Our Voice: Inslee should demonstrate his pro-business positions

January 20, 2014 

Gov. Jay Inslee needs to start thinking like a business owner.

If he did, he might see that his actions and statements are discouraging at best to those who run companies in Washington.

Just last week, Inslee said he wished states weren't allowed to compete to keep or bring businesses to their environs.

Keep in mind, he said that just a few weeks after pushing for and obtaining one of the largest corporate tax breaks in our nation's history to try to persuade the Boeing Co. to build the 777X here instead of in one of the 22 other states vying for its business. The value on that break was estimated at $9 billion.

And the tax break wasn't even the deal-maker; it was just an incentive. The cards were held by the machinists union, which eventually approved a much-debated contract that divided its membership by retaining jobs in the long term in exchange for losing some of its cherished benefits.

Competition is what drives our economy, and Inslee needs a reality check. Incentives and tax breaks can make or break a deal to retain or recruit businesses. It's how the game is played, like it or not.

But he'd like national rules to make that competition illegal, just as the World Trade Organization prohibits international subsidies. That is unlikely to happen, given the dire circumstances of many state economies. Providing incentives in exchange for job creation and retention seems like a bargain to many.

And while we're questioning Inslee's support for business owners, let's revisit the minimum wage. Our state already has the highest minimum wage in the nation at $9.32 an hour. Inslee has proposed raising that from $1.50 to $2.50 more.

Inslee says the increase is needed so families with low incomes can put food on the table. When questioned about the wisdom of that proposal jeopardizing jobs instead of benefiting workers, Inslee said, "There is ample evidence that an increase in that range does not kill jobs."'

We'd like to see that evidence. Many business owners are already grappling with the state-mandated minimum wage increase that took place Jan. 1. And now he's proposing a much greater increase.

One of Inslee's campaign platforms was job creation, but he sure doesn't seem to understand that you need businesses to create jobs. If you make the state unattractive to companies because you won't compete for their business -- i.e. jobs -- they will go elsewhere. If you drive companies out of business because of high wage requirements, you eliminate jobs in the process.

We're all for people being paid fairly. But we're for businesses being treated fairly as well. Burdening them further will have the opposite result of Inslee's stated intention. Business owners will have to look for ways to absorb the higher wages, whether through eliminating positions, cutting hours, raising prices or, most unlikely, cutting profits.

Finding balance is key to the equation. Inslee needs to keep sight of the needs of the people and the needs of the people who own businesses.

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