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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

September 25, 2012 at 9:50 AM

Inslee, McKenna and the economic debate

I despise the false-equivalency of “both sides do it” journalism, but in reading about the economic debate between gubernatorial candidates Jay Inslee and Rob McKenna, I say both sides to make important points.

Inslee is correct to focus on enhancing the clusters most important to the state: Clean energy, aerospace, life sciences, agriculture, information technology, military and maritime. A B&O tax credit for small businesses that hire people is also worth a look. McKenna is wise to want to emphasize funding education and push for paring back regulations that hurt job creation.

The reality is that if low taxes and “light” regulation were the key to economic success, then Mississippi would be Singapore. If all state government had to do was “get out of the way,” then Boeing, for example, would probably have built the Dreamliner elsewhere. State government must do many things well in partnership with business.

Washington enjoys one of the nation’s most successful state economies, however much some business groups gripe. But our assets are all fair game in a competitive world. Other places want what we have and their governments, including red-state South Carolina (9.6 percent unemployment), will be very activist in trying to snag them.

There’s a question about how much a governor can do. A dysfunctional Legislature is much more to blame for gutting the universities and would have to pass either candidate’s proposals — or drop them into the quicksand of process. A governor can frame issues and sell them to the public, as well as provide quiet behind-the-scenes leadership. He or she can also be a great salesman for the state; Washington needs more foreign direct investment, for example. And maybe, once safely in office, touch some third rails, such as the destructive competition between the ports of Tacoma and Seattle.

And Don’t Miss: Portland’s economic creativity gap || The Oregonian

Today’s Econ Haiku:

Scabs provoke outrage

Only in the NFL

Offshore refs up next?

Comments | More in Aerospace/Boeing, Politics and the economy, Ports of Seattle and Tacoma, State fiscal conditions

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