Washington’s economy needs some TLC. Last year’s employment decline was deeper than during the Great Recession. Recovery is fragile. Yet our Democrat-controlled Legislature is advancing four bills that would add costs and taxes, impose more government controls, and invent arcane new regulations without a rigorous look at either costs or effectiveness.
As background, about half of businesses polled in a survey cited in the March 30 Columbian are pessimistic or already closed. For families, statewide demand for Basic Foods and Temporary Assistance programs are up by 20 percent since last year, according to the state Commerce Department. Lawmakers’ priorities should skew toward enticing new entries to our economy, fostering businesses expansions, and keeping family costs low.
Before reviewing the top four legislative bloopers in 2021, let’s acknowledge that neither party is immune from legislative missteps. In adjoining Idaho, Republican Congressman Mike Simpson believed 2021 was the perfect time to advance his expensive, unproven plan to remove the lower Snake River dams.
But back to events in Olympia. Three of our selected misguided measures would raise the cost of energy, the element essential to virtually all human activities. The Pacific Northwest is blessed with a reliable, affordable portfolio of hydropower, wind, natural gas, and solar, yet these legislative proposals tinker with what works, narrowing the choices. They require massive transformations, increasing costs and uncertainties.
HB 1084, No. 4 in our ranking, bans natural gas infrastructure for space and water heating in new residential and commercial construction. Construction projects on existing buildings would be required to remove natural gas systems. Given that natural gas heats 80 percent of the state’s commercial floor space and more than half of single-family homes, 1084 would impose a draconian transformation.