Things you can count on each and every year:
1. The World Series (well, not in 1994, at least).
2. The Academy Awards.
3. Spokane business leaders converging on Olympia to brag about our great region and to advocate for its businesses.
From Jan. 23-25, Greater Spokane Incorporated (that’s us!), and the Greater Spokane Valley and West Plains chambers of commerce will lead a delegation of 80-plus business and community leaders to our Capitol and keep our region in the minds of our elected officials.
This should be an interesting year in Olympia. We have a new governor and some new elected officials that need to know about Spokane. Education funding will be one of the top issues our leaders will have to tackle, and transportation funding looks to be atop the agenda as well. How the state deals with health care reform and the overall business climate will also be debated.
But what about our region? How will the elected officials from this side of the state work on behalf of us? Last fall, we heard from a number of community leaders – as we do every year. The result of those meetings was our 2013 State Agenda, a document outlining the various projects in our region we’ll be advocating for next week.
Here’s a sampling, along with some thoughts and details:
No elimination of tax incentives for manufacturers
Giving tax incentives to manufacturers is a key ingredient for keeping them in our state. Eliminating those incentives could create an unwanted incentive – the incentive for them to seek relocation in another state.
Reforms to the state’s regulatory policies and other small business issues
Streamlining the permitting and regulatory process and eliminating regulations that are a burden to small businesses is one thing we’ll talk to legislators about. We’ll also push for further reforms in Workers Compensation and lower unemployment insurance costs. Small businesses need to be given the opportunity to thrive.
Funding for various transportation projects, including the North Spokane Corridor
When it comes to the North Spokane Corridor, we’re throwing deep. We’re asking for $750 million for the design and construction of the Corridor from Francis Ave. to I-90. Other transportation projects we’re advocating for include the reconstruction of the I-90/State Route 902 Interchange (Medical Lake) and the I-90/Geiger Road Interchange. Reconstructing these two interchanges helps our region recruit companies to the West Plains and would give those and existing companies better access to I-90.
A mix of operating and capital funds for higher education projects
The purpose of the state’s capital budget is to build for the future. The Biomedical and Health Sciences Building at the Riverpoint Campus was included in the capital budget. That building is currently under construction, so Washington State University – which is the anchor tenant at the Riverpoint Campus – is looking for $5 million to expand health sciences curriculum and equipment. Eastern Washington University is seeking capital funds for a new science building, and the Community Colleges of Spokane seeks funds for increased enrollment in its high-demand programs.
Support for K-12 education
The legislature has been pressured by the State Supreme Court to fully fund K-12 education. Last year we were successful in keeping Levy Equalization funding (the amount the state matches many communities in the state, including all districts in Spokane County). This year, we’re asking for the state to do the same. Spokane Valley Tech – the new STEM-focused campus in Spokane Valley – is asking for $2.5 million to complete the construction of its building.
A number of community projects
The big projects get all the virtual ink, but a lot of smaller, local community projects are just as important. Spokane Public Radio is looking for a grant from the Department of Commerce to renovate and construct new studios in town. Mobius is looking for $200,000 for STEM education programs that target elementary and middle school students in low-income and rural school districts. The Eastern Washington State Historical Society and the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture are asking the state to maintain the current funding levels for the museum.
That’s a sampling of what our delegation will be advocating for in Olympia. Make sure you follow along on Twitter using #SpokaneInOlympia and by following @GreaterSpokane. We’ll also have updates each night of the trip right here on our blog.