By Jon Flora, President & CEO
As many know, I live on an island and commute daily by ferry. It’s a beautiful way to get to work especially during the summer months. Mountains, sunsets, and an occasional whale. You don’t get that on a clogged freeway!
The 20 minute ferry ride gives me time to think and occasionally chit-chat with neighbors. This summer, those thoughts and conversations seem to be focused on the cost of government, relying on a marginal state-run ferry system, ever-growing divide in opinion among us that people on Medicaid should “pull-themselves up by the bootstraps” or that Corporate America is bad, greedy and wealthy. It makes for a very full 20 minutes!
Like many, I am particularly frustrated about decisions being made by our elected representatives based on wild generalizations about business. Our local, state and federal representatives are responding to whatever group yells the loudest while forgetting that the business community, including each of our NACM member companies, works hard to remain profitable, keep people employed and pay taxes. Add in the continuing head-butting of our political system, and chaos is the result. As you’ll see in the News Headlines below, most legislatures in the West are struggling to do the business of the people. That’s a serious concern.
Years of partisanship in the halls of government is keeping anything constructive from happening. Last Monday, Senator John McCain spoke to this issue in an impassioned speech to Congress. “What have we to lose by trying to work together to find those solutions? We’re not getting much done apart.” We have a link to his speech in the News section below. It’s worth reading.
Consider health care costs. Our NACM insurance expenses have increased almost 30% in the last two years. For a small business, that’s simply unsustainable. Our choices are few and I lose sleep over how to provide for our employees.
Then we have Washington’s Business & Occupation Tax. This tax on gross sales kills the bottom-line of small business. And coming in 2019, Washington’s new Family Leave Act which – while very well intentioned – will add yet another layer of expense for employees and companies. It also comes with its own new bureaucracy and overhead costs.
Our friends in Hawaii are dealing with a passenger rail project that is woefully over budget and behind schedule. Just like the one in the Puget Sound area. In Alaska, a tough economy is putting all kinds of pressure on budgets and taxpayers. Add on growing property taxes, special levies, minimum wage increases – and you have to wonder when someone will stand up and say “Enough!”
In 2004, a candidate for Governor of Washington ran on a platform of instituting a state income tax. When asked what would happen to existing taxes and fees, he stated “We need all of them too because we have so much to accomplish!” He didn’t make it past the primary election. Yet, that attitude is even more evident today.
So what’s it mean for all of us? First, let’s be grateful for all we have. We really are fortunate. Second, let’s get to work to take care of what we have earned.
If you support all of the new spending, take time to thank your representatives. They are doing what you want and they should be acknowledged. If not, engage and sound off to those elected as your representatives. They need to hear from you.
Being a public servant is hard work so be polite. It takes time and patience to deal with politicians. But be in touch and be direct. If we don’t do it, we deserve the results we are getting.
If you choked when you received your latest property tax bill, it’s time to pick up the phone or write a letter. If your ferry service is perpetually late while fares keep going up, let the Governor hear from you. When the opportunity arises to attend a Town Hall or other constituent-based meeting, go talk to your Congressperson. You will learn a lot and perhaps the people representing you will actually acknowledge what you need instead of what their party wants.
On that note, my boat is arriving so it’s time to get to work. Here’s to a great August and thanks for your support of NACM.