Olympia is full of ideas about jobs. But some ideas are better than others. If you don’t have a job, tax cuts wouldn’t help, like a free oil change for someone who doesn’t have a car. No business is going to hire someone if there is no product to be sold or work to be done, so a lot of the talk about cutting taxes, slashing regulations or cutting the minimum wage is just talk. It won’t create real jobs. Cutting the minimum wage would actually hurt folks over the long run. We shouldn’t engage in a rush to underbid the rest of the world.
There’s no way that our state could beat China (39 cents an hour) or even South Carolina (no state minimum wage) at that game. And we shouldn’t try to win that pointless race for the bottom. If we paid people 38 cents an hour, China would fight back by dropping wages to 37 cents.
So what can we do? Many politicians are frozen in fear. Yet our darkest hour is precisely when we need courage, innovation and hope. To put Washington state back to work, we need the courage to change, to embrace new ideas and create new industries. To choose hope over fear.
Ending the last great recession and the Great Depression a Republican governor and Democratic president showed us how leadership creates jobs.
Republican Gov. Dan Evans faced the last severe recession in the early 1970s. He asked the voters to approve bonds to create jobs directly, all over Washington state, to build schools and parks and water lines. Former secretary of state Ralph Munro worked for Evans back then, and he testified this year that despite big doubts about the idea at first, the Evans plan was a great success.
Munro went back to the state archives and read letter after letter from citizens who were so thankful that the governor got them out of the unemployment line and back to work.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt saw all the people out of work during the Great Depression and realized all the laws and ideas passed by Congress for years hadn’t done a thing to put people back to work. So he created jobs directly and put millions of people to work, rebuilding America.
The Jobs Act Inspired by FDR and Dan Evans, I wrote the Jobs Act of 2010, which would create about 38,000 private-sector jobs, fixing public schools and universities in every corner of our state. There are 165,000 workers out of a job in Washington state, and construction workers are the hardest hit of any industry.
The Jobs Act would let a lot of those folks step out of the unemployment line, put on their hard hats and pick up a hammer to build a better Washington.
It’s creative because we get $2.5 billion in projects –– and all those jobs –– by investing only $850 million in state funds. Most of the work would be self-financed with an innovative method of letting energy retrofitting projects pay for themselves.
Companies doing this work guarantee in their contract that school districts will save, say, $5,000 a month in lower heating and electricity costs –– and if it doesn’t, the company must pay the bonds. Not only will we create jobs, we’ll give our school kids better, healthier schools and save taxpayers $190 million in lower electricity costs.
This idea already has been working on a small scale, so the Jobs Act simply super-sizes it so we can put the most possible people to work.
The Jobs Act pays for itself and grows the economy. Also, the skills gained by workers and businesses will give our state a head-start in the new industry of energy retrofitting, helping the private sector and letting our state better compete against companies across the nation and around the world.
Some say we shouldn’t do this, that asking for bonds to do the Jobs Act is risky. Our state’s bond rating is very strong. The bond rating companies are much more worried about our state economy stagnating and us not taking action to create jobs. Let’s choose hope over fear.
When the voters approved the Dan Evans bond proposal of about $2 billion in today’s dollars, the bond rating actually went up next time it was changed.
The Jobs Act is smaller, at less than a billion dollars, only a 1.7 percent increase in our total debt service. For minimal risk, we get a real chance to jump-start our state’s economy.
Business leader Kevin Surace said in the Seattle Times that, “Every dollar spent on energy efficiency pays back the investment four or five times. It saves people money and creates jobs.” Stand up and speak out. If you care about creating jobs and kick-starting our state’s economy, please take a moment to call the toll-free Hotline at 2800-562-6000 to tell your lawmaker that you support this idea. Maybe you know a carpenter or construction worker who’s out of a job. Talk to them. See what they think.
Dan Evans put Washington state back to work. FDR put America back to work. Let’s do the smart thing to fix our economy by creating jobs in every corner of the state.
Rep. Hans Dunshee (D-Snohomish) is a former volunteer firefighter and small business owner. He chairs the Capital Budget Committee, which