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Kastama responds to Sunday column: The road to recovery will be long

OLYMPIA -- Sen. Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup, took exception to a portion of Sunday's column regarding the pace of legislative action on addressing the state's budget crisis. He offered an op-ed column, which didn't fit the editorial page's guidelines, and will be trimmed down to a letter.

But since this started in Spin Control, we're  happy to run the op-ed column in full, without comment. It starts here, and jumps inside the blog:

Economic recovery needs more than a quick fix

 By Sen. Jim Kastama

 A recent column by Jim Camden in the Spokesman-Review questioned the speed and scope of the Legislature’s efforts to create jobs. In particular, the piece quoted me as saying, “The recovery’s going to come one job at a time,” and characterized that viewpoint as inadequate because we lost so many jobs so quickly.

I’d like your readers to know why that perception misses the mark.

  We’re not going to bounce back from this recession by putting people back to work in the same jobs and fields from which they were laid off. Many of those jobs are gone forever, in industries that are or will soon be gone as well. Any hopes of a quick turnaround, however well-intended, are naïve.

  The media’s penchant for quick answers and fast results only exacerbates matters by pressuring lawmakers to rush to short-term solutions that sound good but accomplish little — and obscure the actual nature of the challenge before us.

  Our economic landscape is changing on a magnitude comparable to our country’s transformation from an agrarian economy to an industrial society at the turn of the 19th Century...

... We are shifting from a domestic economy to a truly global economy where we face equal and economically improving competitors. From now on, we will be in a constant cycle of reinvention.

 To engineer a true and lasting turnaround, we need to change our approach to education, business and government in several key ways. We need to:

 --  Reform K-12 education, not by adding funds to do more of what we’re already do but by changing what we do.
--  Help businesses keep up with global changes by facilitating their adoption of modern international quality practices such as Lean manufacturing, Six Sigma and ISO certification.
--  Redefine the role of government, finding efficiencies and synergies that hold costs down while improving performance.

No one should look at the recession as a cash flow problem — it’s far bigger and far more complicated than that. The notion that we might recreate jobs at the same rate we lost them, however desirable, is unrealistic. The reality is that we need to rebuild our economy in lasting, sustainable ways. The results aren’t going to show up overnight in bold headlines, but they lay the foundation for the new economy.

 Examples of this abound here in Spokane. Aligning education with the needs of business has reaped dramatic progress in health sciences, energy conservation and applied sciences.

In the Legislature, meanwhile, we are moving on several fronts. We are:

 --  Focusing our schools on the retraining of unemployed workers for the jobs our businesses need to fill.
--  Doubling our schools’ capacity to retrain an additional 6,000 workers.
--  Creating tax credits for businesses that create new, living-wage jobs.
--  Expanding assistance to small businesses through small business development centers.
--  Increasing our investment in the commercialization of innovations developed in our research facilities.

Across our state we’ve put in place 13 innovation partnership zones that promote a number of specialties. Ultimately they will form a virtual statewide business park that interconnects these areas of expertise in ways that generate new and innovative products — and the businesses that will produce them.

 That may not happen as fast as we might like, but it’s the smartest course — and the path that will reap the most realistic and lasting dividends for our state.

Sen. Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup, chairs the Senate Economic Development, Trade & Innovation Committee.

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