Gov. Otter woos Washington firms
Gregoire says letter attacking taxes premature
OLYMPIA – Idaho Gov. Butch Otter continues to “court” Washington businesses, sending personal letters to their owners that suggest they should move to the Gem State.
That’s fair, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire said Thursday, because the Evergreen State makes similar overtures to businesses in other states, including Idaho. She called foul last month when Otter sent out a blanket “love letter” to businesses in the Washington and Oregon that derided the neighboring states for tax increases.
“It is not normal for governors to send a so-called love letter. Governors absolutely do contact businesses in other states,” Gregoire said.
Hitting Washington for tax increases was “a little premature,” she added, because the Legislature hasn’t settled on any yet.
But it’s about to, warned Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla. Democrats who are discussing which taxes to raise, should instead use the special session to find ways to make Washington more business friendly, he said. “Employers should be viewed as economic partners and job creators, not as piggy banks to fund new government spending.”
One business receiving a direct letter from Otter is Key Technology Inc. in Hewitt’s district. David Camp, the company’s president and chief executive officer, said it’s not the first time another state has contacted the 62-year-old company about relocating.
“This is the first one that directly staked to what’s going on here in Washington, though,” Camp said.
The company makes hardware and software for food processing operations, has customers across the country, in Europe and Asia, and currently has about 400 employees. Camp said he is troubled by government regulations and some rising costs in Washington, but the company isn’t considering moving – that would be difficult, expensive and hard on its workers. But if it were considering a major expansion, he said, it might look elsewhere.
Key Technology had to make a series of difficult decisions to cut costs, reduce pay and benefits and save as many jobs as possible when the recession hit, Camp said. Yet, “It seems government hasn’t made the hard calls yet.”