Save the Date! Tuesday, August 14 WTIA Gubernatorial Candidate Forum in Seattle
Both major gubernatorial candidates, Jay Inslee, http://www.jayinslee.com/home, and Rob McKenna, http://www.robmckenna.org/, have agreed to speak the morning of Tuesday, August 14, to a WTIA audience at the Seattle office of Davis Wright Tremaine.
This year’s gubernatorial election is unique in that there is no incumbent running for re-election, both candidates are experienced and well qualified and the election looks to be closely fought.
Governors have a major influence on the direction of a state. The person we elect will have four years to determine what budget, education, health care and tax policies the state will follow, in conjunction with the legislature. The next governor will have to deal with stagnant revenues while trying to comply with the landmark McCleary decision that essentially dictates higher K-12 spending.
The person we vote for will have to manage all this while being the state’s “chief sales officer”, promoting the state’s businesses and industries abroad. The next governor will have to keep a handle on the cost of government (salaries, health benefits, pensions, program growth) while squeezing more efficiency from the state’s workforce.
For the state’s technology industry, we need to know that the next governor will put an emphasis on several key policy areas.
The first is a continued commitment to expanding higher education capacity to graduate more students with STEM degrees. Progress has been made but the demand for software and electrical engineers remains much higher than the supply from Washington’s schools.
Secondly, it is critical to keep focus on improving STEM in the K-12 system. Again, progress has been made to improve standards, curriculum, student assessments, teacher and principal evaluation and many other areas of the K-12 system. But groups like the teachers union will pressure lawmakers to prevent additional progress. The next governor will need to be a strong advocate for improving student achievement, especially in math and science.
Thirdly, the next governor must be a proponent of tax incentives for Research and Development. Recent state studies have shown how important R&D tax credits are across technology based industries. Washington is in severe competition with many other states for technology businesses. We cannot lose our edge or competitive position, which is currently strong for tech-based economic development. The next governor will need to push for renewal of the tax incentives for R&D.
Lastly, the next governor will have to manage health care more effectively. A major risk as the state constructs its health benefit exchange pursuant to federal health care reform is that effective health care plans for small businesses are lost. It is critical that trade groups like the WTIA will be able to market a health care plan to its small business members after 2014, when federal health care reform is fully implemented. The next governor will need to be well informed to ensure that costs do not get out of control for running the exchange and that Olympia bureaucrats do not make regulations that limit plan choice for small businesses.
WTIA looks forward to hosting gubernatorial candidates Jay Inslee and Rob McKenna on Tuesday morning August 14. Look for events details and registration on the WTIA website coming soon.