spending level would be 13.8 percent higher than the state spent in between 2013 and 2015, according to the Economic Revenue Forecast Council.
The revenue report notes that the state economy is recovering from recession quicker than the rest of the nation.
Other key factors cited that determined the projections:
- May’s statewide unemployment rate of 4.5 percent was the lowest extending back to 1976.
- Seattle home prices continue to zoom upward. They’re up 66 percent since November 2011 and now exceed peak prices reached in May 2007.
- Employers continue to hire. Nonfarm employment increased by 17,200 jobs since March.
The Washington Research Council recently recorded a podcast that explains how the state determines its revenue forecasts. Click here to listen.
Senate revives railroad bill vetoed by Inslee this year
The state Senate has revised and revived a bill promoting economic development along short rail lines that Gov. Inslee vetoed earlier this year. The veto followed approval of the idea by the Legislature.
The Lens, the online news source of the Business Institute of Washington, takes a look at ESB 5517, the revised bill sponsored by Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver. The Senate has passed the bill and sent it to the House of Representatives.
The revised bill only permits economic development along agricultural and mineral lands adjacent to short-line freight rail lines in Clark County, and nowhere else in the state. Wilson has stated that Clark County has missed job creation opportunities because interested industrial users have not been allowed to build next to the rail lines due to limitations of the state Growth Management Act.
The fate of the bill is unclear because some legislators believe it should allow for more widespread similar development elsewhere in the state. Click here to read the story.
Safety tip of the week:
WRA’s free app teaches safety to young workers
Young workers (those under age 25) suffer disproportionately from workplace injuries, with nonfatal injury rates estimated to be three times higher than among workers over 25. That’s why it’s so important for employers to provide comprehensive safety training for young workers.
Before they join the workforce, young people should learn basic skills to help them stay safe on the job and contribute to a safe, healthy, and productive workplace. These include the abilities to solve problems, think critically and communicate effectively.
To address any knowledge gaps, the Washington Retail Association created a safety app called SAFEME, which recognizes that although employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace, everyone should have basic skills to help protect them on the job now and throughout their lives.
The basic safety skills are general, transferable and can apply across all industry sectors. They can be used with the job-specific skills that workers gain through apprenticeship and career technical or vocational training. In addition, they can be used to improve the health and safety of other places, such as homes, schools or communities. These competencies include the ability to:
- Recognize that, although work has benefits, all workers can be injured, become sick, or even be killed on the job. Workers need to know how workplace risks can affect their lives and their families.
- Recognize that work-related injuries and illnesses are predictable and can be prevented.
- Identify hazards at work, evaluate the risks, and calculate how workers can be injured or made sick.
WRA employs Rick Means as a Safety Specialist who is available to members to help draw up safety plans and suggest topics for safety meetings. Contact him at 360-943-9198, Ext. 18 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
New Seattle bag law goes into effect July 1
New Seattle shopping bag requirements passed last year goes into effect on July 1 of this year.
Put simply, the new requirements:
- Prohibit retailers from providing customers with non-compostable plastic bags that are tinted green or brown, including produce bags. Clear plastic produce bags are acceptable.
- Allow retailers to provide compostable bags, but they must be certified and labeled as compostable and they must be tinted green or brown.
- Ban misleading or confusing labels on bags including the terms “biodegradable,” “degradable” and “decomposable.”
Seattle Public Utilities will begin store compliance inspections in August of this year.
For more information on new and existing Seattle shopping bag requirements, click here.
Source: Seattle Public Utilities
New flame retardant regulations in effect July 1
New statewide restrictions on selling children’s products and upholstered furniture with certain flame retardants go into effect on July 1. The regulations affect retailers, manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors.
Stores will be prohibited from selling items containing the chemicals of concern after July 1 of this year. Manufacturers were required to notify retailers if their products contained restricted flame retardants by April 1 of this year. If a retailer violates the new law, manufacturers must recall the product and reimburse the retailer or any other purchaser of the product.
WRA diversity statement
It’s essential to have a holistic strategic plan for diversity and inclusion. We encourage everyone to consider having a plan that connects with diverse people, creates a diverse workforce, fosters an inclusive work environment where different perspectives are valued, partners to share time, talent, and resources with our staff and with communities, and communicates these values with others.
In principle and in practice, we value access to leadership opportunity regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, sexual orientation, nationality, disability, appearance, geographic location, or professional level. The association strives to accomplish this by serving as a model where we are working to help our staff, our volunteer leaders, our members, and our community embrace these principles.