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GSI Leads Delegation to Olympia

George Washington Bust

The 2014 Supplemental Session in Olympia began this week, and our annual trip to our state capital begins next week.

From Jan. 22 to Jan. 24, we’ll bring 89 area business, education and community leaders to Olympia to advocate on behalf of the greater Spokane region.

The decisions made in Olympia impact the greater Spokane business community. Here are some things we’ll be keeping an eye on during our trip and the entire session:

Will there be a transportation package?
This will be the biggest newsmaker this session. The greater Spokane region is greatly impacted by whatever decision is made, because a number of important transportation projects here would be included, chief among them the $750 million needed to complete the North Spokane Corridor. Governor Inslee wanted a package back in November when he called a special session. An agreement did not materialize, and we’re hoping one does during this session. Other transportation projects like remodeling State Route 904, the Medical Lake and Geiger interchanges and I-90 between the Barker and Harvard interchanges are also important for the region. These transportation projects matter to businesses looking to move to or expand in our region, and are important for businesses already here. Companies transporting goods rely on efficient means of transportation.

Will the legislature meet the demands of the McCleary decision?
In early 2012, the Washington Supreme Court ruled in its McCleary decision that the state legislature wasn’t funding K-12 education as much as it should, as directed by the state’s constitution.

We believe the legislature should fully fund K-12 education so our kids have the proper tools they need to learn and become qualified employees in the future (you want to hire prepared employees, right?). We’ll be asking the legislature to continue to fund levy equalization, which is the funding allocated to qualified school districts – usually those in lower income areas. Last year, the legislature increased its K-12 education funding by allocating one billion dollars more than the previous year – but according to the State Supreme Court, it wasn’t enough. The Court is requiring a report from the legislature by April 30 in order to monitor K-12 education funding.

What business reforms will be proposed?
Will reforms to the state’s workers’ compensation system pass both houses? Will the legislature raise the minimum wage? Governor Inslee proposed a minimum wage increase in his State of the State Address with Washington’s minimum wage already being the nation’s highest at $9.32 an hour. We have concerns about a rising minimum wage, especially when we compete with Idaho to attract businesses here. Idaho’s minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.

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Our 2014 State Agenda includes a number of priorities for the region and funding requests for various community projects. We’ll present the agenda to legislators while we are in Olympia. Follow our trip on Twitter (@GreaterSpokane) or sign up to receive nightly updates via email.

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