In Our View: Pike Proposals Worth Study

Facts don’t back claim state is hostile to business, but wage ideas good steps

Published:

 

Washington, clearly, is open for business.

Forbes.com recently ranked the state as the ninth-best in the country for business, saying Washington is “a cradle for innovation.” The state has given birth in recent decades to companies such as Amazon.com, Starbucks, and Microsoft. And, according to Forbes, venture capitalists poured $2 billion worth of investments into the state between 2010 and 2012, sixth most in the country.

But, as with any successful venture, if you aren’t improving and you aren’t innovating and you aren’t moving ahead, you’re falling behind. So it is with much interest that we consider some ideas put forth by state Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas. Pike, in her first full term representing the 18th Legislative District, recently met with eight Clark County business leaders and shared some legislative proposals she will be supporting.

Among them, as reported by The Columbian’s Stevie Mathieu: A six-month training wage for workers 21 and younger that would be lower than minimum wage; a cap on the amount a business must pay if a worker is injured on the job while under the influence of drugs or alcohol; pension cuts for seasonal employees working nine or fewer months each year for a small city; and prevailing wage exemptions for city projects that cost less than $5 million.

Pike also is in favor of a bill that would create a new oversight process when a state agency, such as the Department of Ecology, creates a rule. If that rule is met with enough resistance from legislators, industry groups or voters, or if it costs a business at least $10 million, it would be subject to review by lawmakers.

“The agencies are run by nonelected bureaucrats,” Pike said. On the other hand, agencies also are run by people who, presumably, are experts in their field and who make their livelihood by regulating industries for the good of the public.

Pike’s proposals largely cater to her conservative base, which embraces a philosophy that business is good and government is bad. While you can argue that there is a need for more balance and less ideology, there are some good ideas here.

Foremost among them is the notion of a training wage that falls below the state’s minimum wage. Washington has the highest minimum wage in the nation, a fact that can discourage companies from hiring entry-level workers and providing them with valuable training and experience. Offering training wages would be no different from companies that provide young workers with unpaid internships, except that the proposal would give businesses a little more flexibility in such hiring.

In addition, as The Columbian has written editorially in the past, Washington must reconsider its prevailing wage laws, which are partly to blame for the state having among the highest construction costs in the nation.

Finally, the notion of a cap on payments to workers injured while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a matter of common sense and one that the Legislature must deal with. This is one area in which a little more personal responsibility should be demanded.

In holding what she billed as a “Business Kitchen Cabinet,” Pike deserves credit for seeking input from business leaders and putting important discussions on the table. But if we’re among the most business-friendly states, an argument could be made that she is providing solutions in search of a problem.

“Entrepreneurs are looking elsewhere in the country to locate their businesses due to Washington’s burdensome regulatory and tax climate,” she said. The facts, as spelled out by Forbes and by Washington’s lack of personal or corporate income tax, don’t necessarily support that. Business in Washington is good, but there’s always room for improvement.