In 2011, the Roundtable put forward a vision for Washington state: Make it a top 10 state for quality of life and innovation and ensure it is not one of the 10 most expensive states in which to do business. We established the Benchmarks for a Better Washington to measure progress on a discrete set of metrics that speak to this vision. Updated data has just been released that indicates Washington has significant work to do to catch up, keep up and move ahead.
- Washington maintained its edge in patent generation (ranking 5th) and low commercial and industrial electricity rates (ranking 3rd).
- Washington ranked 16th for private sector job growth. The best thing Washington can do to grow its job base is fill its skills gap – the difference between skills needed by employers and those possessed by potential employees. Our recent study, “Great Jobs Within Our Reach” found that Washington would gain 160,000 jobs – across many sectors of its economy – if it filled its job skills gap, generating $720 million in new state tax revenues annually.
- Washington ranked among the bottom half of all states in high school graduation rates (32nd) and bachelor’s degrees awarded per capita (39th). Improvements to the education pipeline and better alignment with workforce needs will create great opportunities for our citizens and our state.
- Washington’s transportation system has become increasingly concerning with the state ranking 29th for road conditions and 41st for bridge conditions. In a 2012 study, we identified more than $3 billion in maintenance, operations and preservation needs over 10 years. If we don’t start to address these issues, more than 50 percent of the pavement on our state’s highway system will be rated in poor or very condition in 10 years.
- Washington ranks among the bottom third of all states for business tax burden (36th), unemployment insurance tax rates (40th) and workers’ compensation benefits paid (50th).
Becoming a top 10 quality of life state with a competitive business climate demands a process of continuous evaluation and improvement with a long-term focus. Lawmakers have opportunities to enact legislation aimed directly at achieving this vision:
- Invest in education with accountability for results. The Roundtable urges action on bills to allow for mutual consent in teacher placement, drive improvements in 3rd grade literacy, and implement a clear school evaluation system.
- Pass a transportation investment package that takes care of the system we have and takes steps toward finishing projects already underway.
- Enact workers’ compensation reform that provides more workers with the option of voluntary settlement agreements. These agreements are a good option for workers and a useful tool for controlling system costs.