Republican gubernatorial hopeful Bill Bryant rolled out a jobs agenda Tuesday, vowing to pursue small-business tax breaks, a modernized school system and a freeze on new regulations.
In what he billed as a major policy speech to the Association of Washington Business’ annual policy summit in Cle Elum, Bryant likened state government to an aging, sputtering jalopy that merely gets refueled instead of rebuilt.
“Too often, the public sector, if it is confronted with innovation that could undermine existing arrangements or regulations, is inclined not to embrace innovation but actually defend a failing status quo,” he said.
Bryant, who is challenging Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, said he would push state government to innovate and unleash more private-sector job growth. His 23-minute talk offered more broad outlines of goals than detailed policy prescriptions.
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A former Port of Seattle commissioner who founded a trade-consulting business, Bryant said he’s heard business owners across the state complain about stifling regulations that have amassed over decades.
On Day 1 as governor, Bryant said, he’d halt all new regulations until agencies could justify those already on the books. Unnecessary rules would be “fixed or eliminated,” he said, while new ones would have a sunset date.
Recalling his own firm’s humble start in a basement with a fax machine, Bryant said he sympathizes with small businesses that pay the state’s business and occupation tax, which is levied on gross receipts instead of profits.
Bryant vowed to work with business groups and legislators to give businesses with fewer than 10 employees a B&O tax break. He did not provide details on the size of the tax break or impact on the state budget.
Saying Washington schools are failing “far too many” students, Bryant said public education should be reinvented from an “industrial model” to align with the modern economy.
Bryant said public schools should provide an “alternative track” for kids who don’t want to go on to college, giving them better access to apprenticeships and job training. The state’s education mix should include charter schools, he said.
Bryant also reiterated his opposition to a “one size fits all” increase in the state minimum wage, saying other parts of the state should not have the same wage floor as the booming and expensive Seattle area.
He opposes Initiative 1433, a measure on the November ballot that would raise the minimum wage to $13.50 an hour by 2020 and require businesses to provide paid sick leave.
Inslee supports the labor-backed initiative and gathered signatures for it.
Jamal Raad, a spokesman for the Inslee campaign, criticized Bryant’s plans as stale repackaging of Republican talking points.
He called Bryant’s proposal to freeze state rule-making “dangerous” as it would halt clean-air and water standards as well as safety precautions for oil trains.