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

Small Business Forums Conclude

December 1, 2008 in Blog

Over the past six weeks, Washington Policy Center held six small business forums around the state. These Forums were designed to help bring policymakers and small businesses together to discuss solutions to policy problems facing our state's business community.

WPC kicked things off in late October in Spokane and Tri-Cities where standing-room only crowds heard from legislators and WPC research staff on access to affordable health care, business and occupation tax reform, initiative 985 and environmental policies that affect how businesses are run in this state. (news coverage with KNDU and the Tri-City Journal of Business).

We took a week off due to the election before heading to Bellevue on November 12th and Wenatchee on November 13th. Again, packed rooms of small business owners heard from policymakers and WPC researchers on !
similar topics. We rounded out the series in Tacoma on November 18th and Vancouver on November 20th. (news)

In all, over 600 small business owners attended the six forums and learned a little bit about what to expect during the 2009 Legislative Session. They also were reminded of the importance of showing up to legislative meetings and remaining engaged in the public policy process. The legislators in Olympia are their business partners, and without constant and constructive feedback, it is likely that the needs of small business owners will go overlooked.

Helping Entrepreneurs in 2009

November 10, 2008 in Blog

In all the midst of the election fallout stories there is not much discussion about helping entrepreneurs. It all seems to be aimed at bailing out large and struggling industries.

Granted, a $50 billion bailout of the Detroit auto makers is sure to grab bigger headlines. But if the president-elect and national and state policymakers in 2009 want to ensure long-term economic growth they should focus their efforts to make sure entrepreneurs can benefit from an environment conducive with innovation and economic growth.

Small businesses make up a mammoth piece of the economy and now that the campaigning is over, as they say, it's time to start governing.

Mark Cuban, he of start-up billionaire and sports nut fame, suggests president-elect Obama should make sure to include small business owners or start-up types in the policy process. BusinessWeek magazine polled a dozen heavy hitters in entrepreneurship for their suggestions. And over at the Progress and Freedom Foundation, Bret Swanson makes a plea to resist throwing out capitalism to help entrepreneurs.

Regional Small Business Forums

November 1, 2008 in Events
Saturday, November 1st, 2008
8:00 am - 2:00 pm
Various Locations
Spokane, Tri-Cities, Bellevue, Wenatchee, Tacoma, and Vancouver

Over the past several weeks Washington Policy Center has held Small Business Forums in Spokane, Tri-Cities, Bellevue, Wenatchee, Tacoma, and Vancouver. We've been holding these forums for three years and 2008 brought the most participants ever!

More on minimum wage

October 24, 2008 in Blog

A Seattle Times article today addresses the gubernatorial candidates' stances on minimum wage -- particularly the merits of a "stair-step training wage." One candidate favors the idea, another one opposes any cuts to the minimum wage no matter the experience level of the employee. (WPC Vice President for Research Paul Guppy blogged on the minimum wage yesterday)

At a recent gubernatorial debate, a small business owner asked the candidates about the stair-step training wage. She spoke with the Times reporter after the debate.

In a phone interview this week, Mercy said her theaters employ 100
people, mostly teenagers earning minimum wage. She said she was
interested in a training wage for the first 30 days or so for new teen
workers, who often arrive for their first job with few skills.

"These kids come here and they don't know diddly squat," Mercy said,
yet they get paid the same as other teens who have already been trained.

But still, some proponents of the minimum wage (or "living wage") continue to assert that the minimum wage should not be tinkered with -- unless it's raising the wage. In other words, raising the cost to the employer. So, what happens when the cost to the employer becomes more than the benefit of the good or service being provided by the employee?

Mercy said the profit margins of theaters are already thin, and because
of the increases in the minimum wage, she is now considering whether
she can raise ticket or concession prices without losing customers.
Mercy said she may have to consider layoffs or hiring fewer teens in
the next year.

Either we all pay more in the end or the employee now has no income.

Defining Voluntary Quits

October 23, 2008 in Blog

The State Supreme Court today issued a ruling on Unemployment Insurance benefits and helped to further define the notion of "voluntary quits."

A little background: The state's Employment Security Department is in charge of the unemployment insurance program -- a state-run insurance program designed to aid workers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own -- a social safety net if you will. It is designed to help laid off workers to transition into another job without losing all forms of remuneration during that difficult time. But there are parameters one must meet in order to benefit from the program -- namely, you must have been laid off or let go through no fault of your own. If you are caught stealing office supplies and your employer terminates your services, you are out of luck. Don't steal. If your employer has hit hard times and must trim expenses and therefore your job, well, you just got the short end of the stick, so here's a little something to help hold you over until you find a new job.

But many times an employer takes the proactive step of asking for volunteers. This is always in exchange for some sort of recompense. In this case, Verizon was experiencing tough times and sent a memo to employees asking for volunteers to be let go in exchange for severance payments, one year of health benefits, immediate stock option vesting and even pension enhancements for some employees.

Hundreds of the employees stepped forward voluntarily and accepted those terms and were let go. However, some employees, even though they accepted the terms of the termination, also filed for unemployment benefits. But, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Verizon would have been hit twice, because any business that lays workers off takes a hit in their unemployment premiums (suffice to say it can get very complicated). So they asked the state to rescind the UI benefits.

Long story short, every court sided with the employees until the State Supreme Court, which made the correct decision. When a person steps forward voluntarily to accept a termination with benefits, they should not also be allowed taxpayer-funded unemployment benefits. Verizon gave their employees an incentive to retire or switch jobs. The employees did not have to accept. It was voluntary.

Legislators to Discuss Health Care Reform in Tri-Cities

in Press releases

Tri-Cities – Washington Policy Center, in conjunction with Tri-Cities Area Chamber of Commerce, TRIDEC, Tri-Cities Homebuilders Association, and the Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business, will be holding a regional Small Business Forum in Richland on Thursday, October 30.  A bipartisan panel of legislators will discuss health care reform ideas for the upcoming 2009 legislative session.  In addition, business owners and employees will join policymakers and analysts to discuss several other important issues impacting small businesses.

Spokane Small Business Forum Next Week

in Press releases

Spokane – Washington Policy Center, in conjunction with Greater Spokane, Inc., and the Spokane Journal of Business, will be holding a regional Small Business Forum in Spokane on Wednesday, October 29.  Business owners and employees will join policymakers and analysts to discuss several important issues impacting small businesses.

What:  2008 Regional Small Business Forum and breakfast

When:  Wednesday, October 29, 7:30-9am

Where:  Spokane Red Lion Hotel at the Park (303 W North River Dr)

An Evening with Economist Stephen Moore

October 22, 2008 in Events
Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Mercer Island Country Club
Medina, WA

Washington Policy Center is co-sponsored the event with Women of Washington.
Stephen Moore, a member of the The Wall Street Journal editorial board and senior economics writer, spoke about the current economic situation and what the future may hold.

Unemployment Insurance to Striking Workers?

October 17, 2008 in Blog

It's been a busy month at Washington Policy Center and sometimes news stories that are worth pointing out slip through the cracks -- as this story did:

From KOMO on September 21st:

SEATTLE (AP) - Union leaders say striking Boeing workers should apply
for unemployment compensation but concede they have little chance of
collecting....The Machinists union strike has shut down Boeing's aircraft assembly plants since Sept. 6.

As the story says, union leaders concede there is little chance of collecting the benefits. Under current state law, striking or locked out workers are not eligible for UI benefits.

But make no mistake that efforts have been underway for awhile to make it so that workers involved in a labor dispute could, in fact, collect taxpayer-funded unemployment insurance benefits.

SB 6327, introduced earlier this year, would have taken steps to make this a reality. It died in committee, as did its companion bill in the House, but expect it to rise from the ashes in 2009, particularly if the Boeing SPEEA dispute is still going.

Business and Occupation Tax Reform: Recommendations

October 10, 2008 in Blog

A new report out by Washington Policy Center continues the examination of Washington's Business and Occupation tax system. The third of four parts, Part III - B&O Tax Recommendations, highlights New Mexico and Texas' attempts at reforming their gross receipts tax levied upon businesses.

Part III also analyzes several pieces of legislation from the past few years that attempt to alleviate some of the taxation pressure on small or medium-sized businesses. Some of the ideas include a sliding scale B&O threshold for new businesses, raising the B&O tax threshold for all businesses, and more.

This latest report joins Part I - "Characteristics of a Responsible Business Taxation System," and Part II - "B&O Tax: The Problem of the Pyramid," in raising the question of whether the B&O gross receipts tax is really the best tax system for the struggling business community.

Part IV, updating the 2002 Tax Commission's pyramiding tables, will be published in mid-October.