At a speech to the Association of Washington Business on Tuesday, Jan. 19, the Governor emphasized that it is possible to have a strong economy while striving toward a cleaner environment. We agree. The two are not mutually exclusive; Washington is a perfect example. Business Insider came out with its annual rankings of state economies, and proudly, Washington is ranked #1. The rankings took into consideration average wages, unemployment rates, wage growth rates and more. At the same time, we are a leader in reducing carbon emissions. In many rankings, Washington sits in the top 10 of all states. A combination of forward-thinking policies and innovation has reduced our carbon emissions below what they were in 1990 and created a clear and downward trend into the future.
But what kind of economy does Washington want in the future? Do we want to emphasize manufacturing job growth and all of the higher-income and economic multipliers that go along with that? Or do we want to emphasize the service sector?
The cap and trade plan that the Governor pushed last year would have created a carbon market and tied it to California, which has a statewide carbon cap and trade system. Let’s look at their progress: Manufacturing has grown at a dismal 2%, merely a third of the national average of 6%. If Washington adopts Gov. Inslee’s carbon pricing proposals, companies looking to expand or move into a new market will simply decide to go elsewhere. Here again, we see this play out in our neighbor to the south. In 2013, California only had 46 manufacturing operations start or expand. Texas had 253. That’s a lot of high-paying jobs for companies and their suppliers that are left behind because of policies that artificially increase energy prices.
According to the LA Times, “Manufacturing is the classic path to higher paying jobs for less-educated workers. On average, manufacturing workers make 8.4% higher wages each week than those in all other industries combined, according to a 2012 Brookings Institution study.” In an era of high economic anxiety for workers, we shouldn’t be punishing the manufacturers who are providing the living-wage jobs that sustain our middle class.
Yet today, the Governor still repeated claims that there is no evidence that a top-down regulatory scheme that raises energy prices on all citizens will not have adverse economic impacts. I guess that depends on how you define economic success. A state that chooses to de-emphasize manufacturing jobs for its citizens is limiting economic opportunity for families. That’s not a policy Washington should embrace. We’re proud of our Washington history of ingenuity; let’s not go down the same rocky path as California.