— Jaime Smith (@Jaime_Smith) July 1, 2014
I’ve been dipping my toes into a Twitter spat between Inslee spokesperson Jaime Smith and some pseudonymous twit at the state senate “Majority Coalition Caucus” (you know, the Republicans). The MCC started it by tweeting out a link to the latest CNBC rankings, bemoaning Washington State’s low standing as 34th in “cost of doing business,” 38th in “cost of living,” and 24th for “workforce readiness.” Smith responded by berating the MCC’s “cherry-picking,” pointing out that overall, CNBC ranks Washington as the 7th best state in which to do business.
The MCC shot back that one of the reasons Washington ranks so high is because it has “no state income tax.” Which may or may not be true. CNBC’s methodology factors tax burden into “cost of doing business”—a category where Washington ranks poorly. Still, it raises an important point.
Some of the areas where CNBC says Washington scores lowest are in “infrastructure,” “workforce,” and “education”—all areas that could be improved given sufficient state revenue available to invest in them. So the very lack of an income tax that the MCC claims skews our ranking upward, is also arguably responsible for our lack of investment in the areas that skew our ranking downwards. Even the cost of doing business can be negatively impacted by lack of adequate revenue: increasing the time it takes for state and local governments to issue permits and licenses, conduct inspections, or adjudicate civil disputes through the courts.
Disinvesting in government comes at a cost, and much of that is borne by businesses.
So rather than cherry-picking data in order to make Washington State look bad to prospective businesses, the MCC might want to examine rankings like these within their proper context, and consider how the various factors actually interact with each other. You know, assuming the MCC is interested in offering constructive solutions instead of just out-of-context partisan attacks.