2015 WFB Legislative Hot List

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 (1) Keep Agriculture Whole

 

Agriculture is a key economic engine in Washington, providing 164,000 jobs and driving $49 billion into the state’s economy. Supporting our vital industry is important to the economies of both Eastern and Western Washington. Increasing taxes, fees, or regulations on farmers and ranchers is unnecessary and will make agriculture less competitive, leading to a loss in jobs and tax revenue.

 

Action Item: Ask legislators to support existing tax preferences that enable ag to remain viable and competitive in an international marketplace.

 

(2) Extend Tax Incentives for Food Processors

 

Food processing is a low margin, highly competitive industry. Rural communities risk losing these employers due to incentives offered in other states or regions. Processors must compete with producers in neighboring states as well as other countries like China. Existing food processing tax incentives will expire on July 1, 2015.

 

Action Item: Ask legislators to support HB 1825 and SB 5698 to renew the food processor tax incentives.

 

(3) Oppose Governor’s Carbon Cap and Tax Legislation

 

Carbon taxes will push some agricultural processors, packers and manufacturers (and their rural jobs) to neighboring states, where carbon isn’t taxed, and where the energy sources serving such businesses will likely emit more carbon than Washington hydro. The new carbon costs will be passed on to Washington consumers through higher food bills, and to Washington farmers and ranchers through higher fuel, fertilizer, transportation, and processing prices. As price-takers beholden to global markets, our producers have no way to raise prices to cover new carbon costs. If enacted this ill-considered bill will reduce food security, harm the market position of Washington agriculture, and increase carbon emissions. That’s bad policy.

 

Action Item:  Ask legislators to oppose Governor’s Inslee’s carbon cap and tax bills (HB 1314 and SB 5283).

 

(4) Provide Funding for Voluntary Stewardship Program

 

We are part of a broad coalition of agricultural and environmental interests that has requested $7 million for VSP funding. Twenty-eight counties opted into VSP as a better alternative to critical area ordinances under the GMA. Two counties (Chelan and Thurston) have been funded, but the remaining 26 counties need to be funded by July 31, 2015 or revert to the litigious and costly path of the past.  Once funded, participating counties can promote both the viability of agricultural and environmental stewardship.

 

Action Item: Ask legislators to support funding for VSP so the remaining 26 counties can begin planning and employ a voluntary means of providing environmental protection rather than relying on the failed regulatory approach of the past.

 

(5) Oppose Governor’s Capital Gains Tax Proposal

 

Governor Inslee also proposed a new capital gains on profits from sales of stocks and bonds that would affect 1 percent of the state’s residents. This proposal is another attempt to open the door for an income tax in Washington.

 

Action Item:  Please ask legislators to oppose Governor’s Inslee’s capital gains tax proposal.

 

(6) Stop the Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem Project

 

We oppose any state funding of the Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem Project. It will result in the loss of thousands of acres of productive private farmland and have a detrimental impact on the affected farm communities. This funding is likely to show up in the WA Department of Fish & Wildlife budget.

 

Action Item: Ask legislators to oppose funding the Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem Project.

 

(7) Continue Workers’ Compensation Reform

 

Workers’ comp reforms of 2011 were a good step toward reform, but more reform is necessary. Several Senate bills continue the effort. SB 5509 clarifies the definition of occupational disease. SB 5510 simplifies the way workers’ comp benefits are calculated. SB 5513 expands structured settlement options to all workers, allowing them to voluntarily settle claims. SB 5516 would allow for voluntary settlement agreements, and SB 5420 would allow for private insurance options.

 

Action Item: Ask legislators to continue workers’ comp reform by passing SB 5509, SB 5510, SB 5513, SB 5516, and SB 5420.

 

(8) Wage and Leave

 

Several House bills increase wages, mandate leave benefits, and increase regulations and penalties on employers. HB 1356 requires employers to offer sick and safe leave, HB 1163 mandates paid vacation leave, and HB 1273 implements paid family and medical leave insurance. HB 1355 increases the minimum wage to $12/hour by 2020. HB 1006 increases damages for wage violations, HB 1518 allows wage liens to be imposed on employers, and HB 1354 presumes employers are guilty of claims of retaliation against workers until employers prove their innocence. SB 5514, a Senate alternative, allows employers to use a good-faith defense for alleged wage violations if they can demonstrate that they were following agency advice.

 

Action Item: Ask legislators to oppose legislation that increases labor costs and regulations (HB 1356, HB 1163, HB 1273, HB 1355, HB 1006, HB 1518, and HB 1354. Ask them to support SB 5514.)