The recession hit hard and has lasted too long. Our state needs a plan to create jobs and get our economy onto sound long-term footing.
The state can play an important role in creating jobs and putting Washingtonians back to work by investing in education and infrastructure. We can bring back living wage jobs at the same time as we make the investments that Washington will need to be economically competitive in the future.
*By investing in energy retrofits of schools, we will create 38,000 jobs for construction workers, electricians, plumbers, and more. This will also ensure that for decades to come, schools can spend more of their limited resources on educating our kids and less on paying the heating and electrical bills.
*During tough economic times, it is more important than ever that out-of-work Washingtonians are able to keep food on the table and keep paying their rent or mortgage. It is the right time for us to increase unemployment benefits that were cut in 2005, to allow those looking for part-time work as well as full-time work to receive unemployment, and to give unemployment benefits to those forced to quit their job due to unreasonable hardship.
*Smart investments in education will make sure that the students of today are well-prepared to be the workforce of tomorrow. Job retraining programs at our community and technical colleges are a critical way for us to get workers back to work today and to ensure that they can continue to grow their skills to adapt with the changing economy. However, these investments will be possible only if our legislators are committed to significant reform of our tax system that enables us to maintain our investments in education through good times and bad.
*Once our economy is back on track, we need to make reforms to our state's tax system so that we don't punish the very small businesses that are generating our economic recovery. Washington's last major tax reform was in 1935. Seventy-five years later, we are stuck with an outdated, unfair, and unstable tax system that makes it tough for working families to pay the bills, difficult for small businesses to grow our economy and create jobs, and impossible for the state to budget for the long-term investments that we need.
With a thoughtful modernization of our tax system, we can help our state to be on sound financial footing and can ensure that the responsibility for paying taxes is shared equitably by business and by households. This modernization must include a continued reevaluation of the myriad tax breaks, preferences, and exemptions in our tax code and should also consider a high-earners income tax or a progressive value-added tax. These changes would allow commensurate reductions in the regressive sales tax and the burdensome business and occupation tax.