The Association of Washington Businesses claims its board unanimously endorsed Tim Eyman’s anti-democratic I-1053 at its May 13 board meeting, but after a bit of digging, the folks over at the Washington State Labor Council can’t find a single AWB board member who admits to attending the meeting and endorsing the initiative.
Can this be true? Amid severe recession-related budget cuts to higher education, transportation and other state funding priorities strongly supported by many of our largest private employers, the AWB board voted UNANIMOUSLY for this starve-the-beast strategy to avoid taxes?
Not Boeing. Company spokeswoman Susan Bradley says the company has no position on I-1053 and had no representative at AWB’s May 13 board meeting in Spokane.
And not Microsoft. Government Affairs Director Delee Shoemaker, an AWB board member, reports that the company will not take a position on I-1053 at least until it qualifies for the ballot. She adds that she wasn’t at the May 13 meeting either.
And the list goes on: Weyerhaeuser, Avista Corp., Ben Bridge Jewelers, US Bank… nobody would admit to even attending the meeting. In fact, of the AWB board members who responded to WSLC’s inquiries, only one, Safeway Director of Public Affairs Cherie Myers, expressed support for the initiative. But… “I was not there to vote,” Myers told the WSLC.
Huh. Reminds me of a lyric from Les Miserables:
Phantom faces at the window.
Phantom shadows on the floor.
Empty chairs at empty tables
Where my friends will meet no more.
The bulk of the board members WSLC contacted wouldn’t respond to inquiries, but there’s a reason why local businesses might be reluctant to embrace I-1053 despite the business community’s natural knee-jerk support for anything that makes it harder to raise their taxes: as WSLC explains, the Californiafication of Washington government simply isn’t good for our state’s business climate:
Our biggest private-sector employers report that one of their greatest challenges is the insufficient number of skilled workers available. Microsoft regularly argues that more H-1B visas are needed to meet its demand for engineers. Boeing’s aging workforce — of both machinists and engineers — is considered a looming crisis.
This problem has been exacerbated by the recession. Plummeting state revenue has resulted in college and university budgets being slashed; University of Washington reports that its state funding was cut by one-third in the past 15 months. College instructors are being laid off, departments eliminated, class sizes sharply increased, and double-digit tuition hikes imposed. And all this is happening as Boeing laments its demand for engineers consistently exceeds the state’s production by a two-to-one ratio, a supply gap that is widening as its aging work force retires in droves.
WSLC includes a list of companies that have refused to respond, and it wouldn’t hurt if they heard from their customers that we don’t particularly enjoy doing business with companies that spend their profits ensuring that a one-third minority of the Legislature has veto power over our state budgets. At the very least, they need to know that they can’t continue to hide behind their empty chairs.