Carbon tax initiative would hurt consumers and retailers
The carbon tax initiative on the fall ballot, Initiative 1631, would be a new, unfair energy and gasoline tax that would cost consumers hundreds of dollars a year while forcing retailers to raise prices to compensate for the resulting higher fuel and delivery costs.
The facts show that I-1631 is much more than the “fee” on big polluters its promoters claim. It is a badly-flawed proposal that is generating opposition not only from Washington Retail Association but a broad cross-section of voters including labor unions, chambers of commerce and the state’s agriculture industry.
Here’s what else is expected if voters approve I-1631:
- Higher gasoline prices. AAA and others project an initial impact of 14 additional cents per gallon up to 57 cents in 15 years. Consumers and retailers alike would feel the impacts.
- Families and small businesses would face higher costs for heating fuel, natural gas and electricity, according to the Washington Policy Center. These costs would continue to rise annually and hurt those who could least afford to pay the most.
- Average household energy costs could rise $305 the first year and increase every year to $877 in new costs in a decade, according to the Washington Policy Center.
- The tax would cost consumers and businesses more than $2.3 billion in the first five years and 1631’s escalating taxes would increase automatically every year, with no cap, reports the state’s Office of Financial Management.
- The board in charge of spending the new tax revenues would be unelected and work without a spending plan and absent any requirements to direct the funds to reducing greenhouse gases or to achieve specific goals.
- Many of the state’s largest polluters would be exempt from 1631’s new taxes while consumers, farmers and small businesses would assume the new expenses.
Rather than reducing pollution, 1631 is an idea that is far more likely to slow the economy by taking money from consumers while adding expenses for retailers forced to charge more for their merchandise. It would amount to a waste of money and a threat to the livelihoods of consumers and businesses alike.
WRA Joins Port Competitiveness Coalition
By Mark Johnson, Senior Vice President of Public Policy
Washington Retail Association has joined the Port Competitiveness Coalition including the ports of Tacoma and Seattle. Partners include members from labor, shippers and the state’s agriculture industry.
The partners formed the coalition for competitive reasons. Puget Sound ports have been losing market share to other U.S. and Canadian ports and face new competition due to the widening of the Panama Canal. Puget Sound ports also have not kept pace with investments in facilities compared to competing ports, I learned at a coalition organizing meeting in Tacoma last week.
The health of Puget Sound ports is crucial for retailers in our state and nation. Seattle and Tacoma ports are major destinations of merchandise from overseas. Their geographic locations also are important to managing the cost of transporting goods to stores throughout the country.
WRA members import goods through the Northwest Seaport Alliance, the partnership between the Seattle and Tacoma ports. Last year the ports saw $73 billion in international trade. This accounts for 48,000 local jobs and $4.3 billion in local economic impact. The Northwest Seaport Alliance is the fourth largest port coalition in the United States with 8 percent of market share.
The coalition plans to work with legislative partners and the Governor to recognize the benefits to the region’s economy of keeping Puget Sound ports competitive and healthy. Goals of the coalition include making capital improvements at both ports and to regain market share.
Watch for follow up reports as legislative proposals to the legislature are formulated before the 2019 session starts on January 14.
Seattle announces higher minimum wage in January
The Seattle Office of Labor Standards has announced new minimum hourly payment levels for workers beginning in January.
Pay will be $16 an hour for companies employing more than 500 workers worldwide beginning January 1, 2019. The two-tiered payment system that allowed employers who contributed to individual medical benefits to pay less than those that did not ends in 2019.
Employers with 500 or fewer employees must pay at least $15 an hour starting January 1. Small employers can meet this requirement by paying not less than $12 an hour in wages while contributing at least $3 per hour toward an employee’s medical benefits and/or reported tips.
Further details can be found on the OLS website.
Source: Office of Labor Standards
Schools budget proposal includes capital gains tax
An 8 percent capital gains tax has been proposed in the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s 2019-21 state budget request.
Washington Retail Association has opposed other capital gains tax proposals in the past because they would penalize small business owners who expected that they could derive income from selling the business for retirement expenses. A capital gains tax would reduce proceeds from the sale of personal assets.
Others object that a capital gains tax is unconstitutional due to the state’s prohibition of income taxes. Still others say it is an unreliable source of state revenue.
Source: Washington Research Council
WRA meets regarding paid family leave rules
Chief Operating Officer Tammie Hetrick met again this week with the Paid Family Leave Advisory Committee to help shape rules for the upcoming new statewide benefit.
The current rulemaking process is important in determining how the program will be administered for employees by their employers.
Deductions for the leave program will begin in January so that claims can be entertained starting in January of 2020. Hetrick explained that WRA’s participation in rulemaking is meant to ensure the integrity of the benefit claims and payments.
“We’re very engaged in all of the rulemaking,” she said. “We want to make sure that it’s a fair system and to make sure that benefits are paid out fairly.”
Employment Security is establishing rules in a phased process. Click here for more information on the next scheduled listening session for public input the morning of Oct. 15 at ESD offices in Lacey.
Hetrick, with 30 years experience in workers’ compensation dealing with medical disability claims, is a member of the advisory committee. She also was instrumental on working on bipartisan legislation that led to creation of the new employee benefit on a statewide basis.
WRA comments on proposed overtime rules changes
Chief Operating Officer Tammie Hetrick testified this week to Labor & Industries about its plan to change rules by which workers qualify for overtime pay.
Hetrick asked L&I to slow down and see the results of similar outreach being done by the federal government. In short, contemplated changes would raise the salary threshold for overtime pay that would increase payroll costs for retailers. In other words, more employees would qualify for overtime pay.
Retailers not only are concerned about increased costs. Often, higher costs reduce the ability to hire, train and can threaten layoffs.
Hetrick asked L&I to wait for results from a federal review of overtime rules so that state criteria do not conflict with federal rules. This could result in confusion and harm compliance with any changes in labor law, Hetrick said.
National earthquake drill is next week
The annual Great Washington Shakeout earthquake drill will occur next week Thursday, October 18.
Participation by companies and individuals can vary from a simple “drop, cover and hold on” exercise to testing related preparedness and planning. Companies and residents alike also are encouraged to register for the drill at https://www.shakeout.org/washington/register/.
Those participating are encouraged to spread the word about the drill to raise awareness about what to do in an earthquake emergency. Learn more at https://www.shakeout.org/
Spokane woos Seattle businesses
“Hacking Washington” is the City of Spokane’s new advertising program to woo business from Seattle to the other end of the state.
According to reports, Spokane is billing itself as an ideal branch office location with lower costs and much shorter commutes. The campaign also is targeting Spokane natives and those who attended school in the Lilac City who may be interested in moving back from Seattle.
Spokane’s communications budget has invested $450,000 in the campaign. Read more.
Source: KOMO News
Safety tip of the week
Know lifting rules to prevent back injuries
There are many things that affect your back including keeping it healthy. Poor physical fitness, lack of flexibility, stress, poor posture, lack of rest, and participating in certain recreational activities can all have adverse effects on your back. Any of these combined with poor lifting practices are bound to cause a back injury. Staying physically fit and following safe lifting tips will help avoid back injuries.
When you go to lift something, size up the job first by determining where the item needs to go:
- Is there a tool on hand that can make this lift easier?
- Can I break it down into a more manageable load, or should I get extra help?
- Remember to start your lift by standing close to the object. Your feet should be spread at shoulder width, bend at the knees, keep your back straight and do not bend at the waist.
- Tighten your abdominal muscles and lift with the muscles in your arms and legs, not your back.
- If you must turn, do so by moving your feet; do not reach and twist when holding an object. When setting an object down, apply all of the same techniques.
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, x18 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.