August 4, 2013 in Opinion

Smart Bombs: Strength in numbers

By The Spokesman-Review
 

For politicians who are truly interested in attracting more businesses to the state, there’s compelling information to change the shopworn narrative that Washington is a high-tax, high-spending state.

The Tax Foundation, a pro-business outfit, recently released a chart showing that only seven states slowed direct spending more than Washington from 2001-2011. In the West, only Alaska’s decade of austerity beat ours.

In a measure that controls for population growth and inflation, Washington’s spending was up 19.3 percent in that span. In Montana, it was 28.9 percent; in Idaho, it was 22.5 percent. Louisiana led the nation with a 63.6 percent increase. Arizona led the West at 45.8 percent.

The foundation also shows that the state and local tax burden in Washington was 9.3 percent per capita in 2010, which placed it 28th nationwide and below Idaho’s 9.4 percent. The record high for the state was 9.9 percent in 1995, or three governors ago.

But wait, there’s more.

Business folks have gotten after government to do more cost-benefit analyses of programs, and some states have responded to the call. Washington led the nation in the number of such studies between 2008 and 2011, says a new report from Pew Charitable Trusts. Pew liked the quality of these analyses, too. In December, Forbes magazine released its annual Best States for Business rankings, and Washington finished 11th. Idaho was 19th. Oh, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently released a ranking of best states to do business, and Washington was slotted sixth. South Carolina, which seems to be where Boeing wants to do business, finished 41st. By the way, sixth is precisely where Washington placed in the Tax Foundation’s Business Climate Index for 2013.

You’d think there would be enough data from these pro-business sources to put together a campaign showing that Washington caters to commerce. Granted, more needs to be done, but that’s true in every state. So why not boast about these rankings in the meantime? Seems like that would be good for the state’s economy.

On the other hand, if all you want is small government for the sake of small government, carry on.

Repeal before reveal. Congress will have nine working days between now and Oct. 1. Seems like bad planning when budget work needs to be wrapped up, but if the strategy is to defund the Affordable Care Act by shutting down government, it makes perfect sense. In fact, you have to wonder how they’ll fill those occasional days at the office.

I suspect that many members are afraid that when their constituents see the price tags on premiums in the health care exchanges, the “Repeal Obamacare” campaign will suffer. You can visit wahealthplanfinder.org to find a calculator and plug in your own numbers for estimated costs. (Sorry, Idahoans, your lawmakers chose to drag their feet, so no such tool is currently available.)

In the following scenarios, the households have four people – two adults and two children – and the parents are 40 years old. They would purchase the silver plan, which is the second cheapest and covers 70 percent of bills (results vary depending on personal data and plan choice):

• For a household with a total annual income of $38,230, which is two people working full-time minimum wage jobs, the monthly premium would be $146 once the tax credit is applied. Without this subsidy, it would cost $1,102 a month, which is why so few people currently purchase health insurance in the individual market.

• For a household making $42,000, which is the average Spokane County salary, it would be $186 per month.

• For a household making $49,000, which is the county’s median household income (half of households earn more, half less), it would be $269 per month.

When you consider that medical bills are the leading cause of personal bankruptcy, those premiums look even better. So good, in fact, repealniks would rather you not see them.

Associate Editor Gary Crooks can be reached at garyc@spokesman.com or (509) 459-5026. Follow him on Twitter @GaryCrooks.


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