The Public Policy Principles provide the framework to judge when and how GSI should engage on a policy issue. The principles have internal and external components meant to provide certainty to stakeholders about guideposts being used to justify GSI’s engagement, provide flexibility to staff, and help narrow the focus of advocacy efforts. While most policy issues GSI engages on will satisfy most of these principles, the guidance is, in the end, subjective. It will be the work of GSI’s member and staff leadership to frame the conversation around the principles, determine the degree to which policy action adheres to the principles, and at which point they need to be reevaluated.
GSI BELIEVES THAT:
1. Public policy should make Spokane a better place to live, work, and raise a family.
2. When our community thrives, business thrives; policy should build employers, the economy, and the community.
3. The important policy work for our region is forward thinking, proactive, and aspirational for our economic future.
4. The employer community should proactively engage with policymakers when the issue brings political or social opportunity to take timely action on ripe issues.
5. Education, outreach, and incentivization are greater tools than regulation; regulatory structures, when implemented, should impact businesses of all shapes and sizes equally.
6. Policy should be developed in a collaborative, nonpartisan process with the opportunity for participation of GSI’s membership, board, and community partners.
7. The development of our regional workforce is a critical component to uplifting the entire community; employment opportunities and growth should be available to all.
8. Spokane employers should lead our community on policy that would otherwise fail in our absence; as the foremost regional business development organization, GSI has a unique perspective to bring to local, state, and federal policy.Greater Spokane Inc., the Spokane region’s business development organization, works year-round with business, civic, and community partners on public policy initiatives to provide a greater voice on behalf of employers and the community at the local, state, and federal level.
GSI’S 2023 STATE LEGISLATIVE AGENDA
COMPETITIVENESS, RESILIENCY, CONNECTIVITY, EQUITABLE GROWTH
BUSINESS CLIMATE AND TAXATION
GSI will defend and improve Washington’s business climate as a strong member of business-focused coalitions, engaging with stakeholders across the region and state to support those who create jobs for our community.
GSI will work to expand Spokane’s healthcare workforce, eliminate barriers to equity in credentialing, and address our region’s critical blood shortage by ensuring that phlebotomists can continue to work while their license is being processed.
CONDO LIABILITY REFORM
GSI will advocate for additional workforce housing in the region by addressing Washington’s one-of-a-kind liability landscape for condominiums, working to bring more flexibility for critical projects, and aligning with national norms to increase available insurance and financing.
HEALTHCARE LICENSURE COMPACTS
GSI will tap into our region’s existing credentialed healthcare workforce and make it easier to recruit essential healthcare workers across state lines by advancing efforts to join interstate nursing and audiology compacts among others.
When our community thrives, business thrives. GSI believes policy should build employers, the economy, and the community. We support efforts to improve and protect the business climate of Washington State and oppose the growing regulatory burden on jobmakers and the broad expansion of liability and litigation.
• The Spokane business community recognizes the critical need for expanded access to high-speed broadband for businesses and consumers in the greater region. Broadband infrastructure and access make Spokane a regionally competitive site for new businesses and help current businesses access a global market. Rural broadband access should be expanded, and urban capacity increased to ensure that our region and state continue to grow and flourish.
• GSI is adamantly opposed to legislation that would provide an employee the ability to pursue legal relief on behalf of an agency for the enforcement of various occupational and employment laws, a qui tam action. Such legislation is unnecessary as there are existing penalties in law for violations and the process does not allow for the employer to cure.
• GSI supports further work on mitigating increases to unemployment insurance (UI) premiums by paying down rate classes with state
surplus funds or federal relief funds when feasible. UI costs are a direct result of the COVID pandemic and would serve to be a major burden upon small businesses trying to recover from the economic downturn.
HEALTH & LIFE SCIENCES
• GSI opposes state-mandated healthcare worker staffing ratios which undermine the collective bargaining process, increase healthcare costs, and endanger access to care for underserved communities.
• GSI supports the expansion and funding, of bridge bed or bed readiness programs at acute-care hospitals and regulatory relief. Sustained, record capacity issues come with higher levels of difficulty to discharge patients who remain in the hospital for various reasons but do not need hospital-level care.
• Critical state investment in mental health support is needed in Washington. The business community supports solutions to our mental health crisis such as better and more complete public insurance reimbursements, supporting youth-specific needs, addressing systemwide capital needs, and relief for the workforce shortage that is affecting our system’s capacity.
• GSI supports an increase in the reimbursement rate for Medicaid patients. Reimbursement rates have not increased for nearly 20
years, while the cost of care and staffing for the Medicaid population has risen exponentially. While Medicaid rates do not cover the entire cost of care, any rate increase will lessen financial losses.
• During the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Jay Inslee instituted several emergency orders that increased access to telehealth and telemedicine services. This regulatory relief remains especially necessary for increased access to care for underserved and rural populations who may have difficulty accessing providers. GSI supports efforts to codify this relief and the general expansion of access to telehealth and telemedicine in Washington.
EDUCATION & TALENT
GSI supports programs and opportunities that increase industry-ready workforce in the Spokane region for targeted sectors such as life and health sciences, advanced manufacturing, construction, and early learning. Especially important are Career Connected Learning, pre-apprenticeships, apprenticeships, Career and Technical Education (CTE), STEM programs, and accredited postsecondary credential programs.
• Under the state’s emergency COVID-19 order, out-ofstate licensed nurses have been allowed to practice in Washington State. It’s time to make this system permanent along with the numerous other healthcare compacts
Washington is party to. GSI continues to support the adoption of an interstate compact for the licensure of nurses as a priority of our partners at Fairchild Air Force Base and in the healthcare industry.
• Washington State has a critical blood shortage exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and a longstanding healthcare workforce shortage. Current law requires that trained and working phlebotomists be sent home while their license is processed by the State contributing to, among other negative impacts, a severe gap in credential attainment. GSI supports legislation to allow these critical healthcare workers to continue providing care under supervision while they await their licenses.
• A longstanding lack of affordable childcare in the Spokane region has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the closure of multiple childcare centers. Nationally, nearly 20% of workers cite the absence of childcare as the reason they have had to reduce their hours or exit the workforce. Strong regulatory relief in the childcare industry is necessary to unlock the potential of the private market and bring back critical childcare infrastructure to support Washington’s return to work. Among this relief should be a consideration of school-aged child-to-staff ratios and group size.
• GSI supports the development of Career Pathway and Career Launch programs with an emphasis on childcare and early learning. These programs aim to prepare Washington students to enter the workforce prepared to take on these vital, in-demand jobs.
• GSI supports a statewide fund to assist low-income students with dual credit attainment in our public schools. Students currently pursuing post-secondary credit in high school are often burdened with the increased cost of books, laboratory supplies, transportation, and other necessities that act as barriers to credit attainment. A statewide needs-based fund and expansion of the program are necessary to help Washington students access dual-credit programs.
HOUSING & LAND USE
Housing cannot be made more affordable by making it more expensive to produce. Onerous and overbroad land use and environmental regulations on residential and commercial development have made it more difficult to start a business in Washington and have resulted in a severe lack of housing for working families in our state. While Spokane remains a statewide leader in the development of walkable, dense, market-responsive housing, more needs to be done to increase the affordability of workforce housing to meet the needs of businesses and families alike.
• GSI strongly supports amending the Growth Management Act (GMA) to address significant population fluctuations and enhance flexibility for local government in the GMA planning process. Amendments should account for and accommodate growth in the Spokane region and encourage the state to allocate adequate funding to local jurisdictions to effectively implement planning directives from the state.
• The housing industry in the state is restricted by laws that harm its ability to meet the demand for condominiums and deprive the market of critical workforce housing. Despite earlier efforts, obstacles remain to be addressed including 10year statutory warranties, the resulting increased insurance premiums or lack of available insurance, and the absence of construction financing due to the one-ofa-kind liability landscape in Washington law. GSI supports efforts to reduce liability for condominium developers to align with national norms.
Employers and employees everywhere share a common truth: they need each other to be successful and grow. Combinations of excessive regulations, increasing wage laws, one of the most expensive workers’ compensation systems in America, and continued encroachment on the funds in that system all threaten to regulate this relationship out of existence. The monetary and time cost to comply with an everrestrictive regulatory system in Washington State is creating fewer and fewer opportunities for everyone. GSI works to ensure a regulatory environment that allows for the success of our community and its job creators in workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance (UI), wage and hour, and other employment laws.
• Washington state law requires the Department of Labor and Industries to release the calculation for minimum-wage increases at the end of September based on changes in the federal Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). This method and timing leave small businesses with only three months to plan for often massive increases in their largest cost. GSI supports efforts to provide small business owners with transparency and time to properly plan for labor cost changes due to minimum wage increases.
• GSI strongly supports efforts to abolish or amend the Long-Term Services and Support (LTSS) Act to allow
employees the freedom to make the best decision for themselves and their families.
At a minimum, the legislature should honor the intent of the original bill and amend the LTSS to allow the opportunity to opt-out at any point private sector insurance is obtained.
• To empower local economies, GSI believes all workers should have the ability to easily access earning opportunities and to choose how and when to work. Working independently enables hundreds of employees in the Spokane region to earn with complete control over their own schedule and their goals. We believe in protecting and strengthening independent work to ensure that flexible earning opportunities are available for everyone.
ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT
Spokane employers support affordable, reliable energy resources and the preservation of consumer choice when it comes to meeting our region’s energy needs and preserving our environment. GSI believes that natural gas and hydroelectricity play an integral role in maintaining the economic vitality of our local business climate and are critical pieces of cost-effective “all-of-the-above” strategies to expand our region’s clean energy capacity, fight climate change, and protect our environment.
• GSI is opposed to breaching the Columbia and Snake River dams that provide low-carbon transportation, efficient irrigation, flood
control, and clean, affordable electricity.
• GSI supports policy that encourages and empowers Washington businesses to lead research, development, production, and deployment of sustainable aviation fuels, electrified, and hydrogen-powered aviation. These efforts create technologies in critical demand across the globe, grow the economy, expand Washington’s aerospace industry, and generate advanced manufacturing jobs in Spokane and Eastern Washington.
• GSI opposes broad and restrictive extended producer responsibility legislation that centralizes or undermines the diverse secondary market, increases the costs of recycling packaging and products, and fails to deliver promised process or performance improvements over today’s flexible, responsive, and nimble local systems.
TAXATION & FISCAL
The Spokane business community supports efforts to improve and protect both the predictability and competitiveness of the Washington state tax code and structural tax incentives. GSI opposes new revenue sources targeting the business community and the elimination or narrowing of tax credits and incentives that kick-start the economy and create job growth.
• GSI supports reforming and extending the local sales tax credit for economic development in rural counties and the expansion of this vital program to include border counties, such as Spokane County. This program provides a permanent and sustainable source of regional economic development funding critical to maintaining our region’s competitiveness for business retention and recruitment.
• GSI supports efforts to increase the income cap for the senior property tax exemption program and increase the frequency of its assessment. Currently, state law sets the cap at 65% of the county’s median income, which is assessed and adjusted every five years. GSI supports setting the cap to 70% and adjusting it every three years.
Criminal activity and especially retail crime affect the Spokane community and our local businesses every day. Increases
in visible property crime and violence rob our business corridors of the vibrancy and accessibility our community has worked so hard to instill. Consumers feel the impact of increased prices and reduced convenience, service, and feelings of safety in local retail environments. GSI believes that government and the business community both play a vital role in creating a safe experience for all and that public safety can be increased while pursuing accountability and rehabilitation.
• GSI supports amendments and clarifications to several law enforcement-related bills enacted during the 2021 legislative session to mitigate unintended consequences negatively impacting the delivery of law enforcement services. The impacts of these changes have undermined the critical community caretaking function law enforcement performs to maintain public safety.
• The massive and recent increase in organized retail crime has resulted in millions of dollars in losses for Spokane businesses. GSI supports legislation to combat this rise including requirements for verification by third-party sellers and increased penalties for organized criminals targeting the business community.
PUBLIC POLICY QUESTIONS?
Director of Public Policy
Greater Spokane Inc. firstname.lastname@example.org
Greater Spokane Inc. Jim_Hedrick@comcast.netJake Mayson Jim Hedrick
SUPPORTED PUBLIC INVESTMENTS
$4.7M University of Washington Rural Dentistry (RIDE) Expansion
$4.3M Washington State University (WSU) Nursing Reaccreditation Support
$2.5M WSU BS in Public Health (Behavioral Health) Spokane
$6.2M Eastern Washington University (EWU) Experiential Learning Program
$4.3M EWU Nursing Program
$25M Innovia/Launch NW Promise Scholarships
$26M Workforce Council Opportunity Fund
$5M Spotted Road Realignment
$2M Trunk Rail and Transload Spur Connection
$500K Felts Field Parking Lot Improvements
$10M Argonne Station Park and Ride
$5M Sustaining Investment in Division Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)
$1.5M Sewer Lines to Airport Transload Facility
$5M Spokane Valley Performing Arts Center
$1.2M Community Wayfinding
• Cultural Trail
• University District Wayfinding
$58M EWU Science Building Renovation (Final Phase)
$7M WSU Team Health Education Building
$5.8M Minor League Baseball Stadium Improvements
$5M Independent Colleges of Washington Capital Matching Fund
$1.3M City of Airway Heights Public Safety Building
$3M Spokane Regional Emergency Communications New Site
$3.75M Spokane Regional Health District Roof Replacement
$1.4M Fair and Expo HVAC and Roof Replacement
$680K Mt. Spokane Vehicle Maintenance and Terrain Park
$1M HUB Sports Center Outdoor Field
$1M Spokane Civic Theatre Sound Improvements
$26.4M Workforce Council Workforce Impact Fund