Updated: October 30, 2019
Legislative Updates SW Washington
Ballot Initiative 976
The Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce opposes Ballot Initiative 976, a measure that will appear on the November 2019 ballot. United with Columbia River Economic Development Council (CREDC) and Identity Clark County (ICC), the Chamber opposes I-976 as there will be costly impacts to Clark County and the SW Washington business community.
On the topics of Taxes and Transportation, I-976 would limit annual license fees for vehicles weighing under 10,000 pounds at $30 except voter-approved charges, base vehicle taxes on the Kelley Blue Book value rather than 85% of the manufacturer's base suggested retail price, repeal local Transportation Benefit District (TBD) fees, repeal the $150 fee on electric vehicles, repeal authorization for certain regional transit authorities, such as Sound Transit, to impose motor vehicle excise taxes, and limit certain taxes and fees related to transportation. [Source]
Looking at Clark County, if I-976 passes there would be a risk of a $4 Billion cut in Washington State funding for transportation services (e.g., highway safety improvements, Washington State patrol, ferry improvements, freight mobility projects, and the Amtrak Cascades service). If passed, regional transportation projects will also be at risk including the I-5 Bridge Replacement project, the state route 14 widening, transportation for people with disabilities and senior citizens, fixed route transit, and the Human Services Council Employment Transportation Project. Not to mention, over $5.2 Million per year will be at risk in the Vancouver, Battle Ground, Ridgefield and Washougal areas. This includes funding for street and traffic maintenance which risks opportunities for ADA ramp work, sidewalk repairs, signals, traffic maintenance and street lighting. [Source]
September 2019 | Press Release by Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, CREDC, and ICC
BUSINESS ORGANIZATIONS URGE "NO" VOTE ON BALLOT INITIATIVE 976VANCOUVER, Wash. – Initiative 976, a measure that will appear on the November ballot, has earned united opposition from the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, Columbia River Economic Development Council, and Identity Clark County. The three business organizations, representing more than 1400 employers and approaching 15,000 jobs, are joining forces and their collective voices to raise awareness of the devastating consequences should Initiative 976 pass this November.In a joint statement, leaders of the three business organizations John McDonagh, Jennifer Baker and Ron Arp respectively, said: “We invite every voter in southwest Washington to join us in voting no on I-976. Every one of us depends on a well-maintained transportation system to support safe movement of people, freight and commerce.”Not only does Initiative 976 block future use of this critical funding tool for local jurisdictions, but it will also put an immediate halt on projects supported by the license tab fees revenue – projects underway and those anticipated in the near future. The local impacts we would see immediately should Initiative 976 succeed include:• Cancellation of long delayed maintenance and repair of streets and roadways throughout the county. This may lead to further deterioration of the roadways and possible loss of jobs associated with these projects;• Cancellation or delay of crosswalk improvements and upgrade projects; and• Cancellation of tab-based funding to C-Tran putting at risk some regular routes as well as special needs programs, para-transit and youth opportunity passes.Now is the time to recognize the tremendous value this funding tool creates for us all and the critical need to retain the ability to use this tool now and in the future. It is not the time to pull back and allow our transportation infrastructure to further deteriorate. Our local transportation system must be maintained and improved to support our growing population and our economy; the way forward is through sustaining, rather than eliminating, policy tools which can be dedicated sources of transportation funding.###
Labor & Industries (L&I) Overtime Rules
The Washington State Department of L&I is changing the employment rules which will affect the Executive, Administrative, and Professional (EAP) salary wages across all industries in Washington State. Changes to these rules will determine which workers will be required by law to be paid at least minimum wage, earn overtime pay, and receive paid sick leave. It is estimated that beginning July 1, 2020 "the minimum salary for overtime exempt workers would climb to $675 a week for businesses with 1-50 employees. The salary threshold would rise to $945 for employers with 51 or more employees. When fully implemented, the salary threshold would climb to an estimated $1,536 a week for all businesses...modified annually after that by multiplying the state's minimum wage by 2.5." [Source]
In July 2019, the Chamber urged a hearing to be hosted in Vancouver, Washington to advocate on behalf of businesses in SW Washington. Coverage of this hearing is available at Columbian.com.
July 2019 | Update on L&I Rule-Making Regarding Exempt/Non-Exempt Workers and Overtime Pay
Written by GVCC President/CEO, John McDonagh
The U.S. Department of Labor last updated the Executive, Administrative, and Professional (EAP) salary wages and language in the 1970’s. Just before President Obama left office, he directed the Secretary of Labor to update the overtime regulations and increase the current minimum salary of $23,600 to a minimum salary threshold of $47,476 per year. That rule was declared invalid by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, and the Fifth Circuit dismissed the Department of Labor’s appeal in September 2017.
Washington State last updated its rules in 1976. At that time, their effort reflected the federal updates – mirroring the amounts, details, and requirements. This spring the US Department of Labor announced they plan to update federal wage minimums and will likely increase the base salary to $35,308 per year at that time.
At first glance, Washington State L&I’s update doesn’t appear to be too great of a leap, with businesses of less than 50 employees only facing an increase of minimum salary to $35,100. That $35,100 is just the first step towards 2.5 multiplier of the minimum hourly wage by 2026 for all employers regardless of how many workers they employ. This equates to a minimum annual salary of $79,872 for workers statewide based on the minimum hourly wage.
Hearings begin now - What can you do?
L&I will hold public hearings on the proposal beginning in August 2019. The hearing in Vancouver will be at the CTC campus of Clark College on Thursday, August 15. An informational session will be conducted from 9:00 – 10:00 AM with the hearing from 10:00 AM to Noon. If you are unable to attend the Vancouver hearing you may submit your remarks in person on any of the following remaining dates: Monday, August 5 in Ellensburg; Tuesday, August 6 in Kennewick; and Wednesday, August 7 in Spokane Valley. To view hearing details, including Vancouver, visit LNI.wa.gov
How to prepare for a hearing:
To prepare for the hearings, simply gather your thoughts and make a few notes. From an employer’s point of view, explain what the proposed changes will mean for your mission, services, costs, staffing plans, and employee benefits, and any other impacts relevant to your organization.
Here is a guide to organize your thoughts from Washington Nonprofits that you may find helpful.
For these hearings, I don’t believe that employer hardship will persuade L&I to make a change or consider revising the proposed thresholds. What will make a difference is employee hardship. If you or your employees prefer being on overtime exempt salary instead of an hourly worker, share why.
Some of the items my staff and I have discussed are how this rule-making would affect employees by causing:
- Inflexibility and decreased morale: the ability to work 50 hours one week and take a day off the following week is something that most salaried employees appreciate. It provides a sense of tenure in the professional world that is earned. This flexibility isn’t something that a first time employee is generally allowed; it is something that you work your way up to as you expand your responsibility and role within the workforce.
- Uncertainty: salaried employees have the same paycheck every period, whether they work 10 hours or 80. This creates stability for all salaried employees and especially those who have a fluctuating schedule (nurses and teachers for instance).
- Insecurity: not knowing what your paycheck will be because one pay period has different hours than the next.
- Additional burden: salaried employees are not required to clock in and out. They are paid to do the job, not for the time it takes. Should this 2.5x multiplier be approved, many of the current salaried employees will be moved to hourly unless they are paid more than the required minimum.
Another point considered and testified about is the gap between rural areas’ cost of living as it relates to salary. Most Counties are not King County where the average was $1,625 per week in 2017. Some rural counties such as Mason County was less than half that at $782 per week. This correlates to $84,500 annually for King County and $40,644 for Mason. Moving to a minimum salary wage that is more than double will likely require businesses and non-profits in our community to move most employees to an hourly wage or could result in fewer positions being created and/or maintained.
If you would like to discuss this issue further, please connect with us at YourChamber@VancouverUSA.com.