Lawmakers mixed on 'State of the State' address

By Matt Benoit, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 14, 2014 

OLYMPIA -- Eastern Washington legislators had mixed reactions Tuesday to Gov. Jay Inslee's "State of the State" address.

Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick, agreed with the governor on two things, she said. The Seattle Seahawks are having a great year, and tax breaks are needed for smaller businesses.

Brown plans to focus on regulatory reforms for business during the legislative session, she said.

"I think ... the way we're going to really help the economy in this state is to continue to grow our businesses," she said.

Rep. Larry Haler, R-Richland, appreciated Inslee's emphasis on education, health care and physical fitness for young people.

Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, thought Inslee laid out an "aggressive agenda," and was clear on his agenda for social and economic justice issues, he said.

Schmick was glad to hear the governor address the rising cost of health care, but said Inslee's call to raise Washington's minimum wage by as much as two dollars caught many by surprise.

"I don't know how well that's going to fly in the 9th District," Schmick said.

Schmick expressed concern that businesses near the Washington-Idaho border might be enticed to jump state lines, making it hard for the state to remain competitive when it comes to jobs.

"Businesses will cross," he said. "If they have the ability to move, they will. They won't stay. It just costs too much to do business in Washington state."

Haler also had concerns regarding a higher minimum wage, and said any salary increases for employees would likely always be offset by price increases, eventually leading to diminishing returns for businesses.

Haler regularly visits a certain Richland coffeehouse for lattes and meetings, but each time the minimum wage is raised, the business raises its prices, he said.

"What we need to do is create an environment where all businesses receive the same kind of treatment that the Boeings of the world do," Haler said. "That will put people back to work."

-- Matt Benoit: 509-947-9277; mbenoit@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @Matt_Benoit_

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