Panel hears support for trio of Brown bills to encourage job growth

Measures would expedite permitting and help create new manufacturing and construction jobs

 Senator-Brown-2015_CROPPEDSen. Sharon Brown, chair of the Senate Trade and Economic Development Committee, has made attracting and retaining employers in Washington and helping them create new jobs her top priority since coming to the Senate. Today, three of her bills aimed at encouraging economic growth and new manufacturing and construction jobs received a public hearing in her committee.

Each of the measures is expected to receive broad bipartisan support in the Legislature, as well as enthusiastic backing from the employer community and organized labor.

Senate Bill 5111 would provide a way for local governments and state and federal agencies to streamline the review process of projects of statewide significance and encourage a more timely completion of those projects.

“This bill is focused on creating jobs in our state by encouraging economic development and making sure large-scale projects with large economic impacts get through the permitting process faster,” said Brown, “and it does it without changing the regulatory requirements.”

Joshua Swanson with the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 302 urged passage of the bill.

“One of the reasons businesses want this is because it establishes a definite timeframe and it is cost-effective,” said Swanson. “For us, the benefit is the end result. Once a permit is passed and the work is shovel-ready and in play, it is – as Senator Brown mentioned – a job-creation bill.

“We get the work and our members get family-wage jobs.”

The committee also discussed Brown’s Invest in Washington Jobs Act – two bills aimed at creating jobs through a pilot program that would allow businesses to invest a portion of their tax liability back into worker development and job creation.

Senate Bill 5112 would create a pilot program that uses a sales-and-use-tax deferral for investments in Washington job creation and economic development. Companies testing the program would be permitted to invest their business taxes into workforce-training programs that support manufacturing businesses in the state.

Senate Bill 5230 takes a different approach. It creates a pilot program that would provide five businesses with a business-and-occupation tax credit on the sales-and-use tax that the business pays on the construction of a new facility. The credit could also be deposited in an Invest in Washington account for manufacturing-workforce training.

“This is a proposal that Senator Chase and I worked on a lot last year,” Brown explained, referring to a Democrat colleague from north King County. “We are one of only three states in the country that has a B&O tax system, and Washington, as we have heard repeatedly, is competing for jobs with all of those other states.

“One of the ways we can reduce the B&O tax burden on Washington businesses is by giving a tax credit or a sales-tax deferral to companies that invest or reinvest in this state.”

Brown described what makes the idea so unique compared to how state government typically approaches tax relief and economic development.

“Under these proposals, the companies wouldn’t get any kind of credit or deferral until after they had already made the investment,” said Brown, R-Kennewick. “So the state would first realize the benefit from that business expanding or locating in Washington.”

Phil Watkins, on behalf of the City of Kennewick, testified in support of all three bills heard in Brown’s committee today, telling lawmakers why these measures are so important for creating jobs in the Tri-Cities.

“Hanford-related employment in the Tri-Cities has declined over the last decade and will continue to decline as Hanford cleanup is completed,” he warned. “It is important for the economy of the Tri-Cities to diversify and do economic development. …Tools, such as these, are essential for us to continue having an expanding employer base and family-wage jobs, and we urge your support for these bills.”