Issue Position: Building Prosperity
Governor Chris Gregoire is committed to helping working families by expanding opportunities for family wage jobs and promoting growth while maintaining the environment that makes Washington a unique and wonderful place to live.
Governor Gregoire believes that our economic future relies on a skilled workforce, strategic investments in infrastructure, a strong commitment to research and development and a robust business climate. She believes that, to compete in the global economy, we must think of ourselves not as a state, but as a small nation. After all, Washington is the most trade dependent state in the nation.
Governor Gregoire convened the Global Competitiveness Council to help state government identify opportunities to help Washington farmers and companies compete internationally. Based on these recommendations, her experiences on trade mission and her discussions with citizens around the state during town hall meetings, Governor Gregoire crafted her Next Washington plan to grow jobs and income in our state.
On trade missions to Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand, Governor Gregoire has promoted Washington products and recruited new companies to locate here. She has welcomed Chinese President Hu Jintao and Mexican President Vicente Fox to Washington and took advantage of those unique opportunities to promote our economic future.
Educating Our Workforce
Governor Gregoire believes education is a lifetime commitment. Providing a good education for all of our citizens is the single greatest contribution we can make to the future of our economy. This is the focus of Governor Gregoire's education reform efforts.
Washington's youngest workers are benefiting from expanded apprenticeship programs that require at least 15 percent of construction workers to be apprentices on large state projects.
Investing in the Right Infrastructure
Governor Gregoire believes that state government can lay the foundation for private sector success with strategic investments in our infrastructure like roads, water, telecommunications and energy. Under her leadership, new gas-tax funds are addressing critical safety and congestion problems in the transportation system, helping to improve the movement of people to work and goods to market.
Water is basic need and eastern Washington cannot continue to grow and flourish without storing more water. Governor Gregoire negotiated an end to a 25-year stalemate and set eastern Washington on the right path to secure water for agriculture, cities and fish. Two-thirds of the newly stored water will be available for new out-of stream water uses, such as farming, industry and municipal growth.
Keeping Washington Open for Business
Washington's economy saw terrific gains in 2005 with 85,000 new jobs - a seven-year high. Growth like that moves the entire state forward by putting more money in the hands of our hard workers, which is then re-invested into the community.
When businesses are ready to compete in the local and global markets, Governor Gregoire wants government to clear the path and stand aside. That's why she has made sure that there are no new taxes for business - she is committed to attracting new and existing businesses and knows that a fair tax system is integral to this goal.
Governor Gregoire, in 2006, negotiated the restoration of balance, stability and equity in our unemployment insurance system. This gave working families a benefit increase when they needed it most and reduced taxes for some employers.
Governor Gregoire has reduced the regulatory burden on small businesses by moving back the monthly date for excise tax payments. This helps small businesses avoid cash flow problems by giving them time to collect payments from their customers before they pay sales tax. She also eliminated penalties for businesses that make every effort to comply with tax laws when they make a reporting error. Every Washington business will be helped by the Plain Talk Initiative that makes it easier for businesses to understand and complete forms and regulations.
Doing Business in Washington, a comprehensive online business service center, is being developed under Governor Gregoire's leadership. She has directed all regulatory agencies to make it easier for businesses to do business in Washington. The online portal consolidates business licensing, tax payment and permitting functions into one central location.
Targeting Investments in Entrepreneurship
Governor Gregoire believes in new growth by entrepreneurs and she has targeted investments to make Washington as competitive as possible and support 21st century industries.
Governor Gregoire's new $1 billion Life Sciences Discovery Fund will attract new companies to Washington and support local entrepreneurs as they grow new businesses. The Fund will build on our state's strong university research institutions and our international success in research and development. This industry will offer many Washingtonians family-wage jobs while finding cures for some of the world's most dreaded diseases.
Rising energy costs make it tough for Washington families and businesses to thrive. That's why Governor Gregoire proposed and won passage of an energy initiative to develop a state biofuels industry, to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and create a new cash crop for Washington farmers. Her initiative requires fuel sellers in Washington to gradually increase the percentage of biofuels in diesel fuel and gasoline and promotes private investment in the growing industry with Energy Freedom loans.
Governor Gregoire expanded two aerospace tax incentives to include small and medium-sized companies engaged in research, design and engineering. She also supported the phased-in restoration of the business and occupation tax credit for research and development by high technology businesses to increase high wage jobs in software programming, biotechnology and environmental technology.
Small businesses are the foundation of our state's economy and Governor Gregoire is encouraging more Washington families to build businesses by doubling the Link Deposit Program that makes low-interest loans available to women and minority owned businesses.
Putting Washington to Work
Governor Gregoire knows our economy is built one job at a time and she is using innovative strategies to bring companies to Washington, help local employers expand and keep Washington jobs from moving out of state or over seas.
When Governor Gregoire learned Premera Blue Cross might move some operations out of state, she provided incentives to keep jobs in Spokane, build a new office complex there, and expand operations with 250 new jobs. When Renewable Energy Corporation decided to expand solar grade silicon manufacturing, Governor Gregoire helped bring those 90 new jobs to Moses Lake. When Kirkland based HouseValues.com started looking around the country for a new call center, Governor Gregoire led the successful effort to bring the 350 new jobs to Yakima.
When Weyerhauser announced it would lay off 342 workers by closing its pulp mill in Cosmopolis and its sawmill in Aberdeen, Governor Gregoire launched the Grays Harbor Action Team. She held a community forum, got the company to agree to sell the mill, provided funds for a feasibility study and is helping the local community find a buyer to reopen the mill.
Strengthening Our Rural Economies
Agriculture is the leading employer in our state. More than 160,000 Washingtonians work to provide high quality and safe food for our dinner tables and for export around the world. Our growers market more than 300 products, including traditional favorites like apples, potatoes and wheat and the rapidly expanding market for premium wines, shellfish and organic-certified foods.
Governor Gregoire is committed to supporting agriculture by promoting our world class foods to export partners overseas as well as highlighting the freshness and value of our products to home state consumers through the From the Heart of Washington campaign. To protect the public's health, the state is stepping up inspection and surveillance efforts that ensure the safety of our food supply. As farmers and ranchers struggled with higher fuel prices and other costs of doing business, Governor Gregoire was proud to provide targeted tax relief for farming families.
The forest products industry is also a key economic driver in Washington, particularly in rural counties. Governor Gregoire supports the Forest and Fish Accord because it provides much needed regulatory certainty along with environmental protections. She also signed legislation that reduced the tax burden on the forest sector, recognizing the need for our companies and forest landowners to remain competitive in today's global timber and wood products marketplaces.
Moving Washington Forward
Governor Gregoire is working hard to build the Washington economy so that every citizen benefits, whether they are a CEO of one of our largest companies, a small business owner or a worker who picks our crops. Her leadership is providing a strong base for Washington to strengthen its leading role in trade, innovation and the Washington tradition of hard work.