Our Voice: Thumbs up for Mitch McConnell's move to break filibuster

February 22, 2014 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., took a politically risky stand on raising the nation's debt limit.

McConnell and other Senate Republicans voted against raising the limit, but a dozen Republicans, including McConnell, joined Democrats to break a filibuster by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a leader of the GOP Tea Party wing.

The Democratic-controlled Senate then gave final approval by a 55-43 margin on strict party lines.

McConnell faces a tough primary challenge from Tea-Party favorite Matt Bevin. McConnell's move against Cruz gives Bevin some additional political ammunition going into the May primary.

But this appears to be a case of a politician doing the right thing rather than taking the politically expedient course.

Congress' practice of continually raising the debt limit any time federal spending approaches the ceiling runs counter to Tea-Party doctrine. The desire to bring spending under control is understandable, but defaulting on our debts would be a disastrous way to reduce the budget.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said the debt ceiling must be raised by Feb. 27, or the nation would risk a technical default.

After the Senate vote, Lew said the debt ceiling plan along with a recent budget agreement and spending bill "will provide certainty and stability to businesses and financial markets and should add momentum to the economic growth forecasted in 2014."

On the other hand, failure to raise the debt ceiling would have devastating economic consequences and "would lead to events of the magnitude of late 2008 or worse, and the result then was a recession more severe than any seen since the Great Depression," according to a recent Treasury report.

For McConnell to risk losing some Tea Party support was brave but the right thing to do.

Thumbs down to the Legislature for failing to pass a proposal by Sen. Sharon Brown and Kennewick Mayor Steve Young for a pilot program that would have helped the Tri-Cities and other areas draw in more manufacturers.

Their idea would have allowed manufacturers to reinvest some of what they would normally pay in business and occupation tax back into their business.

The pilot program called for five new manufacturing facilities statewide to receive a tax credit for a portion of each of their construction costs. At least two would have to be in Eastern Washington.

Each company would get a tax credit equal to its state and local retail sales taxes on the construction. The credit would max out after a project reaches $10 million. The project must be a new building or multiple new buildings at a single site that are used primarily for manufacturing.

The bill passed the Trade & Economic Development committee and the Senate Committee on Ways & Means but failed to reach the floor for a vote before the deadline.

That was shortsighted on the Legislature's part. The beauty of a pilot program is the concept can be vetted before it's applied statewide. Manufacturing jobs pay family wages, and more of them are needed in Washington and the Legislature needs to act to make the state more competitive.

For example, New York has created tax-free zones, where businesses that open or expand businesses can be free from business, corporate, state, local, sales and property taxes for a decade.

Washington's proposed pilot program should get another look in the next legislative session.

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