Business Climate

WPC's Center for Small Business focuses on improving Washington's small business climate by working closely with business owners and policymakers. The Center provides accurate information and analysis on the state's regulatory climate, tax structure, health insurance systems, and more.

What's New

Workers Compensation reform gets lots of talk but no action in Olympia

March 25, 2010 in In the News
Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business
Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business
Thursday, March 25, 2010

Governor signs regulatory reform bill helping small businesses

March 25, 2010 in Blog

Governor Gregoire signed
House Bill 2603
into law.  The bi-partisan bill, which passed the legislature
unanimously, gives small businesses a grace period of two business days to comply
when found in violation of a state regulation.

The bill’s prime sponsor,
Rep. Norma Smith (R-Clinton), derived the concept from a recommendation at
Washington Policy Center’s 2009 Statewide Small Business Conference,
where more than 300 small business owners and policymakers gathered to
discuss the biggest challenges in Washington’s business climate. 
Participants offered and voted on specific policy recommendations, including
the two-day grace period for regulatory compliance.

Small business owners in
Washington face a growing mountain of regulations on how they can operate
their businesses, and it is increasingly difficult for them to keep up and
comply with those regulations. This two-day grace period is a small step in the
right direction, and it certainly is welcome relief to the folks who are the
backbone of our state’s economy.

The two-day grace period
law takes effect in July.

During the past legislative
session we wrote a
on HB 2603 and testified by invitation before the House State
Government & Tribal Affairs Committee and Senate Economic Development, Trade and Innovation Committee.

For more information on
specific policy reform ideas recommended by small-business owners, read the
WPC report “
Business and the Road to Recovery

2-day grace period for compliance becomes law

March 25, 2010 in In the News
Business Examiner
Business Examiner
Thursday, March 25, 2010

Washington lags behind other states in economic recovery

March 23, 2010 in Blog

Last week the Washington Research Council issued a short analysis entitled, "Washington's Economy Continues to Lag the Nation as a Whole." 

"For January Washington was one of the 19 states showing a one-month decline and one of the 31 states showing a three-month decline. For one month, Washington's decline was 0.1 percent, which ranked 36th among the 50 states. For three months, Washington's decline was 0.6 percent, which ranked 40th among the states.

As measured by the Philadelphia Fed indexes, California's economy, up 0.2 percent for both one month and 3 months, has better momentum than Washington's economy has."

Behind California? Not encouraging news.

On another front, it appears that Texas is among the first states to emerge from the recession, according to Comerca, Inc. 

"Texas will benefit more than other states from the national rebound in manufacturing and industrial production because of the state's diversified and sizeable manufacturing base, the report said. Manufacturing accounts for 13 percent of Texas's gross domestic product, the report said. 

The report predicted the state's low unemployment rate would continue to draw employees seeking work. Last year the state's population of about 24 million people extended by 2 percent, more than twice the national rate, Comerica said in its report."

Cap-and-Trade Could Cost Washington as Many as 18,292 Net Jobs, $5.7 Billion in Personal Income

in Press releases

Seattle — Specific proposals that several Western states would implement to comply with a proposed cap-and-trade carbon emissions control pact would destroy jobs and erode income, according to a report co-released by a national economics institute and the Washington Policy Center.

National Broadband Plan: The FCC as Gatekeeper

March 16, 2010 in Blog

Today the Federal Communications Commission released its long awaited National Broadband Plan and will deliver it to the Congress tomorrow. The plan is over 350 pages and encompasses dozens of areas -- policy, economy, social, education, etc.

FCC to Release National Broadband Plan Tomorrow

March 15, 2010 in Blog

Today Politico posted what they are calling a "late draft of a Federal Communications Commission summary of its 'National Broadband Plan,' due for delivery to Congress by Wednesday."

Labor benefits from proposed budget language

March 12, 2010 in Blog

Budgets are complicated and long piece of legislation, which is why hardly anyone actually reads them. But the devil is in the details, as they say, and two things in particular stand out in the House's version of the Senate's proposed supplemental operating budget. These two concerns would benefit labor at the expense of businesses and taxpayers.

First up, as pointed out by AWB's Jocelyn McCabe and Kris Tefft over at, a slimmed-down version of the employer gag rule was inserted into the budget. The language looks innocent enough, but there is reason to be concerned. The language in SB6444 (sections 205 & 206) says,

"No employer, provider, or entity receiving state funds to provide long-tem care services or services to the developmentally disabled may use these funds to assist, promote, or deter union organization."

Seems innocuous. The problem is the language is illegal due to a recent U.S. Supreme Court case where the Court invalidated a similar California statute that prohibited private employers that accepted state program funds from doing largely the same thing. Even if the language was not invalid due to the Court case, it would set a dangerous precedent from prohibiting employers from exercising their First Amendment rights simply because they accepted state program funds.

Secondly, the Evergreen State College's Labor Center is being relocated from the Evergreen State College to South Seattle Community College and at least $164,000 of state funds are being set aside to pay for its operations. The problem? An internal audit found the Labor Center guilty of 10 violations including violations of state ethic laws and the audit questioned whether or not the mission of the Labor Center is illegal. WPC's Jason Mercier researched this subject a year ago and reported the audit stated that:

A review of the Center’s mission statement and by-laws found that the revised documents currently used by the Center have not been reviewed and approved by Senior Management, the College’s legal counsel, or the Board of Trustees.  This created a lack of clarity of the activities and work allowed for the Center and boundaries for staff.  The Center’s mission creates close and strong ties with labor unions and in several instances, the members of the Center’s advisory board request and report on work to be done or which has been performed for labor unions. !
; A lack of a clear and approved mission and ambiguity related!
to the College’s relationship with these organizations provides the appearance of possible ethics issues.  Other possible ethics violations included:

  • The website provided readers with two petitions:  one asking U.S. Congress and the President to declare the birthday of Cesar Chavez a national holiday and another asking reader to stop patronizing Burger King.  RCW 42.52.180 specifically prohibits use of State resources for political purposes.
  •  In one instance, the website announces collections for an outside organization during a Center sponsored activity.  An announcement for a Farm worker’s Justice includes a wish list for Bellingham Cooperative and states donations for the cooperative will be collected as part of the event.  Collection during a campus event and announcement of this item on the Center’s website is a violation of the State Ethics Law prohibiting use of resources for an outside organization (RCW 42.52.160)
  • Both Center newsletters available on the College’s websites and minutes of the advisory board include numerous references to efforts to oppose federal agencies, a rally held as part of a Center managed workshop, political work of the union in several industries, and the Center’s partnerships with special interest groups, all of which provide the appearance of potential violations of RCW 42.52.180 prohibiting use of State resources for political purposes.
  • A review of the minutes for the advisory board meetings found several discussions about support of special interest groups.  In the October 29, 2006, minutes, a member suggests participation with an organization called “U.S. Labor Against the War”.  The committee agreed to advise the center to join the group and directed the Center’s Assistant Director to make a membership payment to the group in possible violation of the Ethics in Public Service Act. 

It remains to be seen if these provisions will survive the special session and upcoming budget re-writes. The first problem is one of legality, so that should take care of itself. The second problem is one of ethics, so who knows if the Labor Center will clean up its act or if the funding for it will be yanked. 

Proposed state small business tax credit may have caveat

March 12, 2010 in In the News
Bellingham Business Journal
Bellingham Business Journal
Friday, March 12, 2010

Update: City B&O Tax and Spokane

March 11, 2010 in Blog

pan style="BACKGROUND-COLOR: #fcfae1; FONT-FAMILY: Helvetica; FONT-SIZE: 14px">mischaracterization of what he was trying to say. Cooley says his comments were simply a metaphor to highlight the economic value of Riverfront Park.


The City of Spokane’s Chief Financial Officer Gavin Cooley, in no-uncertain terms indicated he wants the city of Spokane to consider increasing taxes and mentioned once-again imposing a city-wide Business and Occupation tax.


While discussing options for how to pay for the purchase of the Downtown Spokane-Riverfront Park YMCA building, Cooley said the city needn’t accept an offer from Spokane County to buy the facility. Council members are trying to figure out how to pay off the $4.4 million debt they incurred when they bought the property and building.


Cooley said the city should look at increasing hotel taxes, selling parks or boosting property taxes. He then went on to remind the council about a B&O tax that once existed in the city to help pay for Expo ’74 improvements.


Never mind that both Spokane and Spokane County face enormous deficits, and that officials are already asking for higher property taxes for a new Spokane County jail. In addition, the B&O tax would only push more small business people to the brink and outside city limits. If Spokane wants to attract new businesses and new jobs, and keep the ones it already has, adopting higher taxes, and especially a new city B&O tax during a recession is not the way to do it.