Employers can’t afford to sit out this election season

By Kris Johnson for TCAJoB

As I’ve traveled the state the last few months as part of the Association of Washington Business’ (AWB) small business listening tour, I’ve noticed campaign signs for nearly every race and political persuasion, from president to county precinct officer.

Kris Johnson

Kris Johnson, Association of Washington Business.

It’s tempting in this era of divided politics to dismiss the signs as visual clutter, and to dismiss the races they represent as irrelevant for our daily lives.

Nothing could be further from the truth, particularly if you own or manage a business.

This November, Washington voters will not only cast ballots for the high-profile positions of president of the United States and governor, but they will decide on several ballot initiatives that will directly impact employers, including whether to raise the statewide minimum wage, whether to impose a new carbon tax and whether to create publicly-funded state political campaigns.

It’s worth taking the time to understand the issues.

Also on the ballot: Every seat in the state House of Representatives, half of the seats in the state Senate, and other statewide offices ranging from lieutenant governor, secretary of state and auditor to superintendent of public instruction, public lands commissioner and three state Supreme Court justices.

So it’s worth taking the time to get to know the candidates, as well, especially those in your legislative district.

Recently, the AWB board of directors voted to oppose three ballot initiatives: Initiative 732, which would impose a carbon tax on employers; I-1433, which would raise the minimum wage to $13.50 and mandate paid sick and safe leave for all employees; and I-1464, which would create taxpayer-funded political campaigns.

We share the goal behind I-732 – reducing carbon emissions – but don’t believe that raising the cost of energy for some of the state’s best employers is the best way to accomplish it. A better approach is to work with employers, whose innovation has already made Washington State one of the greenest economies in the world, to continue finding ways to reduce carbon emissions without driving up the cost of energy for families and businesses.

We oppose I-1433 because of concerns about how it will impact job growth, particularly for young people. Teen and youth unemployment is already too high and it’s bound to increase if employers are forced to choose between hiring a new, inexperienced worker or someone a few years older with some experience.

The minimum wage should be a starting point. Quickly and arbitrarily raising it to $13.50 per hour could have unintended consequences, including driving some industries out of the state, and removing an important rung on the ladder for those seeking to enter the workforce.

We are opposed to I-1464 because the system, which would require taxpayers to fund political campaigns through a voucher system paid for with a new tax, could be manipulated by well-funded campaigns.

In June, AWB hosted a debate featuring eight of the 11 candidates running for lieutenant governor (all 11 candidates were invited to participate). Following the debate, the board voted to endorse current state Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, for the position.

As a state senator, Hobbs has shown that he understands the issues facing employers, and he’s demonstrated that he can work across party lines to get things done – a quality that is increasingly rare in politics.

Finally, the board voted to give early endorsements to three legislative candidates: Rep. Maureen Walsh, who is running for the state Senate in the 16th district; Rep. Lynda Wilson, who is running for the state Senate in the 17th district; and Rep. Teri Hickel, who is running for re-election in the 30th district.

This is just a start. AWB board members will take up additional endorsements in September as the November election draws near.

In the meantime, employers and your employees can take the summer to get to know the candidates, invite them into your business’s and become informed on the issues. Pending the outcome of the Aug. 2 primary election, AWB will host a debate Aug. 17 in Spokane between the presumed gubernatorial candidates, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) and Republican challenger Bill Bryant. The gubernatorial debate will be preceded by a debate between leading Democratic and Republican contenders for secretary of state: Kim Wyman, the incumbent Republican, and Democratic challenger Tina Podlodowski. Visit awb.org for more information.

Politics is often messy and not always fun, but employers need to take the time to become informed.

[panel title=”About Kris Johnson:” style=”info”]
Kris Johnson is president of the Association of Washington Business, Washington State’s chamber of commerce and manufacturing association. Visit awb.org for more information.

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