Inslee aims for more jobs but how many is uncertain
by John Stang
Rep. Cyrus Habib Credit: John Stang
Gov. Jay Inslee rolled out his jobs creation plan Wednesday, but he does not have a target for how many jobs will be grown.
"If I did have a crystal ball, I'd tell you the exact number. … More than we have today, and enough to the justify the investment," Inslee said. The Inslee administration estimates that roughly $120 million would be needed to put the plans into action.
Republicans and Senate majority caucus leader Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, said they don't have any opinons yet on Inslee's proposals, saying they need to study them.
Washington has a 7.6 percent unemployment rate, plus the third-highest start-up rate for new businesses in the United States and the second-highest failure rate.
Following his campaign promises, inslee's plan calls for 11 pieces of legislation — six already in play and five still waiting to be introduced. Four of the existing pieces appear to have bipartisan support.
Four of the proposal are tax breaks.
Rep. Cyrus Habib, D-Kirkland, introduced a bill, HB 1673, to provide up to $2 million annually for two years in business and operations tax breaks for for new businesses that manufacture industrial machines, computers, software, electronic products and Internet-related products — as well as providing credits for research in physics, engineering and life sciences ventures.
Inslee's plan also has bipartisan bills in play in the Senate and House to expand tax exemptions on large private planes being repaired or stored in Washington for up to one year. Yet-to-be-introduced bills would allow newer businesses to sell their research tax credits to older firms, and would provide B&O tax credits to firms that hire veterans. However, Republicans have already introduced a bill in the House to provide tax credits to companies that hire veterans.
Meanwhile, Republicans are moving two bills in the Senate that would provide B&O tax credits to all fledgling businesses, not just the high-tech ones targeted by Habib's bill. Inslee said his and Habib's approach focus the state's limited resources on business sectors that have the greatest potential to grow and to sprout satellite industries. Senate Democrats have a bill in play to provide tax credits to firms that train new workers in certain high-tech fields.
Inslee's approach also includes two bipartisan education-oriented pairs of bills in both the Senate and House.These would set up programs and work-study ventures to expand science, technical, engineering and math education — if the money can be found. At-risk youths would receive extra attention. Inslee and Tom both said Washington has problems matching the skill needs of its businesses with the skills of its unemployed.
A bipartisan bill has already been introduced to create a Joint Center for Aerospace Technology Innovation. A bipartisan bill to capture and more easily distribute melting snowpacks and irrigation water in the Yakima River Basin also has been introduced. Inslee also plans to have a bill introduced to track how veterans are hired.
Finally, Inslee wants to unveil a yet-to-be-mapped-out bill to boost clean energy jobs. "This is something that would be perfectly built for our skill sets in Washington," he said.
Also, Inslee pitched expanding Medicaid as a job creation tool.
Democrats and Inslee want to use extra federal support to expand Medicaid. Republicans are waffling, liking the altruistic concept, but suspicious of potential future extra costs to the state. Right now, about 1.2 million Washingtonians —18 percent of the state's population — are eligible for Medicaid. That includes half of the state's children, half of the state's pregnant women, 10 percent of its senior citizens and seven percent of Washington's other adults. Depending on whether and how much the Legislature decides to expand Medicaid, 62,000 to 343,000 more people could be enrolled.
Inslee claimed expanding Medicaid could add 10,000 jobs to the state — roughly half in the medical fields and the rest from the ripple effects of new medical jobs.
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